The 2015 UK General Election is going to to be the tightest contest in this country in many years. This post shows my thought process as we reach Polling Day tomorrow, Thursday 7th May 2015. I am not telling anyone else how to vote, just explaining and documenting my thoughts for posterity and for the sake of my own poor memory!
Frankly I think the nature of this year’s election proves once again, because it has been proven before, the current electoral system is broken. We need some proportional system even if that does let in the likes of UKIP when they become popular – I suppose one argument in favour of FPTP is it smoothes out such trends although the SNP in Scotland may be about to blow that argument out of the water.
But we’re stuck with ‘first past the post’ which means many constituencies are reduced to a two-horse race between two candidates and if you don’t like either of them, tough, your vote is effectively wasted*. Or if, like me, you’re a floating voter who makes a decision in the run up to Polling Day, it makes the decision quite difficult.
This is where tactical voting comes in. Floating voters (“undecideds”) and supporters of other parties voting for the 2nd most popular candidate, regardless of their affiliation, to try to beat the incumbent.
* It actually may not be wasted this year. If there’s a hung parliament as seems certain, could the total number of votes for each party be an influencing factor? If it is – well that’s a damn good reason for people even in ‘safe seats’ to go out and vote anyway. In this situation do you vote tactically or not? Do you go for national picture or local?
South West England is almost entirely a contest between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Check out this map of the 2010 results and you’ll see a sea of blue and yellow which is widely predicted to turn more blue this year.
When I lived in West Dorset I voted Lib Dem every time in the hope of trying to oust Oliver Letwin. He may well be a good constituency MP and a lot of locals rave about him, but on a national level he seems to want to privatise everything, including the NHS. If I still lived there I would happily vote the same way again, especially as this time the LD’s have their best candidate for that seat in years in Ros Kayes who is a very good local councillor with a lot of local support – though it has to be said the national slump of the party is probably going to cost her any chance of winning this time.
In July I moved about 12 miles East which meant I crossed the border into East Devon. I now live in the constituency of Tiverton And Honiton, which was only created in 2010 and if you look at a map is a bit of a weird one, not following any cultural or administrative boundaries that I know about. Where I am it replaced a constituency running along the south coast from Exmouth to the Devon side of Lyme Regis, which to me makes much more sense.
I know little about the candidates here other than that the incumbent Conservative is a farmer and he has a bigger majority than Letwin does in West Dorset, yet I’d never heard of him. He appeared on BBC1’s ‘Sunday Politics’ in the South West region a few weeks ago and seemed reasonable enough, but then I looked up his voting record.
There are five candidates. I’ve received three leaflets, one each from the dominant parties from the last several elections, Tory and LibDem, plus the Greens. I’m not really any the wiser – they all support the town hospital (a contentious local issue) and they all like posing for photos with local people.
Considering each party in my constituency in turn. Again, not knowing much of anything about any candidate I’m going to stick to national issues.
Conservatives – Incumbent. I was at school in the 90s during John Major’s ‘Back To Basics’ era (read: no education funding whatsoever), and similar for health, I made a vow a long time ago never to vote Tory.
Yet.. they’ve actually done a better job than I expected back in 2010. They’ve reduced the deficit – okay, the total debt has skyrocketed but there seems to be some movement toward sorting it out and I doubt the others would’ve done any better. Perhaps my 5-6 years of having an accountancy-wired brain means I’m more sympathetic to their argument, and I am, I just don’t like how they’re doing it. Vast inequalities, crackdowns on benefits instead of mass tax evasion, etc. But the country hasn’t crashed and burned and the money hasn’t completely dried up. And I did get a house out of it.. or so I thought until I read up and discovered ‘shared ownership’ was around slightly before they came in.
I like that they’re tackling the EU from within, reducing the budget and offering a different take to France’s and Germany’s ‘ever-closer’ way. But I don’t want a referendum.
Cameron should be credited for shifting the party back to the centre than they would’ve been under a Michael Howard or similar. The fact this right-of-centre party legalised gay marriage is quite something and signifies this is culturally a different party to the one of the 90s.. but one that feels like it could regress at any moment. The food banks and the bedroom tax and the zero-hour contracts and the massive corporate tax evasion prove they haven’t changed that much.
