Last week I took my kids to Malta.
They had a week off school even though it was not half-term. The weather was nice and their headteacher agreed these were “exceptional circumstances” and promised he would not fine me £60 per child. It saved me a fortune compared with going during half-term.
I will make sure my kids catch up with any work they missed and if they were at important stages of their education, such as GCSEs, I wouldn’t have taken them out of school. Let’s hope all heads are as sensible when they apply the rules about taking children out of school during term-time.
It was a bit of a busman’s holiday. I went out there to see how democracy works in Malta. It is a vibrant democracy, the same surface area as the Isle of Wight but with three times the population.
As part of the British empire until the 1960s, it shares some cultural characteristics with us. For example, they have the same healthy scepticism about politicians. The differences are, however, stark.
I was talking to a political commentator who was bemoaning the low turnout to vote in local elections. I was ready to empathise with him when he said they were lucky if 80% of voters bothered to turn out to vote.
The turnout at the last general election was 93%. What on earth is the secret? I spent some time at Malta University freshers’ week talking to the new students.
I asked each one of them if they would vote in the next elections. They looked at me as if I was mad to even ask the question, and answered, “of course”.
Even among adults in the UK (except in independence referendums), ask the same and an equal number of people look at you as if you are mad to ask the question and answer, “why bother, they are all the same”.
I think that gives the clue. The Electoral Commission should stick to getting the basic administration of elections right.
They could start by correcting the millions of inaccuracies that, according to a Policy Exchange study published this month, are in the electoral roll.
The key is politics and politicians. We should enliven politics by devolving the maximum from Westminster. And politicians should start telling us what they believe, not what their opinion polling tells them what we want to hear.
The one thing he won’t comment on is his identity…