I suppose I see politics – the fighty bits, with people voting and other people getting new jobs, not the theorising and endless wittering – like other men see football. I love to watch it all get duked out, and I’m quite nerdy about it. I have spent many long nights watching election results play out live on TV. Even by-elections and foreign stuff. An analogy I draw is between watching the French presidential election results versus watching a Serie A game. Only with marginally fewer fascists.
I love to think about politics, and I love to read about politics, but I don’t particularly like the parties we have. I would love to get active in politics on a local level, sharing the joy in self-determination with the old and the young. I’d love to shape minds and challenge views. Take a dyed in the wool Tory and show them that their views are actually more aligned with the Greens; take a lifelong abstainer and show them what power they have at the tip of a pencil. Sadly, that’s not quite the world we live in, so I have a good rant about things on the internet instead. That always helps.
So far so good, but where does that leave the current general election? The frenzied anticipation for it rips through literally none of the country, and it is whipping us all up in to an excitable state of shoulder shrugging. Do I care about it? Of course I do. Do I find myself in a frenzy of hate? Of course I do. It’s just rarely about what you might think; I am far too contrary for that, and you know it.
My usual objection to elections and electioneering in this country comes from the “what difference can I make?” brigade. These idiots take the view that, just because we’re a nation of more than 65 million people, 45 million of whom are eligible to vote, one vote will change nothing. These people need to shut their stupid mouths, because they are ruining democracy. Their fallacies are what has led to the situation where the consensus in every election is that it is a done deal, that we can only have a two-party system, and that the results of previous election have anything to do with this one.
The fact of the matter is that more people do not vote than vote for any of the major parties.
The fact of the matter is that every vote cast in every ballot box in every constituency counts.
The fact of the matter is that nothing is set in stone, and we can change the system if we wish it.
All we need to do is vote. Vote for the party you want to run the country. Vote for the party whose views align most closely with yours. As long as you vote. Not voting allows people to speak on your behalf without listening to you.
And stop thinking about winning. Just because you cast your vote for a party other than the winning party does not mean that your vote was wasted. It has been counted by the bean counters, and is used to allocate funds to political parties, based on vote share. There is not, will not be, and never has been such a thing as a wasted vote, only a wasted opportunity.
That is not the issue this time. The issue I have this time is with the choices we have before us. On the day Teresa May announced the election, I knew that I’d have a tough choice on my hands. I don’t want it to be a tough choice. I want to vote for the party I want to form the next government.
Let’s take this apart: My views tend to be left-leaning, particularly with regard to immigration and social issues, but I take a right wing view of business, economics and defence. I am in favour of the human rather than of the institution. I believe the state has the power for good. I pay all of my taxes.
I see us as living in what is essentially a three party system, but with an open slot for a fourth party, when single issues need to be resolved. UKIP proved that with Brexit; SNP tried to use the fourth slot for Scottish independence, but became accomplished leaders instead; the Greens are always trying to use it for the environment. All the rest are essentially local, just as the bulk of politics should be.
Therefore, there is one party who has policies I agree with; there is another party who I want to see in power; there is a third party who I want to like, but who I just cannot stomach. Here it is:
The party I want to see in power have enough policies that I agree with, and is made up of people I respect: people that I would happily see running the country. Their leader is a hate figure, who is far too used to being a lone wolf, and so cannot effectively manage a team. Can I vote their way?
The party who has the policies that I whole-heartedly agree with is made up of people for whom I have very little, if no respect, and who I do not think have the capacity to run the country. Their leader is a nonentity and a religious zealot. I cannot, in all good conscience, cast my vote for them.
The other main party has policies I hate, and is made up of people I hold in contempt. I don’t even understand how they can sleep at night, their standpoint is so alien to me. Their leader is someone I have always held in very high regard, but the spotlight has revealed her to be venal, arch and cruel.
There is a fourth party, one who’s policies I find myself agreeing with, who’s elected officials I would have great confidence in, running the whole country, and who’s leader I have very high regard for. Sadly they only stand candidates North of my nearest border, so they are not an option open to me.
That, you see, is my dilemma. I want there to be an option I feel happy to put my cross in to, but there isn’t. I want the election of our officials to have less to do with the personalities of the people involved, and more to do with the things they’d do in office, but that would just be a web of lies.
That seemed harsh, so let me back it up. A successful government is rarely one who enters office with a fixed agenda. A successful government is one who responds well to the crises of the day, and works diligently in the best interests of the people who elected them. Pragmatism trumps idealism.
Political parties devise policies with their eyes and ears on focus groups, rather than by telling the electorate what they feel. In preparation for forming En Marche, Emmanuel Macron sent thousands of volunteers across France to gauge the national mood, collecting the views of people of all ages, of all socio-economic strata. The policies he announced came from this research, rather than from his own zeal. The big three in the UK (four in Scotland) form their policies in a broadly similar way.
Politics has more to do with market research than with the realities of governing a country; that is a key metric of political knowledge: To those in the know it is logical, matter-of-fact; for those new to the knowledge it is another thing which paints the world of politics in a continuingly negative light.
Many people are alienated by political processes and systems; part of that comes from a lack of knowledge. Viewers tuning in to the news or to watch the Parliament channel perceive combatants, abusing each other; they do not see process or debate.
Perhaps that’s why Teresa May denies Jeremy Corbyn a televised debate – she knows that such pugilism turns off voters. With that in mind, she could be doing the country a favour by trying to increase turnout. Personally I think she’d do better by giving a lottery ticket to everyone who votes: expensive, but worth a shot.
Until we wrench politics from the grip of the parties, there is very little any of us can do, but take shots.