Labour – Although they are nowhere locally I’m really considering voting for them this time because of the national poll. What if the total number of votes has a bearing in the event of a hung parliament? I am sure it comes down to seats but what if it is on total votes? Every vote could matter.
They seemed a bit lost for a while after Blair & Brown. Miliband seems to be finding his feet now, finding some fight, and he’s successfully moved away from New Labour without becoming radically socialist. This means they are electable – or nearly. I’m not fully convinced they are ready yet. Thankfully they want to end a lot of unfair policies, not just Tory policies but some from the previous Labour administration too. I like the striving for a fairer country. I am less convinced about their spending plans, we really can’t keep borrowing and borrowing and borrowing.
Liberal Democrats – Generally I agree with the Liberal Democrats on most issues. I gravitate to them in most instances. I like their current ‘moderation’ message because that’s exactly what they did in Government. I have every reason to believe the Tories would’ve made far more swingeing cuts had Clegg & Co not been there. And yet.. And yet.. Somehow they feel less trustworthy and more ‘Tory Lite’ than before. A few crucial broken promises here, a power-grab there.. They aren’t so different to the other big parties after all. And they’ve shifted from the ground they occupied in the Ashdown days – they just seem less positive for what was a positive, attractive party.
Clegg is the only major party leader in England who admits there will be a coalition / agreement after the election. There is no way the Tories or Labour will have a majority unless the polls of the last 6 months are completely wrong and those two parties are deluding themselves if they think it’ll happen. Therefore it makes perfect logical sense to be open, declare willingness to work with either major party and admit as much up front before the election. The trouble with that? It looks like a desperate attempt to cling to power at any price.
UKIP – Bigoted fruitcakes who’ll blame everything on immigration and will say anything populist on other issues because they know they’ll never get elected and won’t have to properly budget for their promises. Ain’t happening. Thankfully they have no traction whatsoever in the SW apart from a few big signs in hedgerows.
Green – At least they mean well.. Bit of a shame we can’t have slightly more sensible Greens like the Germans do. Ours are much more realistic than they used to be and Natalie Bennett as leader is a breath of fresh air but it’s all still a bit pie-in-the-sky at the moment. Their voice should be heard and I hope they keep growing.. but it won’t be happening here just yet.
We’ve had 5 years of a Tory / Lib Dem coalition. I’d quite like the next 5 years to be a Labour / Lib Dem coalition with roughly the same split of MPs. That’d be quite interesting. Alas it won’t happen because the Lib Dems will have fewer MPs this time. This means either Labour will need to bring in others to bump up the numbers, in which case the coalition gets too broad and unworkable (too many voices), or we’re back to Tory + Lib Dem but a version in which the Lib Dems have less clout than before.
I’ve decided to vote Lib Dem again. They may have drifted a bit and may have gone a bit power-mad, but although they’ve not got it right all the time I do think they’ve been a worthwhile moderating voice over the last few years.
District and Town Council
Axminster will also hold elections for East Devon District Council and for Axminster Town Council. I’ve had a few leaflets about this but I’m largely ignorant of the politics here at this level.
I’ve had a few leaflets through. Looking dispassionately..
As well as the main parties there are candidates from ‘East Devon Alliance’, a coalition of Independents running on a ticket of restoring a voice to the local council which is dominated by one party right now, and removing national parties from the local system (I agree with that). My worry is the wording about ‘protecting from over-development’ which suggests they don’t like the new houses in town… one of which is mine. I agree they shouldn’t go too far, but over-protectionism is a bit too ‘head-in-the-sand’ for me, the same problem afflicts Bridport and is a reason I moved away from there. Their other aims are laudable though.
The Lib Dem candidates (two) also seem like hard workers aiming at positive change.
The Tory candidates sent out an interesting Q&A ‘debunking’ some of EDA’s accusations. I don’t know how much of it is true. Again they seem to be hard workers with a plan.
I get two votes in the District election, so 1x LD and 1x EDA seems fair. I am sure the Conservative voice will also remain represented in this very Tory area.
As for the town council I have no idea, no literature at all, though I expect some candidates are standing in both as happens elsewhere.
The democratic geek in me wants to see a hung parliament to witness what happens afterwards. The anti-Tory in me wants a Lab/Lib pact. Whatever happens, the next 48 hours and the next 14 days should be fascinating!
I won’t tell you who to vote for. Just VOTE!