Keen to persuade us that twenty-something women do politics, Cosmopolitan editor Sam Baker’s used the Observer to say ‘We care about politics and our vote matters’, listing a few top line issues for women. And you have to give her top marks for effort: this month ‘The high heel vote: See grown men beg!’, interviews with all three main party leaders, is a minor front page flash alongside the usual ‘Inside his dirty mind’, ‘Shop like a genius’, ‘Find your E-spot’, all of which is fair enough.
She’s left unimpressed by the men in suits, but that won’t bother them because she tells us that 80 per cent of twenty-something women say they may not vote. Not a statistic whose significance she understands: ‘if you were an MP seeking re-election…you’d jump at the opportunity to get these votes’. Not really. Because the task is Herculean: first persuade them to vote and then that that vote should be for you. Succeed in the first and not the second and you’re worse off than you started. And remember a floating voting is worth two new recruits as conversation cuts your opponent’s tally by one as well as adding to your own.
Recent history also cautions against trying to win over reluctant voters. John Kerry won over the few young voters who turned out last year after making a huge effort that included a series of big name concerts. He really should have concentrated his efforts elsewhere.
Yet people who vote do get prizes. Pensioners vote are getting £200 off their council tax and free bus passes, paid in part by taxing the twenty-something women. And there’s an inevitability about that because elections concentrate minds on issues that shift votes… creating a vicious circle whereby issues the women care about slip down the politicians’ agenda and so further reduce the chance of them voting.