Letter: Poll positions (2)

June 22, 2001

I recently gave a party and invited hundreds of people, yet more than 40 per cent of those invited failed to attend. Such apathy is inexcusable and risks generating the perception that I have fewer friends than I claim to have. This is particularly disturbing since I like to make decisions on my friends' behalf, including perpetrating acts of extreme violence against their neighbours, and there is a danger that the legitimacy of my actions may now be called into question.

I therefore propose making attendance at my parties compulsory. Obviously I wish to respect the autonomy of my guests, so I will allow them to refuse to eat any of the food I provide. Indeed, if they wish, they may formally register their view that all of the food provided makes them want to vomit.

Robert Blackburn treats the highly problematic and contentious concept of political legitimacy as if it were straightforward. Forcing people to turn out on polling day will, he says, be "healthy" and "legitimise the government" formed by the victorious party, even if most people opt for "none of the above". Or is he suggesting that a majority for "none of the above" will lead to the dismantling of the state? Somehow I suspect not.

Michael Loughlin
Manchester Metropolitan University

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