Kamran Hussain

kamhussain

Kamran is a third-year Journalism and Public Relations student at the University of Lincoln. He is working to specialise in media relations and political communication. Kamran is currently writing his dissertation looking at the image of Public Relations in political communication.


An exciting, modern way of politics and proper engagement with voters is just in touching distance from us, but it seems that the Prime Minister is unwilling to battle it out in a televised debate.

A bold statement released from 10 Downing Street this week suggested that if any debate does happen it would be on their terms and not the broadcasters. It’s understood that the PM will only agree to a single seven-way debate and has ruled out a head-to-head debate with the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband.

It’s rather strange that the PM who openly advocated for these kinds of debates is now ducking them. The PM also refused to appear on #LeadersLive organised by Bite the Ballot as all other main party leaders attended.

We also have a similar situation here in Lincoln with the current Conservative marginal MP, Karl McCartney reportedly refusing to attend the historic Lincoln Live debate on May 4 organised by the Lincolnite and other local media outlets alongside all other parliamentary candidates.

Similarly, Lincoln’s UKIP PPC, Nick Smith has declined an offer from the Students Unions’ to appear at a hustings on April 13.

Debates are healthy for democracy and allow the electorate to question those that wish to represent them. This is a chance for the electorate to see how those who want to represent them fair under pressure when questioned by constituents on serious issues that impact their daily lives.

These types of debates not only allow prospective candidates to demonstrate their will, but are also an opportunity for incumbents to defend their record in office. You can find your MPs voting record online here.

Lincoln is a bellwether seat and also a marginal seat, in fact it has been described a key battle ground between the Tories and Labour by many leading political commentators. The great people of Lincoln want to hear what the candidates have to offer through the form of a civilised live debate.

Of course a live debate shouldn’t be the sole basis for one to decide who to vote for, but it’s a very good opportunity for people to see which candidate is up to the job of representing Lincoln.

Many politicians now take to social media and in particular Twitter to ‘connect’ with the electorate; how effective they actually are in their communications is a different matter. However, social media has become quite a force and the electorate should follow the online activities of candidates and try to gain an insight into their mind-sets.

The discussion around the debates will no doubt continue right up to the date. It’s the duty of the organisers of these debates to ensure they are conducted fairly, but it’s the PPC’s who have to turn up, take their seat and answer direction questions, which may decide their fate.

Kamran is a third-year Journalism and Public Relations student at the University of Lincoln. He is working to specialise in media relations and political communication. Kamran is currently writing his dissertation looking at the image of Public Relations in political communication.

The 2015 General Election is expected to have one of the lowest voter turnout records for years. This would spell disaster for democracy, but wouldn’t it be easier if people were allowed to register to vote on Election Day?

According to Demos think-tank allowing people to register to vote on Election Day has boosted voter turnout from 59% to 71% in some American states.

The system is brilliant and accommodates for people who have simply forgotten to register or people who move around constantly such as students. This would make a massive difference here in Lincoln, which is often described as a “bellwether seat”.

A recent HEPI report suggested that the student vote can make a difference in the outcome of at least 10 constituencies including Lincoln. Unfortunately the sad reality is that many of these students won’t be registered to vote. However, I’m sure the SU at both universities in the city will do all they can to get as many students registered as possible on National Voter Registration Day on the 5th of February.

It is widely accepted that the coalition’s decision to move towards individual voter registration, rather than registration by each head of a household will see a decline in voter turnout in the election in May and other elections in the future.

There are many different reasons to why people vote as some people see it as a moral obligation whilst others may be angered by political events. The latter sometimes realise too late that they won’t be allowed to vote because they’re not registered. Is it fair to deprive someone of the opportunity to take part in our democratic system just because they missed the deadline to register?

The old-fashioned way of politics needs to step aside and make way for a more practical side of politics.

It is evident that the system works very effectively as seen in the US. In a time where trust in politicians is at an all-time low giving power to the electorate will go along way in improving the reputation of politics. Politics is not the most glamorous of careers and many people in politics today could have chosen careers with a more luxurious pay package. Politicians choose to go into politics because they believe they can make a difference for their constituents, whether we agree with their ideologies is a different matter.

Election-day registration obviously poses challenges in terms of logistics. We would need electronic poll-books to allow election officials to make sure the voter is not registered elsewhere. There will be a need to hire more staff and also a delay on the announcement of the result. The 2010 election result in Lincoln was announced around 3:30am, an even later result would not please the candidates (especially the losers).

The challenges posed by election-day registration are not impossible to overcome as long as the system is properly resourced. The evidence shows that it can make a wealth of difference to voter engagement and it would be an extremely beneficial move for British democracy.

Kamran is a third-year Journalism and Public Relations student at the University of Lincoln. He is working to specialise in media relations and political communication. Kamran is currently writing his dissertation looking at the image of Public Relations in political communication.

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