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General Election 2010

So, here we stand on the eve of what is clearly going to be one of the most ground-shaking elections in living memory. I believe the closest I've seen to this level of excitement and sense of change before was in 1997, when Labour overthrew an eighteen-year-old Tory government to begin what has turned out to be a thirteen-year stint in power.

I actually voted last week, because I choose to have a postal ballot for the sake of convenience. Unlike a lot of people in this country (even still at the time of writing), I was never in any real doubt about how I was going to vote in this election, so didn't see any point in delaying the process. I'm certainly never going to vote Tory, so that wasn't an issue. Labour have, in all fairness, done some pretty good things since 1997 - for example, the minimum wage, granting control over interest rates to the Bank of England, and civil partnerships. But they've done some pretty shitty things, too - tuition fees, illegal wars, the campaign for ID cards, and of course lately cutting HEFCE funding so badly that my subject and my own job are now under threat. So there's no way I am going to vote for them either.

Anyway, I never really was. Ever since the first election I was eligible to vote in (which was in fact the 1997 one), I have consistently voted Liberal Democrat. Well - apart from the 2005 election, that is, in which I was disenfranchised because a letter I didn't know I was meant to be expecting got lost in the post. THAT was upsetting, and one hell of a strong reminder of what a precious possession the right to vote actually is.

I vote LibDem partly because I don't like the mainstream parties or the system which keeps them in power, but also because I would genuinely like to see the LibDems forming a government. For as long as I can remember, whenever I've heard a voice on the radio (which is how I get most of my news) saying things which are fair and sensible, it's always seemed to turn out that they were a Liberal Democrat. They are pro-European; they want to make huge investments in public transport; they have a fair and humane policy on immigration; they want to scrap tuition fees and widen access to higher education. They are basically all about the rights of the individual, support for the vulnerable and the breaking down of intolerance and inequity. I'm totally behind that.

This time round, of course, the political landscape is clearly very different from the one I've known ever since I began voting. For the last three elections, I could pretty much vote however I liked, while resting assured that actually, Labour would win. This time, that's no longer the case. Nor, indeed, can we assume a Tory victory. Realistically, it's unlikely that the LibDems are going to win an outright majority in tomorrow's polls. But it's clear that they are suddenly a far more realistic prospect than they have ever been before, and could even come second in terms of the overall proportion of the vote. And that's something I'd really like to see. So, this year I am not only voting for the LibDems - I have given them money, and even become a card-carrying party member.

Some people may want to tell me that this is wrong-headed - that the effect of my idealism will be to let the Tories in through the back door by damaging Labour support. But I don't agree. On a practical level, I've never supported Labour, so they're not losing anything if I continue not to do so. Furthermore, I now live in the Leeds North West constituency, where we already have a sitting Liberal Democrat MP (Greg Mulholland). The Tories came third here in the 2005 election, so the danger of them taking this seat is not very great. There's no need to vote Labour to keep them out - and even if there were, I still don't see why I should when I actually support Greg Mulholland.

In fact, the very fact that people go around arguing in favour of tactical voting is one of the main reasons why I support the LibDems in the first place - because I want to see the sort of electoral reform that would make the very idea of not voting for the party you actually support an anachronism. Nick Clegg put this case very forcefully today on his final day campaigning in Eastbourne:
"Don't let anyone tell you that your vote doesn't count. Aim high - don't settle for second best. This is your country; it is your future; you have as much right as anybody else to shape it in the way that you want." (Video with context here)
Of course, we'd need a LibDem majority before we stood any real chance of seeing those principles actually being applied in UK politics. But in accordance with that spirit, I'm not going to succumb to the temptation of trying to tell the people on my friends list to vote for them. You get out there and vote however the hell you like. But I reserve the right to hope that as many people as possible choose to vote LibDem, so that we can all vote for what we actually want in the future.

As for what I think will actually happen? Well, the Tories and their supporting newspapers seem to think they are going to win the most seats. I'm not so sure about that myself. This election is clearly a different beast from the ones we've known recently - but there does usually tend to be a small last-minute swing in favour of the party who are currently in power at most elections. Whatever people say in the run-up, the reality of the polling booth seems to engender a certain feeling of "better the devil you know". So I suspect that the Tories will do slightly worse, and Labour slightly better, than the polls so far might have predicted.

That factor makes a hung parliament all the more likely - and for me that could be a pretty good outcome. Though I'd like the LibDems to win outright, it doesn't realistically look very likely that that will happen. But in a hung parliament situation they will suddenly acquire a lot more power and influence than they have ever had before. I don't know exactly how that situation would play out - though I hope they would remain true enough to their principles to stay the hell away from any kind of stable arrangement with the Tories. But whatever happens, they would certainly have some grounds to push for electoral reform, to stand in the way of the more abhorrent policies of the other two parties, and generally to raise their own profile. That could perhaps be a platform from which to move towards an outright majority at a future election - though I do worry that they could in fact end up tainting their public image through association with either of the other two parties.

