There’s been a huge amount of talk about the upcoming General Election over the past few weeks. And so there should be – after the pain and chaos of the last few years under the coalition (unless you were already financially well set when it came in, in which case I’m sure your wallet is sore from all that stroking), every major party knows that there is everything to play for this year. Even leaflets from local candidates are pushing the party spiel and barely mentioning what they personally plan to do for their constituency. Media outlets – indeed, the entire frickin’ internet – are awash with opinion pieces, opinion poll results, scaremongering, cajoling, hyperbole, embarrassing slips from party leaders…
I’ve almost been enjoying it. Almost.
Because it isn’t a game, people. It’s the future of the UK and its place in the wider world. Once we’ve all had a laugh at suited idiots accusing debate audiences of being rigged or accidentally telling the public how good a vote for their party would be for their career (just plucking two examples out of the air, you understand), the thing to remember is that we need to vote for policies, not personalities. If it just came down to choosing between party leaders, I wouldn’t be voting at all. But fortunately it isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a Who-Has-The-Nicest-Smile contest.
If you aren’t up on which policies are whose, the internet has plenty of fun ways to help you out, such as Vote For Policies, where a few minutes’ button-clicking will pretty much tell you who to vote for. Seriously, the internet is putting the fun back into (and taking most of the effort out of) decision-making for the average voter. If you haven’t made a decision yet, I recommend taking a small amount of time out of your day to make use of online resources like this one.
Unfortunately, not all such websites provoke optimism. Take for example Voter Power, which shows you “how powerful your vote is”. If you’re (as I am) in a safe seat, the result makes for pretty depressing reading. In my constituency, which is larger than average and has very little likelihood of changing hands, my “voter power” is equivalent to only 0.111 votes. Not particularly encouraging, and indeed the bandying about of this link on social media has elicited a grumpy “why the hell should I bother voting then” from a number of people.
The Voter Power Index is a useful tool to galvanise people in marginal seats, but it’s a force for apathy in safe seats. Unless, of course, you’re either a complete contrarian or you were planning on voting anyway and nothing short of a heart attack or a zombie apocalypse is going to stop you. In which case, go you! And don’t forget to take your primary weapon with you.
But, honestly, so what if your vote is only worth one tenth of a vote in terms of efficacy? If you don’t vote at all, then your vote is worth precisely 0 (or 0.000, if that helps get the point across).
Every vote counts, regardless of its perceived strength. Exercise your right to say how you want your country to be run. Vote for the policies you judge to be worthy of your support. And slap anyone who doesn’t ‘do’ voting but complains about how the country is going – they threw away their right to complain when they threw away their ballot paper.
Thursday 7th May 2015. It’s only two days away. Polling stations are open from early in the morning until late into the evening, so get yourself along to one.
Now, here’s that cartoon I promised you: