You may not have noticed, but there’s something that’s going to happen tomorrow, Thursday June 8th 2017, that’s a bit of a pain, frankly. I hate being asked to choose my favourite, because it almost always depends on circumstances. I have no one favourite of anything, not even tea. Shocker, I know. But how do you choose an MP that will not only represent you for the next few years, but the party to set policy for the country as a whole? They’re all awful – how do you choose?
Let’s start with the basics – why bother to vote at all? While you might think that your vote won’t make any difference and that no-one in politics is listening to you, it does and they are. As more supposed information comes out about possible election fraud committed by the Conservatives in the last election, allegedly (is that enough caveats to keep the lawyers at bay, do you think?) the more it becomes apparent that even a few votes, in the right place, can have a major impact on a result.
Political parties keep an eye on what particular sections of society vote for, and don’t vote for, very carefully. If you never vote they can safely ignore any concerns you might have, because they know they’ll never be held to account for ignoring you – unless you vote. It’s not a coincidence that the biggest cuts to welfare have affected the young and the poor and that, while pensions haven’t been completely untouched, services aimed at pensioners have got off comparatively lightly. There have been U-turns. That’s because politicians, of all colours, know that the old are much more likely to vote than the young. They know that they lose votes when they change too much that affects pensioners in particular.
Maybe you think that politics isn’t for you, and that it doesn’t affect you in any way, so why should you bother? Unfortunately, that only applies if you have no plans to carry on breathing, eating and just generally being alive. Politicians influence pretty much everything that you experience, from air quality, food quality, to whether you’re allowed to work or not and how safe you are from crime.
So now what – just who do you decide to vote for?
The Ideological Vote – this is for the type of person who looks at the policies for each party standing in their constituency and decides which one is best for the country, as a whole. Look for policies that will benefit society as a whole, promote security rather than instability, that see people, the place where we live, and the economy, as things to be nurtured rather than exploited. Potential pitfalls: not every voter in your constituency will agree with you on which is the best party (I know, right?) so if you have a disastrous MP you want to vote out, you may need to vote for a party you think is second best, to avoid getting the worst option.
The Loyal Party member vote – if you’re a member of a political party then you’re probably going to vote for them come, what, May? (sorry, couldn’t resist). Potential pitfalls: if it’s some time since you read through your party’s policies then they could have moved quite a distance from what you think you’re voting for. It’s worth double checking. Policies of all parties move, over time, and there has been a general shift to the right over the past few decades. Policies that were once the preserve of far-right parties are now seen as mainstream by some. If you wouldn’t have been happy voting BNP back in 2005 then you might want to check some Conservative policies. Just saying.
The Self-interested vote – much like the Ideological vote, but you choose the party that’s best for you over some other section of society. You think you’ll get a better deal by voting for someone that puts your interests first. Potential pitfalls: these come in two main categories. Firstly, a government that promotes inequalities is not going to provide a stable society, and this will affect prosperity, no matter how much they pretend otherwise. Secondly, if a government can prioritise you over another section of society today, what’s to say they won’t prioritise someone else over you later? Remember that phrase Divide and Conquer? The really important thing to bear in mind is that their aim is always to conquer.
The Protest vote – you want to give the government a bloody nose and you’ll vote for pretty much anyone else. Yes, I get it, just make sure you’re not cutting off your own nose to spite your face. Choose wisely, and read the small print. Do not jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
The Tactical/Pragmatic vote – you have one candidate (quite possibly the current MP) that you want to prevent getting voted in if at all possible. The party that’s your ideological soulmate doesn’t stand a snowball in hell’s chance of getting elected, and the second choice is OK, you guess, apart from perhaps just one or two key issues that you fundamentally disagree on. This is where you have to decide – vote for a second choice to avoid the worst option, or stick to your principles. It’s a tough one and will probably depend on just how close the parties are in your constituency. There are some helpful websites that can show you which parties are contenders and which are no-hopers in each constituency, such as https://www.tactical2017.com/ It may also be worth remembering the principle of amelioration – will your vote help to take a step in the right direction, or will it take the country further away? You rarely get the chance to jump to your end-goal in politics, moving in the right direction can sometimes be all we can hope for.
The Lose Hope All Ye Who Enter Here vote – the sitting MP is awful, and you want rid of them, but they have such a huge majority that even if all the other parties clubbed together they still couldn’t beat them. In which case you might as well vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party (RIP, Lord Sutch). Interesting aside – did you know that quite a few of the original MRLP policies made it into law? All-day pub opening and passports for pets being a couple of examples. See, I told you they listened.