Generally speaking, if the LibDems increase their holdings in the commons, ideally achieving a number of seats that goes into triple figures, I'll be happy. Certainly, the UK Parliament is going to be a very different place on Friday from what we knew a month ago. And if the Tories actually win an outright majority? Well, it won't exactly be great, but I comfort myself with the views of the governor of the Bank of England, as reported last week: that the severity of the cuts required after the election in order to reduce our budget deficit will mean that whichever party actually has to implement them will subsequently find themselves "out of power for a whole generation". Even as a staunch LibDem supporter, then, I have to say that it may be for the best if my lot don't get a majority this time after all.

Anyway, tomorrow night I shall be having a few friends round to watch the results as they come in. It's fun to play drinking games involving sips of appropriately-coloured boozes as each seat is declared, of course - but that's also a strategy liable to cause you to cease caring and slide underneath the coffee-table before the night has advanced very far. Some might say that that would be for the best this time - but given that I do actually want to know what is happening, I have chosen an alternative, sugary method of marking the results. After extensive research in town on Tuesday, I concluded that M&Ms offered the best balance of good, strong primary colours, reasonable price and relatively minimal wastage. So I purchased five large packets of them and spent a happy quarter of an hour today sorting them out into their respective colours, like the roadie in Wayne's World.

If the contents of the packets are any indication of the election result, I can report that there will actually be a surprise Labour majority with the LibDems in second place by a narrow margin over the Tories:


If that's how it turns out, just remember folks - you heard it here first!

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
libellum
May. 6th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)
This post was lovely to read - since I've just written mine, I feel like I'm chatting to you about the election :) I can hear your voice in my head as I read this. Especially the bit at the end with the M&Ms!

I was asking about how I should vote. Most of my reasons to vote TUSC rather than Lib Dem are to do with the candidate, a perspective that has been formed by being involved with a candidate's campaign. I have a healthy respect for good campaigners and I tend to dismiss anyone who is uncontactable and doesn't outreach like mad. And yet, your post may have persuaded me. I hope your M&Ms are right!
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
I feel like I'm chatting to you about the election

Ah, I'm very sorry - I did see your post last night, and had that feeling too, but alas I was so knackered by the time I'd finished mine that I absolutely had to got to bed. However, I'm doing my 'morning' (for post 12 noon values of morning) LJ catch-up now, so will be sure to read your post properly and leave a comment this time. It seemed to me from scanning it last night that you had more or less made up your mind, though - and I hope you've decided in a way you're happy with by now.
libellum
May. 6th, 2010 12:59 pm (UTC)
Not to worry, not getting a reply last night didn't diminish the feeling! It was rather late after all :)

Yeah, I'm going to vote LD. The whole wrangling process has really highlighted the frustrations of being in a safe seat, though.
samuel_sock
May. 6th, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
I'll be following the results as they come in but I won't be playing any kind of drinking games as I will be at work. I'm actually quite interested in this election (more so than I've been before) just to see what impact an election in a (supposed) world leading country has elsewhere.

And I like the idea of the M&M prediction - I've just done something similar with our apple-laden fruit bowl. It would appear that the Greens will get 2/3 of the vote, Labour 1/3 with Lib Dem and Conservative getting nothing.
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 11:41 am (UTC)
I suspect that fruit may be unduly biased in favour of environmental issues... But I will watch the Green party vote with care tonight, in case your apples know something I don't!
a_d_medievalist
May. 6th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
I have to admit that after the last 5 years, I'd want to vote Lib Dem, but would probably vote Labour unless I were sure of a decent coalition government if I voted LD. Argh.

strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)
If it comes to coalitions, I believe a formal Lib-Con pact to be the least likely of the possible outcomes - and that's the only one that would really bother me. I'd be OK with either a Lib-Lab pact or a minority Labour government with muddling along and ad hoc agreements where needed.
lefaym
May. 6th, 2010 03:22 am (UTC)
Hahaha, all hail the M&M poll! :D

I've been following the UK election campaign, and if I was a UK citizen, I would definitely vote Lib Dem too.

I don't often feel all that patriotic, but one thing I do love about Australia is that we have a preferential voting system, which means that no-one's vote is wasted.
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
Yes, that's something I often hear people here referencing as a model which it would be good to adopt in the UK. It seems to be widely admired. Happily, I think turn-out this time is going to be pretty high anyway, given that the outcome looks like a real uncertainty. But I do wish we could do something to ensure that that was always the case.
my_mundane_life
May. 6th, 2010 07:00 am (UTC)
Totally agree about tactical voting which is why I'm going for Alliance, whereas a lot of people I know are voting SDLP in my constituency to keep out the DUP. Also, I used to love sorting Smarties into colours. Now I don't eat Nestle I don't get the chance any more - and I don't like M&Ms - poor me! Enjoy election night!
firefish
May. 6th, 2010 09:48 am (UTC)
I'm not really into tactical voting in the north. Certainly not when it's a first past the post occasion like this. I like to vote in who I believe in even though in many cases it's a 'wasted vote' but I believe in Alliance and what they stand for much more than anyone else.

