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.