I am totally transfixed by this election.
What is clear is that we will not see the scenes of euphoria that greeted Tony Blair, (seen above) entering Downing Street in 1997. In no way does this election have the appeal of the Obama election, but I think there are elements which make it fascinating for me. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/default.stm
Firstly, we need to remember that there is actually a very narrow spectrum of choice, in the policies put forward by the three main parties. Sure they have small nuanced differences in how they will try to deliver their policies, but none will dramatically change the country in the way that Tory and Labour (capitalist and socialist) governments of the 20th century did. In that sense they are much of a muchness, which plays into the argument of those who don’t vote “because they are all the same”.
I won’t be too upset, whoever wins, for this very reason. It’s a bit like a Christian choosing which church to go to; Catholic, C of E or the Reformed Free Lutheran, Baptist congregational church of Christ. It’s all the same.
That said, I still think it is vital to vote. To relinquish your right to vote, is also to renounce your responsibility for the society we live in. In my view, non-voters have absolutely no right to have their opinion considered, when they refuse to give one where it counts, in the ballot box.
There is a distinct chance year, that the result of the election will not, as is traditional, result in a minority party (in terms of the votes cast) getting a majority of the parliamentary seats. This is a great thing for democracy, because if the people cannot overwhelmingly decide on one party to govern, then parliament must reflect this. The Scottish Parliament has now experienced both a coalition government (where parties formally agreed to work together), and now a minority government (where no formal agreement exists, and each piece of legislation is passed on its merits), and both have been fairly civilised. Most modern European countries work successfully like this. The alternative is a Labour government, which last time won a huge majority of seats, with only 36% of the vote. Would we really want a Tory government to do the same? Unbelievably, some Labour MP’s say they would actually prefer a Tory landslide to a coalition government.
Another major barrier to public engagement, is the fact that we only get to vote for our own MP. We have no say in voting for a national party or for a Prime Minister, even when all the election campaigning urges us to vote for Tory, Labour or Lib-Dem, or for Cameron, Brown or Clegg. The fact that I have no ability to vote for any of these options, is, I believe, the biggest turn-off for the electorate.
What also seems clear, curiously, is that Social Media is not likely to be an integral part of these elections, as it was for Barack Obama 2 years ago. Other than for political aficionados, it will have very little effect on campaigning and fundraising. [Correction 15/4/10 – during the first leadersdebate, there were over 184,000 tweets on Twitter with #leadersdebate]
I have now entered election-mode and, for the next 6 weeks, will only be listening to Radio 4 and the News Channels. Don’t mention sport, soaps, movies or other such trivia. I’m way too busy listening to John Humphrys, James Naughtie, John Snow, and Evan Davies.
PS. I’ll be voting for Shabnam Mustapha
PPS. The polls as of 6th April are Conservative 41%, Labour 31%, Liberal Democrat 18%, other 10%