Anyway Penny - enjoy your party. It sounds like a lot of fun. I'm excited today as well. I'm going to an election results event and I'm nervous. Nervous and excited about what could happen today?
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 12:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I did feel quite a sense of impending dread when I woke up this morning, and realised that people were already out there voting for whatever is going to happen. Let's hope it works out OK, eh, and I hope you enjoy your results party too!
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC)
Good for you. And I hope you get a result that reflects what you want as well.
glitzfrau
May. 6th, 2010 07:47 am (UTC)
Thanks for the post! I know we've agreed to disagree on politics, but I do applaud your reasons for voting Lib Dem.

Unfortunately, no matter what my politics, I couldn't vote for Mulholland - he supports the lowering of the abortion limit. Mary wrote to him to ask him to support the current limit, and he replied that as a Christian he wouldn't. I couldn't vote for a man who puts Christian cant ( there's nothing against abortion in the gospels) above women's rights.

Have fun tonight! Sorry I can't be there.
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 12:04 pm (UTC)
I didn't know that about his views on the abortion limit, although I did already know from They Work for You that he consistently abstains on queer rights issues, and was disappointed to see that. However, his overall voting profile apart from that is in accordance with my views, whereas his closest rival's webpage says all too little about her views on a huge range of specific issues, and pretty woolly things about a lot of the issues it does mention. Meanwhile, I really feel very strongly about wanting to see LibDem representation in the House of Commons growing. So for all that he isn't perfect, Mulholland is my man.
swisstone
May. 6th, 2010 07:51 am (UTC)
to stand in the way of the more abhorrent policies of the other two parties

Exactly why I think a hung parliament is a good thing.
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC)
Yes - absolutely. I thought your post on this yesterday was excellent, and wholeheartedly agree.
gair
May. 6th, 2010 07:52 am (UTC)
This has made me smile! I am voting Lib Dem too, for much the same reasons as you, I think, and similarly half wistfully dreaming about a straight Lib Dem majority but willing to settle for a hung parliament.

In my constituency it's a straight fight between Labour and Lib Dem, and our current Lib Dem MP is completely awesome - has always voted the right way and replied swiftly to my emails and stuff. If I weren't voting at least semi-tactically, I'd vote Green, probably, because of the citizens' wage, but I really want Stephen Williams to beat whatsisface the Labour guy. And our Tory candidate is unspeakable.
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
Go go team LibDem!

Having looked up Stephen Williams, I see in fact that you live in my old constituency, where I cast my first ever vote back in 1997 (the same year the picture in the icon was taken). A Labour candidate actually won on that occasion, but I like to think that my small effort helped to keep the LibDems in a strong enough position to mean that they actually won there eventually. I shall be watching out for your seat on the news this evening, and cheering for it to stay yellow.
nalsa
May. 6th, 2010 08:09 am (UTC)
I heartily approve of the M&M-counting prediction method, although I would have liked to see the yellow & red positions swapped (obv!).
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 12:15 pm (UTC)
Maybe we should write angry letters to the manufacturers about their obvious political bias? If nothing else, it might mean free M&Ms!
biascut
May. 6th, 2010 09:09 am (UTC)
Enjoy voting! Even if it was actually over last week.

I am still Labour, and preparing to be deeply, deeply miserable tomorrow as Torygeddon takes over. I definitely don't blame anyone for voting Lib Dem, though: all the reasons for voting Lib Dem in general make completely sense to me (though I wouldn't vote for Greg Mulholland personally because of the pro-lifeness) and I'd also like to see electoral reform and a three-party system emerge. I also really don't have faith that the Lib Dems won't go into coalition with the Conservatives: unless the Conservatives reject the Lib Dems and have a minority government, the Lib-Con coalition still seems the most likely outcome to me.
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 12:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link to the letter. I did see that when you posted it, but didn't made the connection with my own local MP when I was thinking about how to vote this time. I agree that his stance there is pretty abhorrent, but I think that I would probably have still voted for him all the same even if I had known about it when I did so, for the reasons I've outlined in my comment above to glitzfrau.

I'm less worried than you about a Lib-Con pact - I don't think it's completely impossible, but I also don't think the LibDems will see it as being very much in their interests. They'd have to be idiots not to realise that it would catastrophically damage the levels of support which they have only recently started enjoying. They might well go for a formal pact with Labour if it's an option, but if not I suspect they're more likely to refuse any stable coalition and either work on an issue by issue basis or force another election campaign.
rosaguestlist
May. 6th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, I've never lived in a constituency where my vote could be cast for a winning candidate. At present my MP is Jon Redwood whose majority is larger than that of the Liberal and Labour vote combined and who doesn't appear to feel that need to do much in the way of campaigning as a result of that. The Liberals are in second place though, so that was an easy choice - the prospect of having to cast a tactical vote for Labour is not much less a deeply malignant thought than that of the Tories actually winning.

- K
strange_complex
May. 6th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
Ah well - I hope your Liberal candidate increases his share of the vote enough to give Redwood a nasty shock. Best of luck for the outcome!
hollyione
May. 6th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC)
All of Sunderland voted Labour -where are the Lib Dems? I need to sleep to get into tomorrow!
hollyione
May. 6th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
by the way, I voted Labour, as I always do - Bristol East seems to be a safe Labour seat.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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