I hate how partisan political campaigning can be. Even worse than the parties are their supporters, every position is reduced to a ridiculous absolute, so a reasoned argument like ‘the Tories have a strong track record on the economy’ becomes, ‘Don’t let Labour ruin the economy’, ‘Tory welfare cuts are too extreme’ is communicated as ‘The Tories are heartless fascists’, ‘Nick Clegg lied about tuition fees so we can’t trust a single word he says’.
Not only are these exaggerations wrong, but they are childish and divisive. If we continue to discuss politics in this way we will end up like America who have an incredibly polarised society when it comes to politics. It is very normal for people to literally hate those who don’t vote for their party. We need to move in the opposite direction, were we can agree to disagree, albeit passionately.
I was brought up as a Conservative voter, not that I was ever told how to vote, but with both my parents interested in politics and clear about their views it was near impossible not to pick up on their opinions. How your parents vote certainly has a bigger impact on you than you realise. You probably have an unconscious bias towards the party your parents support (assuming they have an allegiance).
This inherited bias acts as a lens through which we see, we may come to the table not as rational, open-minded adults who can accurately weigh up all the options and make a balanced decision, but as emotional creatures hardwired with the ‘clan mentality’ and a desire for belonging. This can drive our decision far more than a level-headed analysis of the different manifestos.
Personally, I lean more to the right on the economy and to the left on social issues. However I know people who consider a leftist model on the economy to be wiser and others still who are right-wing on social and moral grounds. I don’t consider them wrong per se – they see the world differently to me and see different ways to solve the problems that face us.
In the last election I voted Conservative, I thought their economic policy was wiser, particularly considering the economic situation we were in. However I was far more influenced by the local Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith. He is one of the finest politicians I have ever met, and a very balanced and reasonable person. If I still lived in his constituency I would vote for him without question.
Having said that I think the Conservatives have gone too far, too fast, too hard. The economy is important but it is not so sacred that we should do anything to squeeze more jobs and GDP out of it. The people hardest hit by austerity have been the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Probably the most important economic commitment for me, is to reduce the deficit. It would take a lot for me to vote for a party who wouldn’t do that.
Locally in my new constituency of Brentford and Isleworth we have had a Conservative MP for the last 5 years. Mary Macleod narrowly defeated the long-standing labour MP Ann Keen in 2010 who was widely disliked due to being a high-profile case in the expenses scandal. Mary Macleod seems to have done a good job for local people but almost always votes with the government, I tend to respect an MP the more often they vote differently to how they are ‘told to’. Her challenger is Ruth Cadbury who has been a local Labour councillor for 10 years or so.
Two issues that are very important to me are, the living wage and ending indefinite detention. I am resisting the urge to write paragraph after paragraph about indefinite detention and how terrible it is, I feel very strongly about it but my feelings on the matter probably belong in another blog post. As part of a locally organised pressure group, I met with Ruth Cadbury and Mary Macleod asking them to officially commit to ending indefinite detention and implementing the living wage if they were elected. Ruth did and Mary didn’t.
Ed Miliiband and David Cameron are subject to personal attacks. Ed Miliband can appear quite awkward and failed at eating a bacon sandwich. As much as I love bacon, I think it is ridiculous that the most memorable image of Ed is him eating a sandwich. David Cameron has been criticised for going to Eton and being a member of the Bullingdon club. Personally I don’t think these things are as important as policies and shouldn’t be the focus.
So how am I voting? Well you should be able to work it out from what I have written above, and if you ask me I will tell you, but I am not going to say here who I will vote for, as this blog post is about a non-partisan approach to politics and campaigning, and to endorse one party or candidate would seem rather counter to that notion. Please vote in a few days but more importantly consider why you are voting for who you are voting for.