I’m trying not to make this blog be overly political at the moment, but this General Election is looking like it may be the most important in decades. It’s certainly the first one in decades where your individual vote might make a difference.
Currently, for the first time in the party’s history, two-and-a-half weeks before the election, the Liberal Democrats are in second place in the polls, ahead of Labour. More incredibly yet, they’re the only party of the three major parties that anyone seems at all enthusiastic about.ETA, since I wrote this, a couple of hours ago, another poll has come out which has the Lib Dems in FIRST place, although it’s well within the margin of error.
I live in a constituency which has had a Labour MP for a hundred out of the last hundred and four years – other than a blip from 1931 to 35 when it went Tory, this has been a Labour seat since nine years before the First World War. The last time a Tory won here, my great-grandmother was eleven. The last time a LIBERAL won here, Queen Victoria was on the throne.
Yet walking down the road to the shop before, I counted in windows:
Two RESPECT posters
Five small Labour fliers and
FIFTY Lib Dem posters, ranging from small ‘winning here’ diamonds to gigantic banners.
(There were also two Tory posters, but they were both in advertising spaces, and one had been defaced).
Now, this is not the most scientific of samples (and the fact that one of the RESPECT posters and one of the Labour fliers were sharing window space with Lib Dem ones suggests a certain lack of understanding on the part of someone), but it is indicative of a mood. I don’t think *ANYONE* is enthusiastic about either a Tory or a Labour government. At least *some* people are enthusiastic about the Lib Dems.
Another anecdote (I know, the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but bear with me) even before Nick Clegg so comprehensively won the leaders’ debate, a friend was asking on Twitter how one would go about volunteering for a political party because “the one I support looks like it might even do something this election, which would be a nice change”. She’s now volunteering for Lynne Featherstone, after I pointed her in the right direction.
The point being that the Liberal Democrats now actually have a small but real chance of even *WINNING* this election. And there’s a much better chance that there’ll be a hung parliament – and the larger the number of Lib Dems, the more influence we’ll have over the resulting government.
And I honestly think that most people reading this would prefer a Lib Dem government to either a Labour or a Conservative one – we’d stop detaining children while their asylum cases were progressing, we’d cancel the ID database, we’d get rid of the DIgital Economy Act, we’d invest in green technology, not replace Trident, scrap university tuition fees, restore a huge number of rights that Labour have stolen from people, and redistribute from the rich to the poor. If you’re (say) a Green, we might not be your ideal government – hell, we’re not *MY* ideal “in a perfect world” government – but that list must be a hell of a lot more appealing than the other two parties.
But under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t try to persuade people to vote for anything other than their preferred party, and nor will I do so now for the council elections. Vote for whoever truly represents your beliefs the best, not just the party most likely to win. Vote Green, or RESPECT, or Pirate Party or Libertarian or whoever, and good luck to you. I want all those parties and more to get representation, as well as us increasing ours.
But when it comes to the national elections, I’m going to ask you, just this once, to give the Lib Dems your vote.
If we don’t get a massive increase in representation – possibly a partnership in a hung parliament – then next time, vote for who you like, knowing the system is so rigged it doesn’t matter. If we *do* get into power and you don’t like what we do, vote for whoever you want to kick us out, as we’d deserve.
But right now, for this election, if you support *ANYTHING* other than the corporatist, managerialist, authoritarian consensus that is pushing our government steadily towards fascism, then supporting the Lib Dems in the General Electin will help your party.
Because one of the things we have insisted on as a deal-breaker if we form a coalition – and one of the first things we’ll bring in if we actually win – is electoral reform, ideally SIngle Transferable Vote. This is a voting system in which every seat has several members of parliament, and people can rank their preferred candidates in order.
At the moment, in the current system, say you’re in a Tory/Labour marginal, as many people are, but you’re a supporter of, say, the Greens. You don’t want to vote for either Labour or the Tories, but at the same time you know your vote for the Greens won’t get the Green candidate in. You have a choice of either a ‘wasted vote’ or a vote for the least worst of the two main parties in your area.
Now imagine you’re in a seat where you use STV. Here there are three seats and ten candidates – a Green, two Lib Dems, three Labour, three Tory and a Bastard Nazi. Now, you don’t want the Tories to get in, and you DEFINITELY don’t want the Bastard Nazis to get in. You don’t like Labour, but you know that one of your local candidates is OK, and you think the Lib Dems are OK and they’d be your second choice. How do you vote THEN?
The answer is that you rank your favoured candidates with the Green at the top, then the Lib Dems, then the Labour candidate you like, then the two you don’t like. As each candidate either gets knocked out or gets enough votes to get a candidate, your vote goes to the one next on your list. This way, you might get lucky and get the Green candidate in (especially if the people voting Lib Dem or Labour put her next on *their* lists after their preferred candidates), but even if you didn’t, your vote would still go to one of the candidates you preferred to the Tories or Bastard Nazis.
The system has other advantages too – say you’re a Labour supporter (I know, but just imagine…) and you have three Labour candidates up for election in your constituency, and three spots to fill. One of the Labour candidates is a principled Old Labour type who does a good job and is respected locally, one is someone you know little about, and one is a New Labour toadie who voted for the war.
In that situation, even if you’re absolutely loyal to the party, you can still rank the three.You know that if you (and people like you) rank the New Labour one third, chances are she’ll not get in, but the other two probably will. You’re still voting for the party you support, but you can let the party know very clearly which kind of candidates you want.
Eventually, this system would lead to the major parties breaking into smaller ones, to parties working together rather than against each other, and to much more power going to the smaller parties – including whichever one you support.
So if you really want to get your voice heard, vote Liberal Democrat this time, and give your own party a chance next time.