To vote, or not to vote…
An Important Choice
This election, I have taken a real interest in the political system, the parties and my constituency. I have also been told by a huge number of people now that voting isn’t even something you question – “you just do it”, “people have fought for this right”, “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the government”.
To clear the air, I have decided to look at the parties, the system and my choices, and publicly make a decision. Your comments are appreciated, as is your vote in the poll at the bottom, where you get to choose how I vote. I pledge here and now to vote as the poll results tell me to.
The Political Parties
- Err… I really tried, you know. I read their manifesto. I read through their comparison on the BBC website. I tried to care, but I just didn’t. There just wasn’t anything amazing that the other parties didn’t have. Giving poor schools more money – Labour doing that. Scrapping ID cards – Lib Dems doing that. Get rid of the debt - they all want to do that! Recognize marriage through the tax system? Yawn.
- Cameron will tell you anything for your vote. Come on, he’s about one step away from a used car salesman. My opinion of him was pretty much cemented when he did that cycling stunt a few years back, and had a car following him with a suit. He loves being in opposition, because he gets to stand up and publicly deride everything the government ever do. His gay rights stance was a bit of a joke really. Especially when backed up by having one of the worst voting records on the issue, as do the rest of the tories.
- Leaning towards the rich. The tories are always going to favour the rich. And, on the one hand, that might be a good thing for the growth of our economy, encourage rich investors and the like. On the other hand, it might favour those of the duck house persuasion. Whilst their current manifesto doesn’t promise to scrap the 50p tax, it does say they plan to as soon as possible. And they are going to raise the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1mill. Helping all those people with more than £330,000 in assets. So, well off and rich people.
- Other issues. Environment: poor, less ambitious targets for emissions than LD and LAB, no investment in Green Technology. Economy: apparently plans to cut an extra £6bn, without in any way reducing services that the government provides, and also cancelling the 1% raise in National Insurance – sounds nice, but hugely unsubstantiated, and maybe not very responsible – as poor people use the NHS a lot more than the rich, shouldn’t we all pay for it?
- Reform! The Lib Dems have long been the lone voice shouting out “we need reform!”. That said, they generally shouted it in the form “We need proportional representation!”, because they got more votes than seats. Interestingly, now they might be able to reach power without it, they seem to be less impressed with it – the words “proportional representation” are not in their manifesto. However, they do want a fairer, more representative system, and they want to make the house of Lords smaller, and they have pledged to introduce the Single Transferable Vote (which I talk about more below). It’s all pretty good stuff. It’s also pretty much what Labour are offering.
- A positive approach to universities. They want to scrap the silly 50% university attendance budget, and get rid of top up fees. This is great, assuming they drop the attendance back down to 20% before they ditch the top up fees, since Universities really need the money at the moment. Yes, it needs to happen, but top up fees are necessary until attendance is lower.
- Multilateral disarmament. It would be great to live in a world without nukes. We especially don’t need lots of nukes. I think ditching Trident is a great idea, let’s just do it, and not tell anyone. Isn’t the whole point of the nuclear deterrent that no one can see it, it just looms in crazy dictators minds?
- Nick Clegg livening up the debates. It is actually quite refreshing to have an extra voice going on. Imagine how dull the debate would have been with just Brown and Cameron waffling at each other. Nick Clegg represented a new voice, from a slightly different perspective.
- Nick Clegg talking out of his bottom. Unfortunately, Nick Clegg made a lot of unsubstantiated comments. For example, in the debate he berated the Labour and Conservative parties for not tackling the root of crime, which is broken homes and problem families. But his manifesto has almost nothing about that issue except for funding the Youth Service – although they do plan to regulate airbrushing in advertising. Amusingly, both Labour and Tories want to fund the Youth Service through various routes, as well as introducing parenting orders, family intervention projects, street teams of ex offenders to work with schools, safer schools police partnerships and disincentives on knife crime. None of which Lib Dem have proposed.
- Nick Clegg talking out of his behind. He did almost exactly the same thing with care, saying that “I really cannot stress enough, I think that [social care is] one issue where we just have got to put people before politics for once”. Yet the Lib Dem manifesto has little, saying we need to “combine health and social care”, and “reform” the Personal Care At Home Bill, but giving no specifics. Whereas Labour propose a “National Care Service”, providing free elderly care to all after the first two years, with laid out guidelines for when each stage will be implemented, and the Tories proposed a nation wide voluntary Care Insurance scheme, with figure, years, details. Meaning that if you really are “putting people before politics”, you shouldn’t vote Lib Dem?
