Grant Woodward: The case for compulsory voting is a compelling one - if only to save us from third-rate celebrities

TOWIE’s (don’t worry, I’ll explain in a minute) Lydia Bright juggles hot potatoes while explaining how to vote.

Fellow reality TV staple Jake Quickenden then goes topless and has rubber bands flicked at him while making a bad job of dissecting the process by which people are elected to Parliament.

Such is the desperation to mobilise the youth vote that we’re turning to the cast members of cultural deserts such as The Only Way Is Essex (or TOWIE) and I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here to entice 18 to 24-year-olds to the ballot box.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The YouTube videos featuring Bright, Quickenden and several other people you’ll never have heard of if you’re aged over 30 have been produced by an organisation called Use Your Voice and are, without exception, toe-curlingly awful. Not to mention condescending and patronising.

If I were a 20-something who chanced across them on the internet – and given that even the topless Quickenden has so far garnered fewer than 200 views not many are – they would make me even less inclined to vote.

These idiot’s guides are no doubt well-intentioned, but they carry the stamp of some middle-youth media type who thinks seeing an obscure radio DJ get covered in orange face paint will magically make young people think politics is tremendous fun and have them rushing to their nearest polling station.

It won’t. But not because of the face paint, more the fact that there’s no real reason why young people would vote.
 I remember being pretty excited about voting for the first time. It was a rite of passage. But these days youngsters can vote on just about anything they fancy. A quick text can make or break the career of the next One Direction (they’re a pop band, keep up).

To them, the idea of traipsing to the local Scout hut to scratch a pencil on a piece of paper feels like it belongs to another century. Probably because it does.

There are ways and means of making the voting process more accessible. And, staggeringly, they demand even less imagination than went into those Use Your Voice videos.

A simple mobile phone or computer app that uses a voter’s National Insurance number as a passcode is surely within the power of Whitehall to deliver. As far as electoral fraud goes, we can make online banking safe so there’s no reason why we can’t do the same for voting.

But even this wouldn’t deliver a decent increase in the pitiful numbers of young people who are exercising their right to vote.

And that’s because nothing the political leaders are saying in the run-up to this election will cause much more than a mild ripple in the life of your average 18 to 24-year-old.

The to and fro over tax bands? It’s baffling to most young people because the vast majority cannot imagine earning enough to trigger 40 per cent tax.

Tuition fees? The best the parties can manage is Ed Miliband’s pledge that a Labour government would limit fees to £6,000 a year.

And the difference between the prospect of a bill for £18,000 at the end of your degree and one for £27,000 is negligible when you’re a skint teenager thinking of studying for a degree.

Besides, after Nick Clegg’s U-turn, they’re unlikely to trust another word 
on the subject from politicians of any hue.

Zero-hours contracts, then? Young workers know the state of the jobs market inside out – and certainly far better than any of the party leaders.

They realise that all the power rests with employers and the state of the economy means David Cameron is unlikely to want to rock the boat by pushing for better conditions while Ed Miliband, despite what he says, probably wouldn’t be able to.

So why aren’t politicians engaging with younger people as much as they could or should? Well, the truth is that they don’t really need to.

Over 65s now make up a bigger chunk of the electorate and they are far more likely to vote.

As a result they have a disproportionately large sway over the election outcome, which means that theirs are the votes that the parties are chasing.

The numbers of young people are dwindling proportionately and they are less likely to vote – so why bother wasting time, money and energy coming up with policies and campaigning on the issues that matter to them?

In order to get young people politicised, the Institute of Public Policy Research has suggested first-time voters should be compelled to vote in the hope it becomes a habit.

This misses the point. It shouldn’t simply be about getting young people to the polling stations; it should be about giving them a reason to go there. And that means forcing politicians to properly engage with them.

The only way I can see to do this is to follow Australia’s lead and introduce compulsory voting for all.

Not necessarily because people should be punished for failing to vote but more because it’s the only way to make sure politicians have to consider the whole population – and not just those who presently make a conscious choice to vote.

As an added incentive, it would also spare us any more cringe-inducing videos fronted by so-called “celebrities”.