So we’re off for a general election. Journalists are delighted because 1) they can see a month’s worth of reasonable-to-good headlines and 2) that they can genuinely influence the political process thanks to exposing gaffes, slip-ups and spin and changing people’s minds about who they’ll vote for. Not.
Let’s hope they do the true journalistic thing of going through the prospective candidates (you should start looking at yours already on YourNextMP) and seeing whether they believe in homeopathy, for example. Sadly, I think it will be more about Jim Naughtie browbeating people to say something slightly silly on Today (Heseltine: “I’m not up for it” is the “quote of the campaign so far”. Sheesh.).
The thing that I found most extraordinary while listening / watching the events of yesterday as the PM went to the palace and the party leaders made their stump speeches was the regular question posed between commentators: “will this be an internet election”? They all said no. And to some extent they may be correct: I’m not sure we’ll generate a fourth “party” through the internet that will change the way people vote. My strong contention is that we will use the greater availability of information (to a large extent made possible by the internet) to help inform our voting choices, rather than simply vote on party lines.
I have strong sympathy with the view that we should use the opportunity to punish the incumbents for messing up so royally while spending so profligately, but feel that I should have a proper understanding of the electoral mathematics in my constituency (neck and neck Lab and Lib, we are told or maybe not so, so do I want a Lab MP but Lib council, for example?), the views of the candidates (not sure where to find all this in one place, but YourNextMP has links to the candidates home pages and blogs, where they have them) and the effect the local may have on the national picture before deciding.
Oh yes, and we should all vote. Nuff said. Even choose the least worst if that’s all you are left with.
It’s really very easy, honest:
You cannot vote Tory, ever. There are lots of nice individual tories, but collectively they are just unbearable and we really cannot afford to go back there as a nation.
You cannot vote NuLabour until you can forgive them for Afghanistan and Iraq and PFI and being “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” (inadequate financial regulation) – YMMV but that’s going to be a few years for me.
So the obvious answer is that we need a Lib Dem government. It can’t possibly be any worse than the other two.
Honourable exceptions can be made for good incumbents like yours.
Chris: you don’t mention a hung parliament. I wonder if that might do us some good if political and legislative decisions can’t be knee-jerk and require some discussion and deal-making (even though we might not see these as they happen).
Separately, I quite like the phrase “balanced” that I heard the SNP use; “hung” seems to be guaranteed to inspire the sort of partisan approach we see in the US.
Finally, here’s another tool that takes you some of the way in terms of thinking through the parties’ approaches, in this case on Health from the Kings Fund. I got four first time round. Oops.