I’ve been criticised a few times in the last few months for saying that I’m considering voting Conservative at the next general election. I have to confess that I do deliberately say it sometimes to people who I know will be shocked and appalled by it, just to see how they’ll respond. Even so, the reaction that you get for saying it, particularly when you’re gay, I think is somewhat excessive. It’s not like I’m saying I’m going to vote for the Kill Babies With A Spikey Stick Party. This is a mainstream political party, supported by a proportion of the population that’s either equal to or greater than that which supports the Labour Party (based on current opinion polls anyway).
I don’t mind people saying “You shouldn’t vote Conservative”; in fact I welcome it. I do wish though that they would say “You shouldn’t vote Conservative because…” and then give me some sort of reason other than the rather childish “they’re evil” or “they screwed the miners in the 80s”. I’m looking for proper reasons to help me decide which party to support at the next election. I intend to be a well-informed voter who goes to the polls knowing which party they think would be best to run the country, and which candidate would be best for my constituency. I can’t accept “They’re evil”, with no follow up or evidence, as a reason.
One person recently has drawn my attention to the voting record of the Conservative front bench on gay rights. Fine. Absolutely fine, because that gives me something to work with. As a gay man, it is rather distressing to see the attempts made to block the advancement of gay rights by senior Conservative MPs. I’m not going to base my vote on that one issue though; being gay is a very small part of who I am. I think I have a greater responsibility to vote for whichever party will be best for the country overall, rather than put the needs of my minority group first. If there were a Pink Party with a manifesto based solely around gay rights, I wouldn’t vote for it because it would most likely not have a clue how to run an economy, and I think that would be selfish and stupid of me.
I did swing quite far to the right earlier in the year, and felt fairly sure I would vote Conservative in May (or whenever it ends up being). That was based in large part on my dissatisfaction with the way Labour has performed, and because of some of the core political principles I hold most dear. Those are namely that I believe in individual responsibility for your actions and wellbeing; fairly small government; limited intervention by government into people’s private lives; and a tax system that rewards people for working hard and for saving. These are all quite Conservative things.
In addition to that though, I consider myself liberal socially. I believe in equality and equal rights. I believe religion should play no part in government or legislation. I believe in the right to express yourself freely, and I believe a government shouldn’t pass laws on what is moral and what is not, provided those activities aren’t hurting anyone.
What has concerned me most recently about the Conservative Party is their increasingly obvious method of saying-whatever-they-need-to-get-elected. So yes you’ll hear them say grand things about, for instance, gay rights. They’ll proclaim themselves a friend to gay people (I’m just picking one issue here for the sake of argument), but their actions in the recent past and present don’t seem to tally quite with that statement. I’m not concerned particularly with what the party stood for in the 80s, that’s irrelevant to me now because I believe people should be allowed to change their minds over time. But some of what the Conservative Party, and David Cameron, have said recently has begun to sound quite hollow and contrived to me.
I won’t vote Labour, as I really don’t approve of them. I find, especially with Gordon Brown, that they’ll just say anything, even in the face of it being completely untrue. An ‘end to boom and bust’, Gordon Brown said, during a period of happy prosperity for the country which was then followed by a massive bust that he hadn’t prepared for. A justified war, Tony Blair called the invasion Iraq, and which he maintained at this week’s Chilcot Inquiry, even though it is very apparent to most people now that it wasn’t justified, or at least wasn’t justified on the grounds they put forward at the time.
So then I’m left thinking should I vote Liberal Democrat again, as I have done before (I’ve never actually voted Conservative). It’s true that I do respect them as a party; I think they have been the most plain-spoken and believable on the economy; and I agree with a good number of their policies. Even with them though it is hard to understand everything they stand for, because you end up in reams of detail on their website and there is too much to wade through. There is also the problem of ‘making my vote count’. My constituency is marginal, but it is still likely to be a Labour or Conservative seat. If I don’t want Labour, should I vote Conservative to ensure they don’t win in my area? That seems somewhat spiteful, and potentially stupid if I don’t agree with the Conservatives on enough of the big issues. It’s a great shame to me that the only reason I know who my Liberal Democrat candidate is is because I looked it up myself. Where is the campaigning? Where is the information to help me make my decision? I know it’s early yet, but I’ve already received some information from the Conservatives.
So I don’t know, anyway. Some people will have read the first part of this post with horror at the very suggestion I may vote Conservative, and I might still do so. I did that deliberately to get people to read it really, as I knew it would hook some staunch lefties into an enraged excoriation against the Evil Tories. But if you did read it, and thought “God no, don’t vote Conservative”, please do leave a comment and tell me why. Constructive comments though please, with an actual reason.
Thanks very much.