Wednesday 6 May 2015

Voting Labour – with regret

The short version

Tomorrow I will be voting Labour. I don’t particularly want to vote Labour, I want to vote Green, but I feel I have to vote tactically. The reason for this is at its heart simple: the Tories, and the Lib Dems who are willing to side with them, could push the UK into the single most economically disastrous policy of modern times: EU exit.

The Lib Dems have been much maligned for the concessions they have made in coalition, largely unfairly I believe, but for me this is a step too far. The uncertainty created by simply holding a referendum would be damaging to the economy. But if Britain left the EU it would be catastrophic.

The only candidate who can unseat my local Lib Dem MP is the Labour candidate. So I shall vote Labour.

The longer version

The problem begins with the UK’s miserable electoral system: first past the post. An upcoming podcast I am co-producing with friend and colleague Tristan Carlyle will plumb the depths of the system’s inadequacy, but suffice to say: it is deeply unrepresentative.

Under proportional representation, the Greens, who are likely to net around 5% of the vote tomorrow, would get roughly 5% of the seats. Under FPTP, they are likely to get 0.15% of the seats. Because the winner takes all in each constituency, the small parties (the Greens are placed 4th in my area) go home with nothing. So voting for them achieves little more than a plaintive protest.

This frankly makes a mockery of democracy, but more on that story when the podcast comes out (1 June).

I would still like to show solidarity with the Greens and make a protest vote, and I would do so if I was voting in a safe seat. But because the race is close between Labour and the Lib Dems, I am in the unusual position among the UK electorate of actually being able to influence an election.

I would waive my right to this and still vote Green, if the Lib Dems and Tories were not so willing to hold the UK to ransom. The EU vote is totally ridiculous. It would not even be countenanced if UKIP had not risen to threaten the Tories’ right wing – most Tories, including David Cameron, rightly want Britain to stay in the EU. That a centre-left party like the Lib Dems is willing to consider this absurd referendum in exchange for another shot at power is totally unacceptable.

The Tories claim to be the party of business, but if they remain in office their first 100 days will be marked by instability and economic chaos, potentially followed by a violent breaking off of one of the most beneficial relationships this country has ever known.

Perhaps you can tell I’m a little angry. My right to express my political opinion accurately has already been trampled on by our Neolithic voting system. Now my right to protest has been ruined by the irresponsible actions of a tiny handful of MPs, backed by an even smaller proportion of the electorate.

We need electoral reform. Watch this space.

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