Opinion: Big Brother wins public vote every time

How did you vote? I mean Channel 4's Big Brother, silly, not the local, London Mayoral and European elections. Judging by the numbers, reality TV voters outnumber their political counterparts by some margin. New Labour is shaken to the core with the bleak reality of being the first governing party to come third in local elections in Britain.

Something is amiss , and it is not just the Iraq policy that has angered and alienated people. People text or telephone Big Brother with relish, but most people now vote at elections with resignation - if they bother to vote at all.

It's a powerful way to communicate - more people voted for Pop Idol in 2001 than in the general election - and party activists seem paralysed to respond. Recent data shows political trust in Britain has halved since 2001.

However improbable the comparisons, or Orwellian, Big Brother could clearly show politicians a thing or two about engagement and trust. The programme forces a group of individuals to be themselves, 24 hours a day in front of a live camera feed. There can be no dissembling.

This openness is rewarded by extreme loyalty and passion, and by highly engaged voting with the issues at stake - should a person stay or should they go? The substance is different. A Big Brother contestant changes only their own lives rather than the millions affected by politicians, but the context is much the same.

The Independent Review of Government Communications included the recommendation that modern government comms should be based on principles including 'openness, not secrecy' and 'more direct, unmediated communications to the public'.

I would love to know whether a phone call was ever placed to Channel 4 by someone in Downing Street asking whether, given the proximity to the elections, some kind of tie-in to encourage political voting could take place?

You know the answer, as do I. Entertainment is still ring-fenced from real issues and direct, frank communications with the electorate outside of polling countdown is rare.

But it needs to change. David Blunkett may have caused a stink by admitting he was 'mortified' by the result, but I'm sure his trust rating will have risen. Given that radical action is needed to communicate politics more effectively, maybe they should look to Big Brother for lessons after all.

Kate Nicholas is on maternity leave.

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