Democracy will be the real loser on tumbleweed polling day - Kenny MacAskill

The forces are conspiring to give people less of a reason to vote at all – and that is bad for everyone, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Is this going to be the tumbleweed election? With postal ballots increasing, staff at some smaller election stations will need a book just to stay awake.

This election, we are looking at the number of walk-in voters vastly down and significant numbers of folk away on holiday. And that is even before we begin to count those just too scunnered to bother or those who are losing their democratic right through legislation that impedes it.

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Polling day could be deathly quiet. It might be premature to call the winners, but the loser will be democracy. Public interest is lacking, political activity is limited and turnout is set to be down.

With holidays, postal votes and political disenchantment running high, polling stations may be lonely places come election day, writes Kenny MacAskill. PIC: AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL /GettyWith holidays, postal votes and political disenchantment running high, polling stations may be lonely places come election day, writes Kenny MacAskill. PIC: AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL /Getty
With holidays, postal votes and political disenchantment running high, polling stations may be lonely places come election day, writes Kenny MacAskill. PIC: AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL /Getty
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There are still three Saturdays to go until election day and a take off in interest is usually still to come. But this lags well behind past elections and with wall-to-wall TV coverage of the Euros about to start, it is hard to see lift-off coming.

Blame rests squarely on Rishi Sunak’s shoulders. Neither cutting it as a Prime Minister nor as a campaigner, his efforts have been woeful. He has taken the Tories from a difficult position to nearing their political grave.

One of the few advantages that a governing party has is the ability to set an election date. There are limited windows other than when political collapse occurs. There is good reason for that, both for those voting and those organising the vote, given council staff are on holiday the same as the rest of the country.

But still the advantage rests with the government who can ready the troops before the announcement, preparing their own while surprising others. Yet Sunak managed to wrongfoot his own party leaving them in disarray and less well set than others. I was in parliament the day the election was called and there was consternation and disbelief on the Tory benches. It was only a few weeks before that a senior Tory MP told me the election would be held on November 14.

Sunak marching out in the rain to announce it was as pathetic as it looked. It had been heavy showers that day with pools of water everywhere. Common sense, not just media gurus, should have advised indoors or some cover.

Since then, it’s simply gone from bad to worse. The D-Day debacle was matched by his Scottish gauleiter Douglas Ross’s shameful dumping of David Duguid – a decent man, not just candidate - followed by Ross’s own resignation.

This election was to be about getting the Tories out, which is the mood swing across the land. But they’re now doomed as they fight among themselves, prepare for a leadership contest and wonder where to position themselves against Reform.

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As for Labour, their campaign is to try and be as in invisible as possible and inherit by default. There’s nothing to inspire and what has been promoted raises more questions than answers, such as the party’s energy policy.

With the Tories doomed there’s less urgency to vote – and timing and backdrop compounds that. Maybe the public will be energized by alternatives. Here’s hoping, but democracy already seems the loser with tumbleweed polling day.

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