- Nick Clegg talking out of his bottom some more. Mr Clegg also made quite a few nice factual errors in his first debate. They made some of his lovely straight up appealing-to-the-common-man statements a little bit less weighty. You could almost call them lies.
- Nick Clegg talking out of his bottom even more. Nick standing up and saying, “You don’t just have two choices!” is made a little more ironic considering that in his constituency, where I live, he sends round leaflets proclaiming “You only have two choices!”. And yes, one statement is about the country, and the other our area, but still, somewhat takes away from his well rounded and reasoned style.
- Unrealistic education. They have an amazing education plan, to halve the sizes of UK classrooms – taking many class sizes from 30 to 18. I think this is a great idea, one that would dramatically improve the quality of UK education. The problem is that it would cost a lot of money. Currently the government spending on education is around £84bn, around 75% of which is on salaries. Whilst I don’t think that decreasing class sizes by an average of 40% will necessarily double that cost long term, I think that short term, we would need a hell of a lot more classrooms. Short and long term, we would need probably about 30% more teachers. All added together, my rough, conservative estimate is that initial investment for new classrooms would be around £25bn across the country – there are about 27,000 schools in the UK, giving each just under a million pounds for new classrooms. Sounds a lot, but remember each school basically has to add 30-40% more classrooms – which would cost a lot more than £1mill. Then you have to add 30% more teachers, say another £20bn, again a conservative estimate. This means that over the next few years, there would be an increase of £30-40bn minimum. And the Lib Dems have budgeted how much? £2.5bn. And that’s a fail.
- Sparsifesto: The Lib Dems have a lot less to say in their manifesto than the other parties. They don’t really substatiate ideas beyond saying “We want to tackle this issue, where the other parties have let you down”, but don’t actually say how. In comparison, the Lib Dem manifesto hits 20,000 words, whereas both the others come out at about 30,000. Obviously, that could just be the fact that the other parties like to waffle more, or it could be that Lib Dems have left in the waffle but cut out the substance. Again, if you check the BBC manifesto comparison, it lists Lib Dem with the least key policies on the majority of categories – on Economy, Defence, Crime, Health, Education, Family, Transport and Rural Affairs. It did have more to say on Reform, Civil Liberties and the Environment; but if you could only have one lot, which one would you go for?
- Labour probably understand the economy. Maybe. There’s at least a good chance they understand it as well as anyone else. Whilst there is controversy about their plans to increase government spending to stimulate the economy, a large body of economists would agree with them. If nothing else, at least they are avoiding a knee jerk scared-of-the-papers “We will cut everything to get rid of the deficit”. They are also the only party to have set an actual target for reducing the deficit – “50% by 2014″, and are proposing the 1% increase in National Insurance. I like the integrity in proposing additional costs to voters. Everyone else is talking about cutting the deficit, but implying that your average Sun reader won’t have to suffer as the UK tries to save £400bn.
- Gordon Brown is dull. Yeh, that’s a good thing. At least he’s not a poncy public school idiot, unlike the other two. I applauded his statement at the start of the second debate – “This may have the feel of a TV popularity contest, but in truth, this is an election about Britain’s future, a fight for your future, and for your jobs. If it’s all about style and PR, count me out. If it’s about the big decisions, if it’s about judgment, it’s delivering a better future for this country, I’m your man”. Because, let’s face it, this thing shouldn’t be about which leader can talk best, who is the most persuasive – isn’t that actually a dangerous way to decide your vote? When it comes to manifestos, Labour cane it.
- Election reform. They want to do it, and actually, they propose almost exactly the same as the Lib Dems in their manifesto: namely – reform the House of Lords, and bring in the Alternative Vote system, which is a form of Single Transferable Vote.
- You can get a new hip in 5 minutes. Yes, the NHS is a massive expenditure, and probably could be a lot more efficient. But ultimately, it has got better at treating people, and doctors are less likely to fall asleep at the wheel. The balance of opinion probably backs that up too, and the massively reduced waiting times for many key conditions are a plus. There are improvements to be made, but Labour have done some cool stuff too.
- Don’t mention the war(s)! Yes, I don’t necessarily think they were a good idea. Don’t necessarily agree they were a total fail either. Basically, I don’t understand the global economy, the on-the-ground situations in other countries, or the reality of the threat of global terrorism. But do I think that us invading a country and bombing civilians to prevent terrorism killing our civilians is wrong? Yes. That said, do I think that Labour would rush into any more wars? No. And they are aiming to bring the troops back in a productive and supportive manner during the next parliament. Still think they should rethink Trident though.
