I’m seeing a lot of people at the moment saying that they’re not planning on voting this year, because their vote will make little difference. And I can certainly see the point they’re making.
We have a crappy electoral system, one which leads inevitably to governments either solely formed by, or completely dominated by, two huge parties whose views are almost identical to each other and who are pursuing an agenda that is frankly vile.
In those circumstances, it’s easier to not bother to vote, and to channel one’s political energies into non-Parliamentary campaigning.
And, indeed, non-Parliamentary campaigning is vital, and *is* probably more important than the electoral system in actually getting things changed, given the current sorry state of Parliamentary politics. And this is why I give time or money to Amnesty, the Open Rights Group, the Howard League for Penal Reform, and other such campaigning organisations. Those groups are all pushing at the Overton Window, and that can only be a good thing.
But at the same time, if you want to change something about the way the world works, yes, you should push the Overton window in your direction as much as possible, but at the same time, once your issue becomes within the realms of political possibility, there will be a party standing in your area who will find it easier to modify their positions towards the ones you want. If your big issue is, for example, lowering the tax rate on rich people to 20%, the Tories would be more likely to go for that than the other parties. If you want to ban cars because they’re too polluting, the Greens will be most likely to go for it. Re-nationalise the energy providers? Labour. Land Value Tax? Lib Dems. Deport all immigrants? UKIP. And so on.
So in your constituency, there is undoubtedly a party standing which, while you don’t agree with them, will be more likely to take on the positions you want as soon as it becomes political expedient than any of the other parties will. So while voting will not make much of a difference, *as part of a broader range of activities* ranging from signing petitions to giving money to campaigning groups to joining parties and influencing them from the inside it may make a difference.
Now, I’m very fortunate in that where I live I don’t have to compromise my vote. Our local Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Dave Page, is someone with whom I agree on about 90% of the issues we’ve discussed, who’s as active and effective a campaigner as you can imagine, and who I trust enough that he has a spare key to my house. I’m not quite as sure about this Andrew Hickey bloke the Lib Dems are standing for council in my ward, mind, but even if he’s useless he can’t actually be *worse* than the current lot…
So I don’t have to compromise at all — I can go into the polling station and know that I’ll be voting for people who will do the right thing as I see it — and so it’s easy for me to go on about how everyone should vote. I won’t be standing in judgment over anyone who doesn’t — as I’ve said above, I can understand people’s reasons. But I do think that given the opportunity to give politics a tiny nudge in the right direction, whichever direction you think that is (and I hope it’s a liberal and democratic one), you might as well take it.