A po­lit­i­cal soap to make vot­ing cool

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

When Tay­lor Swift sent out an In­sta­gram post en­cour­ag­ing her mil­lions of fol­low­ers to reg­is­ter to vote, 169,000 young Amer­i­cans ‘‘swiftly’’ en­rolled, mak­ing them good-to-go for the Novem­ber midterm elec­tions.

Of those who did reg­is­ter, more than half were in the 18-29 age bracket, which is Swift’s fan base.

We might be a long way out from our next elec­tions but voter turnout in the younger de­mo­graphic could be raised if per­haps Lorde, Drax Pro­ject, or Six60 en­cour­aged their fan base to en­rol. Mak­ing vot­ing cool, straight from the word of mu­sos’ mouths, could be the key to turn­ing our low youth vote around.

In­tro­duc­ing civics ed­u­ca­tion into the cur­ricu­lum to ex­plain MMP and its funny lit­tle ways, show­ing stu­dents the dark arts of vot­ing tac­ti­cally, low­er­ing the vot­ing age, and en­cour­ag­ing more young peo­ple to be­come po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates, are just some of the sug­gested so­lu­tions to stir the stumps of the younger voter.

While there was a lot of hype about young vot­ers be­com­ing en­er­gised by the rel­a­tive youth of Jacinda Ardern, who was an el­derly 37 years old at the last elec­tion, that de­mo­graphic re­mained aloof to the act of ex­er­cis­ing their fran­chise.

Back in 2014, only 75 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers aged 18-24 en­rolled, and of those who did, half of that num­ber failed to breast the polling booth tape.

New Zealand pol­i­tics has been ac­cused of be­ing too deathly dull and of lit­tle rel­e­vance to young peo­ple’s prob­lems and con­cerns.

If our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is to be in­cluded in a civics cur­ricu­lum, per­haps some of the more dra­matic, tragic, hu­mor­ous and con­tro­ver­sial mo­ments in our po­lit­i­cal his­tory should be re­vis­ited to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion. (And men­tion­ing the salary of a new-en­trant MP wouldn’t go amiss to whet the ap­petite of those want­ing to try their hand at a lu­cra­tive, straightout-of-school po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.)

Em­ploy­ing the ser­vices of a dra­maturge to turn our po­lit­i­cal his­tory into a drama/soap opera would help bring the char­ac­ters alive and make them rel­e­vant. Play-act­ing pol­i­tics and turn­ing class­rooms into Par­lia­ment’s de­bat­ing cham­ber to re-en­act some of the more colour­ful mo­ments would give pur­chase on our his­tory. Such as?

Start­ing off with the use of props, MP Ma­bel Howard wav­ing two large pairs of bloomers around in Par­lia­ment to sup­port her suc­cess­ful cam­paign to have cloth­ing sizes stan­dard­ised.

The Right Honourable Win­ston Peters hold­ing up a NO sign at a press con­fer­ence in re­la­tion to a large anony­mous NZ First Party do­na­tion.

On the tragic side, in 1898, fac­ing fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter and ru­mours of an af­fair be­tween his wife and her step­son, Lib­eral Party MP Wil­liam Lar­nach takes his own life in a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee room.

In 1975 po­lice ques­tion MP Colin Moyle on sus­pi­cion of ho­mo­sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, at the time il­le­gal in New Zealand. Robert Mul­doon gets hold of the in­for­ma­tion and forces Moyle to re­sign.

A clearly in­tox­i­cated Mul­doon is caught on cam­era an­nounc­ing a snap elec­tion. Later

Mul­doon causes a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis when he re­fuses to act on the in­struc­tions of the in­com­ing gov­ern­ment.

Gra­ham Capill, leader of the Chris­tian Her­itage Party, is con­victed of pae­dophilia-re­lated charges and serves six years in the slam­mer.

And fin­ish­ing with props. In 2003 Na­tional MP Shane Ardern drives a trac­tor up the steps of Par­lia­ment in protest against a pro­posed flat­u­lence tax on farm­ers. Four­teen years later, a dis­tant cousin, Jacinda Ardern, is made leader of the Labour Party and be­comes the youngest prime min­is­ter since Ed­ward Stafford in 1856.

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