- Stop sending people to University. We all just end up doing the same job we would have done, but now with a Degree in Pig Enterprise Management. They are at least increasing amounts of apprenticships, but they still need to scrap that pointless 50% target for Uni.
- So who caused the recession? Whilst the Lib Dems can pretend that Vince Cable knew everything and warned everyone that the global recession was going to happen (whilst he also publically admits that he didn’t), and even though he criticised the Government policy on public spending only to capitulate completely into supporting them, the fact remains that the recession could have been avoided. And Gordon Brown, the Chancellor-turned-Prime-Minister should have been the man to see it coming. Again though, will they, or any of the parties, make the same mistakes again? It seems unlikely.
The Choices Available
Lib Dems are going to win. No point in me voting – its Nick Clegg’s seat. With all his new (mostly misplaced) popularity, he is totally going to win.
Which is a shame, since I’ve had three sets of leaflets: Tory, Lib Dem and Labour.
Guess which one had misleading statistics, massively negative campaigning, and actually failed to tell us what that party has really done for us in our area, or nationally? Guess which one read like the Sun, and had similar stylings and printing?
And guess which two were well rounded, reasonable accounts, presented in an upmarket, appealing manner, encouraging you to vote for the party and candidate in a gentle, but positive manner, avoiding the negative actions of their opponents, whilst also managing not to be horribly smarmy in praise of themselves?
I’ll give you a clue – the shortened name of the party with the awful literature broadly rhymes with “Don’t Vote For Them” (and “Big Ben”).
So yes, in my area, there is no point in voting. Lib Dem are going to win.
I nearly wrote this article before the polls came in after the first debate. Glad I didn’t, since I had no idea. It’s looking like a hung parliament. As you can see from above, I think a read of the manifestos implies that the sensible vote goes to Labour. Ultimately though, there is something important to realise here: if any of the big three won, the country would be safe.
Not that I’m saying I don’t think David Cameron doesn’t have the potential to do a Mugabe, but even if he wanted to, the press, the opposition and the public wouldn’t stand for it. We live somewhere where all the politicians started crying when we told them off for paying a cleaner £8.60 an hour rather than £6, a far cry from spending $300,000 on a birthday party.
None of the parties are proposing ridiculous, dangerous or anti-humanitarian policies. All of them will attempt to safe guard the NHS, education, the economy and our country, and I think it is actually very important that we appreciate that. Appreciate the fact that democracy, free press and individuals willing to fight for rights have led to us to the Election 2010, where it doesn’t matter that much who we vote for, because they are all good guys.
What we need in the UK is reform. Not just a reform in the system, but in the behaviour of parties, of politics and of people. I propose three things:
1. Working together, not behaving like children.
So it looks like we might get a hung parliament. It’s time for us to embrace that as a great thing, and a wonderful opportunity. For years, my opinion of BBC Parliament, and of every single statement ever made by the opposition has been “you sound like a little child squabbling”. It goes like this:
- Government say something.
- Opposition party responds with “That is a ridiculous, dangerous and frankly poo idea”.
- Or… Opposition party responds with “That was our idea first! We have been proposing that since 1913!”
- Descends into slapping fight.
What a hung parliament will provide is a government who have to work together. Usually that just leads to massive loggerheads, no progress and bitter recrimations. Why don’t we simply bring in a rule that demands results? Meetings to debate each issue, ending with a vote on what the overall government policy will be on that issue. And then everyone has to conform to said policy. Add some incentive or responsibility, and then let’s just get on with running the country. I’m not saying this will work. Sadly, its massively idealistic. But, if it could be done, if there was a way to take the three parties, who share much common ground, and get them to work together, that would be the ideal.
Yes, there will be people annoyed that its not being done their way, but that’s life! Who, reading this, has never had a job where they don’t completely agree with how things are done? A responsible person gets on with the job, and appropriately tries to steer policy or strategies when the opportunity comes. So let’s let our MPs do that, and then everyone gets a voice in running the country, even if its the majority that get the action. And that is all that democracy is; representation for everyone, with overall action taken in accordance with the wishes of the majority.
2. If we don’t know its broke don’t fix it.
Next, with our sexy collaborative government, let’s just try not changing stuff a bit. The problem with 4 year government is that it is very responsive to media, to changing public opinion and to short term results. For example, the parole system has been rehauled 3 times in the last 6 years.
Let’s just stop changing stuff for a while, collect some good statistics of our current systems, so that when we change them we can have some objective comparative studies, something that means we then instigate evidence based policy (shout out to Skeptical Voter on this one).
This also works for things like Green Technology, that clearly need a longer term priority. Both Labour and Lib Dem propose £2bn-£3bn investment in renewable technology. This should have been done decades ago, when we started to be aware that oil was dirty, finite and expensive. We need to have some long term goals, much like the EU have started to impose, that all our parties, as a nation, decide and agree on, then work on them together.
An example of how this should work is ID cards. What we needed was all the MPs, regardless of party to get together, discuss it amicable, and vote on it. We then should have decided, if that won and went ahead, when it was coming in. Then we should have built a study, with key variables measured in a large population base, and compared this with a) other countries that use ID cards and b) smaller scale trials in our own country. Then, it should have been worked on (or probably not) without all the bickering and sensationalist media spotlighting that we got instead.
3. Finally, voting reform.
There are two things here. The voting system, and the representative model.
I’ll start with the representation. Lib Dems have talked a lot in the past about wanting PR. Their argument is that even if a party gets 10% of the national vote, but don’t actually win any seats outright, they get no representation, even though 10% of the country wanted them in.
I don’t think we should use a Proportional Representation system, because in a pure implementation, it actually gives your individual vote less value. For example, in my area, my vote is nearly worthless, because Nick Clegg is going to win Sheffield Hallam. However, it’s not completely worthless – he might not win, if enough people vote against him. In pure PR, the national votes go in, the parties are told how many MPs they can have, and then the parties choose their MPs. In other words, if Lib Dems got no votes in Hallam, his party would almost certainly still say “We want Nick Clegg as an MP”, and so he would be chosen as an MP, even though everyone voted against him! And yes, he might just be made MP in an area that did vote Lib Dem, but do we really want a system where the citizens who know an MP best, if they choose not to vote for him, can still see him in power somewhere else?
So lets leave our representation as it is for now. We can always hold a referrendum, if our lovely new collaborative government thinks it might be a winner. However, our voting system should change, and we should move to Single Transferable Vote. It’s better than our current system, and there are no downsides. I’ll explain:
If I vote tomorrow between Andy, Bill and Carl, in our current system, I can only put one vote.
- Bill X
If Bill loses, my vote had no say between Andy and Carl. With a STV system (such as Labour and Lib Dem have proposed), you put a preference number:
- Andy 3
- Bill 1
- Carl 2
This way, Bill gets my vote, but if he loses, you get to say “I’d rather have Carl than Andy”. What our current system also doesn’t have is an option to say “I want none of them”. You can spoil your paper, but in Government statistics there is no difference between “I spoilt my paper” and “I got confused and ticked the wrong box”. That’s why we need:
- Bill 1
- Carl 2
- Reopen Nominations 3
That way I can say “I want Bill to win. If not him, then Carl. If not him, I’d rather get an option to vote again than to vote for Andy”. Sounds good, eh?
I would like Labour to win the Election. They have a better manifesto, they have a PM who understands the economy, he’s slightly less annoying than the other leaders, and despite his non liking of bigots, made less empty statements and untruthful statement in the debates. Plus he’s sexy.
However, my vote in Sheffield Hallam is pointless - Nick Clegg is going to win Hallam, unless he gets publically outed for joining the Nazi party.
This however, is not a bad thing. We live in a great, democratic, reasonably fair and extremely wealthy country, and we should all be very proud that we don’t need to vote because our country is awesome.
Finally, I am letting you guys choose how I vote. Just pick an option in the poll below, and I promise to vote with the majority. Obviously I may choose not do, but isn’t broken promises what elections are all about?
How should I vote in the 2010 General Election?
- Vote for one of the "real" parties. (49%, 28 Votes)
- Vote Green, as a protest against the political process, and show my support for environmental issues. (25%, 14 Votes)
- Spoil my vote, by stapling it to a large telephone directory. Then the constituency returning officers would be contacted, to discuss how to deal with a paper that can't fit into the ballot box. (11%, 6 Votes)
- Stay at home and eat a Curly Wurly. (9%, 5 Votes)
- Vote Monster Raving Loony Party, as a protest against the whole political process. (6%, 4 Votes)
Total Voters: 57
For those of you on facebook, see the poll at http://allaboutchris.co.uk/blog/2010/my-election-vote/
Thanks to anyone who waded through this whole article.
God bless the UK,