Just before the 2005 general election, Polly Toynbee, suggested that people might want to ‘hold their nose’ when voting Labour, but that they should vote Labour anyway.
The last few weeks has convinced me that she was not only on the mark ten years ago, but that some very decent proboscis grasping will be necessary this election as well. And not only for Labour. I’ve come across very few people who are voting for a party (yeah, I know we vote for candidates, not parties, but you know what I mean) with nary a concern in their mind when doing so. Well, with one exception: UKIP; many of those who are voting for UKIP are doing so with a wholehearted support that would be frankly worrying if it was for any other party and is downright scary with UKIP.
Right at the start of these daily election blogs, I set out my views on UKIP, and they’ve not softened in any way; if anything, they’ve hardened, and I genuinely didn’t think that was possible. If you’re voting for UKIP and express support for their policies*, well, that for me is the very essence of me respecting your right to hold those opinions while detesting the opinions themselves and thinking anyone who holds such opinion is either a knave or a fool. Feel free to let me know which of them you are.
(*policies. heh. They’ve only one policy they give a shit about; they’d chuck every other policy overboard if it meant getting to continue complaining about belonging to the EU. They don’t actually want a referendum, you see. They’d lose, and lose big. What they want is to continue to complain about the EU, complain about not getting that referendum, and having their MEPs play the system for every penny they can screw out of the EU for their own benefit.)
But as for the other parties, well, there are very few people I know who agree with all of ‘their’ party’s manifestos. Almost everyone I know who’s voting Labour thinks that the most important thing is to get the Tories out, and what a Labour government would do in its place is less important than making sure David Cameron et al aren’t in any position to do much after 7th May. That’s slightly unfair. They do care what a Labour government would do, which is why so many will be squeezing their shnozzles when they use that stubby pencil to mark an untidy cross in a box in five days’ time. Lots of people who’ll vote Labour will do so firm in the knowledge that the Labour party isn’t left wing enough for them, that while austerity will lessen under a Labour Chancellor, it won’t cease. They’ll vote for Labour, while being uneasy at some of the flagship policies put forward by Ed Miliband and the front line politicians. They’ll vote Labour knowing that while it’s the Tories who call themselves a broad church, it’s Labour who has potential Secretaries of State who are as far apart politically as its possible to be while remaining in the same party. And moreover, some of those sitting around the a Labour Cabinet table will be pushing policies that belong to a Labour Party the voters barely recognise. And yes, there are some people who’re voting tactically, who aren’t natural Labour Party supporters, but who recognise that the Labour Party candidate is the best placed in their constituency to stop someone from another party getting in, whether that’s a Tory or a Liberal Democrat.
And that’s Labour. The Conservatives live (or at least have lived during the past five years) up to their ‘broad church’ label more now than at any time in the recent past. You’ve had Iain Duncan Smith, a man who must have undergone empathy and competency bypasses at some time in 2010, sitting around the same Cabinet Table as Ken Clarke; the difference couldn’t have been clearer, either in integrity, honesty, intellectual rigour or political smarts. You’ve had Michael Gove, a man notable for being unable to be more arrogant if he tried – and that’s saying something considering his fellow ministers – sitting at the same table as Dominic Grieve, possibly the most respected Attorney General of either party in the last twenty years. And, of course, you’ve had George Osborne, who can be fairly contrasted with anyone in the government who knew what the fuck they’re doing.
The Tories are currently polling about the same level as Labour, give or take a percentage point. Which means, you’ve probably guessed, that I know some people who’re voting for their Conservative Party candidate. And I do. Not as many as are voting for other parties, but yeah, some who’re planning on voting Tory in just under a week. But I don’t know anyone who’s planning on voting them without grudgingly doing so. There are lots of reasons why they’re voting Tory: some just don’t trust Labour, some desperately do not want Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, some who genuinely think austerity needs to continue no matter what. Now, these people aren’t evil. They’re not horrible people. They just don’t want the recovery – such as it is – to be put at risk and they think it will be under Labour. And they’re reluctantly prepared to put up with IDS and Osborne and their ilk to get that done. And again, there are some people who’re voting tactically, who aren’t natural Conservative Party supporters, but who recognise that the Tory candidate is the best placed in their constituency to stop someone from another party getting in, whether that’s a Labour or a Lib Dem candidate.
And then there’s the Liberal Democrats. Again, while I know a few people who simply won’t, can’t trust Nick Clegg the Lib Dems this time around, I know more than a few people who’ll vote for the Lib Dems despite the last five years, not because of them. I’ve not hidden my views that I think Clegg et al were right to go into coalition with the Tories, and my main anger at them is blowing the genuine opportunities they had to influence policy, instead wasting their political capital on an electoral reform referendum and House of Lords reform. If only they’d have used that capital to good effect. But, politics is full of what if’s and rarely do they help matters. But most people I know who’re voting Lib Dems are absolutely voting tactically, in seats where they are – or were – the best chance of stopping either Labour or the Tories… or in a couple of cases the SNP.
I must confess to being in a similar situation. While I’m not displeased with our current MP, since it is a Tory/Lib Dem seat… (not exactly a marginal, but was LD until 2010*) I’m faced with the choice of voting for an MP I’m not pissed off with or for a candidate whose party I think wasted their opportunity when granted it.
Or for voting for a party that genuinely doesn’t stand a chance. Hmmm. I’ve still got five days to decide, eh?
But either way, I’m likely to be holding my nose when I do so.
Small edit to add the following, in which cartoonist Ralph Underwood nails the situation for many people with his ‘real’ ballot paper: