What is Voting?
Voting is important.
I know: controversial opening line, that. But voting truly is very, very important. Only through the vote can you reliably tell any given government or political organisation what you think of them. Of course, this then opens a whole bag of worms about things like tactical voting, issue led voting and national vs. regional voting but stay with me, there may be cake… Or something.
Young people do not vote enough, people who are 16 now should be able to vote in 2015, people who are twenty now would have been just too young to vote in 2010, so should vote in 2015. Everyone between 16-20 years old will be able to and should vote.
Q: So, start with basic principles; what is a vote within the context of the UK?
A: The UK runs on a first past the post system. To explain this, a vote is you spitting into your favourite bucket out of a range provided to you. Once everyone has finished spitting, the bucket with the most phlegm inside it is taken away and put in the House of Commons to represent you as an MP. The party with the most full spit buckets wins the election and gets to lead the country. When no single party has enough buckets of spit to be outnumber the other party’s spit buckets, two parties can come together and work as a coalition, combining their spit into a single lake of bodily fluids. As can be expected, often the smaller of the two parties becomes diffused and diluted in the larger party.
Not that I’m saying that MPs are buckets of phlegm you understand. MPs are generally speaking hard working, dedicated and passionate individuals driven by a concern about the issues affecting the country and their community, taking action to represent those without voices. Though I would, in all honesty, probably compare a few MPs (past and present) unfavourably to buckets of phlegm.
Q: So why should I vote? I mean, spit in a bucket?
A: We’re getting side tracked here. Let’s forget the bucket metaphor. Instead, let’s talk about the virtues of voting. The obvious one is that it’s civic duty. People have fought and died to protect and enshrine democracy in this country; when you stand at the ballet box with the stubby little pencil in your hand you stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before you. I’ve previously spoken of one of them (Emily Davison) but there are so many more beyond number. From the veterans of the Second World War through to the Levelers of the English Revolution, generation after generation has struggled to reach this point.
If that doesn’t strike your fancy try this argument on for size; Its in your own interests to vote. It’s against your interests not to vote. You may feel that politicians do not care about you and do not care about your opinions. This is true, I won’t lie to you – but I will tell you why. The largest number of people who vote are people aged 40 or over. They vote now because they voted when they were young and they kept voting. Haven’t you ever wondered why pensions are almost always protected? How Social Security (not benefits, I’ll never call them benefits, but that’s for another day) always favours the older voter, and not young people?
This isn’t because politicians don’t like you, it’s that you’re not good customers. Imagine you were running a coffee shop. The vast majority of your customers are old people who like traditional milky coffee, watery hot chocolate or pots of tea. You know that young people want frothy frappucino fruit-based frosty drinks, flavoured with futuristic fast freeze chemicals. But young people haven’t come to your coffee shop for a while. Old people wouldn’t drink the stuff young people want, but young people aren’t interested in the stuff old people want. If you know that mainly old people will come to your shop, it’s not worth putting out the frothy frappucino fruit-based frosty drinks, flavoured with futuristic fast freeze chemicals. So young people have to put up with tea and cake that hasn’t changed in thirty years. The only way that the coffee shop will change its menu is if it has a reason to, only young people, only you can make them change.
Q: But none of the big parties appeals to me, maaan. They’re all like, ‘The Man’ maaan. Who do I vote for, maaan?
A: You see, it’s questions like this that make me want to break stuff. We’re talking country running stuff here, we’re talking grown up games. Voting can be the difference between having an NHS or having Private Health Insurance. Voting can be the difference between going to war or not going to war. Voting can be the difference between immigrant rights or restrictions on immigration.
The big parties are like premier league teams, the smaller parties (like the Greens) are like Division Two. At best. There is no way in the electoral math that the Liberal Democrats could have won a victory in 2010, but they were still important. They were like, Division One, though they’ve since moved up to the Premier League.
You may not agree with either of the main parties in everything they do. I don’t expect you to, because I certainly don’t (and I’m pretty damned Tribal to boot). But the big parties; the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the (not so liberal) Liberal (aren’t really) Democrats are the ones who will win in a given election. One of them will win, this is just the current laws of political physics in the UK. But let’s say you don’t actually support any one of those parties, which is perfectly understandable. So who do you vote for?
Well, there are two things to bear in mind. The first one is who do you most agree with of the big three. Do some reading, do some listening, turn on the news occasionally. You’ll get the gist of what the parties are, what they want and how they go about things. The decision to make at that point is which one, if you had to, would you rather see running the country? I’ll do a post later in the week or next week about the different parties that is as basic and uncomplicated as possible. I will also talk to people from each of the parties, or who support those parties, for a warts and all look at the party they work with. At the end of the day principles are respectable but when your vote helps to decide whether or not people get benefits its important you think hard about whether or not you can afford not to vote.
Q: I don’t want to vote for any of the big parties though! You can’t make me!/I know that the big party I want to vote for will win without me!/I know that the party I don’t want to win will win anyway! What do I do?
Ok, this is the biggest question. This is also the hardest question. Balls.
Ok, strap yourself in, this might be a bit difficult to explain. It’s called tactical voting.
1. You are a Conservative voter in a Labour area. A lot of people around you will vote Labour, but some will vote Liberal Democrats, you don’t like the Liberal Democrats, but you hate Labour. So you vote for the party you hate less.
2. You would be a Labour voter in an area where everyone votes Labour, Labour are going to win. But Labour aren’t good enough with the environment in your mind: you should vote Green, to show that people in the area care about the environment so that Labour knows if they want to win your vote next time, they need to be more Green.
3. You don’t want to vote for any of the big parties. That’s cool, pick a minor party that you hope people will pay attention to and vote for them. Hate the EU? Vote UKIP. Hate the Capitalist Pigs? Vote for the Socialist Worker’s Party. Although bear in mind that in the reality of British politics, you are essentially choosing option 4.
4. Turn up, eat your ballet or drawn a rude picture on it. Then put it in the box. Even if you don’t care, just vote.
I think I’ve got the handle on what you’re talking about at this point…
Do you? That’s good! I tend to lose track.
If you have any further questions, oh reader, please feel free to message me, to reply to this post or to ask me in person, I’d be happy to explain anything.
Because I’m a masochist.