The chief reason I don’t talk much about politics is that I don’t really understand it.
I mean I get the concept and all, and believe in the idea of democracy – seems to beat the hell out of any currently available alternatives – however the problem for me (and the same with many people) comes about in the two-party system. Do you vote for the party which represents your interests, do you vote for the major party who’s most likely to get in that’s closest to your interests, or do you vote for the most likely party to beat the party you least want to get in? And, trickily, what the hell do any of them stand for anyway?
Recently I discovered that I’m eligible – and registered – to vote in the UK elections, and so it made sense to actively try to figure out who I should be putting my mark against on the ballot paper.
Fairly helpfully The Telegraph have put together a web questionnaire which you can use to see how the 6 major parties stand on a selection of issues (based on the newspaper’s analysis of their respective party manifestos), and given how clear it is to understand the way politicians answer questions a lot of the time, this seems a reasonable resource I think.
Keeping it fairly simple, you give your position (For, Against, “Open Minded” (/don’t know/care)) on the thirty or so key issues identified, then select which groupings of issues mean more to you, and which mean less, then some wacky formula in the back gives you a percentage match based on your interests.
I don’t suppose I was too surprised to find out that my closest matches were the Liberal Democrats, followed by The Green Party.
What did surprise me was how far from Labour’s position I was, given that I thought my politics were more Left-leaning, and Labour’s nominally supposed to be Democratic Socialist – of the majors, Labour was my lowest score, even compared with the British National Party (not shown on graph) at 52%.
Following the quiz section however you can analyse your responses against that of each party, and that’s where it sort of gets interesting.
I tabulated the data(.XLS file) from the quiz and had a look at it – if nothing else the exercise really drove home the point to me of why so many people in this country don’t vote! From what I’ve observed a lot of media coverage doesn’t give attention to these issues, instead preferring to either bring the contest down to which of the party leaders has the most well-dressed spouse, or throwing the leaders in a bearpit and get hostile journalists to throw questions at them like howitzers in an attempt to get someone to contradict a statement they’ve just made so that the programme can capture an “A ha! We’ve got you!” moment. That’s all well and good (except the spouse thing, which is after all completely frigging irrelevant), but surely more importantly than the showiness of a party leader is the core views which the entire party base their election on?
Equally, if a member of Party A gives a big speech to a journalist, telling them what the party stands for, and then Party B comes on & gives them a list of different things, that still leaves the poor punter none the wiser.
From the data, one of the key things I was interested in was the parties’ positions on nuclear power and climate change. I’m no scientist, but it makes sense to me that nuclear power is the most efficient form of power generation the human race has currently got, and many who argue against it cite examples of disasters/leaks from ageing reactors and play on the fear & hysteria of people. It’s not ideal, but assuming the Peak Oil theory is correct, it would make sense to move to a more efficient form of energy generation whilst continuing research & development in sustainable green methods of power generation. So, the parties who are in favour of more nuclear plants are the Tories, UKIP, and the BNP. However, as the BNP and UKIP believe that man made climate change is a myth, I feel I can confidently rule out their opinions on every other issue (actually I’d already ruled out the BNP, if not only because it would be hypocritical for a foreigner to vote for a party whose main platform is to get rid of foreigners – and by hypocritical, I mean that whenever I’ve asked a BNP supporter of their position on Australians they think we’re OK… which I assume means the white ones are OK).
But I can’t vote Conservative, because they want to keep hereditary peers in the House of Lords (which is effectively saying “My Dad could beat your Dad in a fight”), they don’t believe the Iraq War was illegal, and are against free university education (a backward thinking policy). And a bunch of other stuff. No, no, no.
Look, the point is, get out there and vote. Find out what the issues are, what you feel about those issues, and what the parties say their standpoints are on the issues. Don’t vote for someone because your parents told you to. Don’t vote for novelty candidates because you think it’d be funny if they got in. If you don’t want to vote because you think they’re all crooks and as bad as each other, then you might as well find out which is the least-worst crook to vote in, because someone’s going to get in, and you might as well have some input into it. Last time they had an election in the UK only 61.3% of people turned up to vote – the other 38.7% should either pull their fingers out & turn up at the polls (or indeed get a postal vote sorted out), otherwise they’ve got no basis to complain when their local MP starts building a moat & installing a taxpayer-funded duck house.
I’m sure I had more of a coherent argument or point to make when I started this, but I guess the overall thrust of it is: find out what’s going on out there. The information’s around. Get involved.
That’s not really it. I know I said not to vote for novelty candidates – admittedly, if they had convincing policies then maybe they’d be worth considering. Still, I quite admire the balls on this guy**: Mad Cap’n Tom.
Thankfully I can just smirk at the idea, seeing as I’m not eligible to vote in that constituency.
** it should be clear that by this sentence, I don’t actually mean I admire his balls. Look, you know what I meant. Stop it.