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Election 2015

17 February 2015 by superlative

It’s an election year again suddenly. It feels like only a few months ago that David Cameron and Nick Clegg were announcing their new-found bromance in the rose garden at Number 10, and yet here we are. Unfortunately this time round  I really have no idea who to vote for.

I live in a constituency that has traditionally flipped every few years between the Conservatives and Labour. No other parties have really been anywhere close to them here since… well, since the war actually, looking at the election results I just found online. So while I’ve always voted Liberal Democrat at general elections, there really doesn’t seem any point. I’ve never liked the idea of tactical voting and I normally say you should vote for whoever you agree most with, or who you think will represent you best as an MP. But if they’ve got no hope of winning it does feel like a waste.

Support for the Liberal Democrats has collapsed since 2010, so if they weren’t anywhere close to taking this constituency last time they certainly won’t be now. I don’t actually agree with much of the criticism levelled at the Lib Dems – the things people tend to say betray a wilful ignorance of how coalition government works. They won 57 seats and formed a government with a party that held 307. How much of their legislative agenda did people honestly think would be enacted on that basis? They’ve had some achievements – they got a referendum on changing our voting system (which they lost, but having one at all has been a key aim of theirs for years); the pupil premium, albeit horribly named, seems quite effective at targeting additional educational resources at those most in need; and they prevented the Conservatives from redrawing our electoral boundaries in a way that seemed reasonable but which was really a means of screwing over Labour. That’s just off the top of my head, but they are certainly achievements. And yes they ruined their credibility with their tuition fees pledge, but that was a stupid promise made by a party that didn’t think it had any realistic prospect of power. I’ll come back to that kind of politics in a minute.

So do I hate the Lib Dems based on their time in office? No, not at all. If it were based solely on whose policies most closely match my views, I’d probably still vote for them this year. But it’s pointless, and I don’t really want an unfettered Conservative majority government, nor do I have the remotest affection or affinity for Labour. So I’m left with no one.

‘Vote Green!’ some people might say about now. There is no way that will be happening.

I have a real problem with the Green Party, and with the surge of the support they’ve enjoyed in the last few months. Nobody seems to have noticed how reminiscent it is of the surge experienced by the Liberal Democrats in 2010. Fed up with the parties we have already experienced in government, people are reaching out for something new – a party that says nice, pleasant things and makes generous promises. Like, say, scrapping tuition fees. Just like that. Does no one see the similarities with the Green Party currently? Does no one remember how disappointing it was to watch those promises go unfulfilled once the constraints of government bite and the party takes a hard bump back down to reality?

I doubt the Greens will win enough support to enter government, but if they did that is exactly what would happen. Economics and practicality would get in the way. It is very easy for Caroline Lucas to smile self-righteously and say things people want to hear, because she knows she won’t have to deliver on any of it. If she did, she’d fail, and she’d end up as hated as Nick Clegg.

I’ve lived under a Green-led council for the last five years, and while local politics isn’t directly comparable to national government, I feel it’s at least given me some measure of what the party is like. I find them incompetent, inexperienced, fractious, beset by infighting and unrealistic. They seem entirely fixated on bus lanes and unable even to maintain decent relations with the trade unions. I really, really don’t want to see them in charge of my city’s council again, and I certainly don’t want them in charge of the country. I’d rather have anyone else – any of the main parties anyway. I of course don’t want UKIP. I’m not insane.

Which leads me back to my original point of having no idea who to vote for. Simon Kirby, my present MP and a Conservative, seems a fairly decent sort of man – he works quite hard for the constituency, has so far not been shown to be dishonest (about the most you can hope for from an MP, it seems), and he’s from the more progressive wing of the Conservative Party and voted in favour of things like equal marriage. So in the absence of an alternative I could vote for him; but as I said, a full majority for the Conservative Party that includes their less moderate members would trouble me.

So I am open to suggestions and reasonable debate on the matter. I really would like some idea of what to do. If all else fails I could stick the candidates’ faces on one of those Twister spinny things and just let fate decide.


5 Comments »

  1. Dan says:

    I just came across this and I face a similar dilemma. I think it’s primarily the fault of our electoral system that effectively disempowers anyone who lives in a ‘safe seat’ and doesn’t support the incumbent MP, or anyone who lives in a marginal seat and who votes for the candidate who is in 3rd or 4th position (they could then help the previous incumbent win again). If we had a proportional system it would be so much fairer and it would make our choice have greater impact. I’ve lived in Kemptown for a few months now and it is striking how different the Tory MP is to the majority of his colleagues (and his animal rights leaflet with kittens and puppies was a classic!), but every vote for the Conservatives could put Cameron and Osborne back in power and it also puts us closer to the exit door from the EU. Also, Simon Kirby is more progressive, but he also hasn’t been promoted while the Tories have been in office – in many ways he has the same amount of power as Caroline Lucas does (and in some senses even less, because there are many votes where he will be under enormous pressure to follow the party line). I think Labour have been a very weak opposition and I’m not convinced Miliband will be any good as Prime Minister. I’m also not too sure about Nancy Platt’s claim that she has had a ‘real’ job outside of politics – she seems to have followed a fairly standard route to becoming a Labour candidate.

    I think the Greens have clearly had problems running the council. I went to a meeting about that recently and they claimed it was the fault of the private contracts the previous administration had signed, that there were big funding cuts and that it had all been more difficult than they had realised. They may be right, but they didn’t seem to have a very strong message, or response to the criticisms. Caroline Lucas has been high profile and is eloquent, but 1 MP does not translate to much influence.

    I do wonder if a coalition between Labour, the SNP and the Greens (or even Labour, Lib Dems) could end up with a more interesting set of policies and perhaps change things. I think on balance I might vote Labour in Kemptown, because they’re more likely to win. But overall it’s a very unsatisfactory situation.

  2. superlative says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one in this position. I’ve recently been very vaguely considering whether I might vote Labour too, which is absolutely unheard of for me. A lot could change over the next two months though!

  3. Dan says:

    Have you decided which way to vote?

  4. superlative says:

    Not really, no. I really want to vote Lib Dem. That’s who I agree most with still and who I’d feel best about voting for. It’s completely pointless in Kemp Town though. Lots of my friends are voting Conservative now, to the rage of all my other left-leaning friends. It seems obvious that no one is going to win outright though – the electorate is more split among a greater number of parties than I’ve ever known it.

  5. Dan says:

    Yes, it’s extraordinary how tied the polls are (although I am suspicious of how accurate they really are. I think there will be a lot of tactical voting and this will make the swing to one party or another very uneven across the country). When it comes down to it, the election will be decided by a few thousand voters in a relatively small number of seats. I think the campaign has been quite negative by and large and the debates about austerity vs non-austerity, spending on the NHS, taxes etc have not been very honest or detailed. Practically nothing has been said about foreign policy or the fact that there are millions of potential voters who have not even registered to vote (a scandal!).

    I am going to vote for Nancy Platts, not because I think Miliband or his colleagues will be particularly good, but I am worried about the prospect of further cuts to public services and I don’t really buy the rhetoric around about and the desperate need to reduce the deficit. The US, for example, runs a huge deficit and has spent itself out of recession in recent years. I’m also very worried that a referendum on the EU could lead to a vote to exit (with our media whipping up hysteria) – and then we risk many of the work and other human rights we’ve achieved in recent years.

    We’ll see what happens – the results in Brighton Pavilion and Kemptown will be particularly interesting!

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