Vote Tactically, Get active and informed

19Apr10

(This is an original version of the post I made at liberal conspiracy last week. I decided to post the longer pre-edited version here, and at the same time decided I’d blog again.)

Over the past couple of months LC has carried a series of articles urging its readers to vote for a political party. Each particular party has had one of its supporters set out the case for voting for it, and its record then judged and debated in the comments.

But I can’t help feeling it’s been a waste of time.

The complete over-saturation of election coverage in the MSM , and to a lesser extent on the blogs promotes the idea that voting and elections matter far more than they do. It promotes the idea of voting as the most important act of civic participation, and privileges political parties as institutions through which people can participate in public life.

One of the more annoying aspects of the farce of party politics is the way in which each loyal party member has to publically pretend only their party can deliver the best future, only they have the correct policies to solve the problems,  and only they are deserving of your vote. Only a complete idiot would pretend that this was the case.

In reality every political party has some great ideas that need to be implemented, but each party also has some policies that are stupid, ridiculous and farcical. Similarly when it comes to character, each party has a mixture of crooks, cranks, and the genuinely informed and well-intentioned.

Furthermore the fact of the matter is that once in power manifestos are rarely implemented in full, and events and circumstances require governing parties to implement policies and laws that they wouldn’t have proposed at election time. Sometimes improvisation happens.  In addition to this the necessity of financing large scale political parties means the ones with realistic prospects of victory have to compromise their principles and do deals with wealthy and sometimes shady individuals. When you add lobbying, corporate PR campaigns and a dishonest media then relying on one particular political party to deliver the kinds of changes you would like to see is rather naive. You really don’t get what you vote for.

But on the other I am not one of those who believe that all parties are the same, or all politicians are necessarily crooks. Clearly some are better than others, and it’s therefore better for the principled, honourable people to be in positions of power than those in it for the money or the powertrip. But within the extremely limited scope for influencing matters that an election under a first post the post system offers it is difficult to ensure the right people in the right parties win. So how should the voter who wants principled, honourable people to run the country in a competent manner vote?

The answer depends on which constituency you live in.

If the current incumbent was one of those who fiddled expenses, or one who has frequently demonstrated scientific illiteracy, or one with a tendency to vote for ill conceived legislation aimed at pleasing the tabloids, then clearly you need to vote for the candidate most likely to unseat that person (unless that other person would do the same). On the other hand if your current MP has a track record of independent thinking, voting away from the party line, not submitting fraudulent claims, and a track record of genuinely helping the area which they represent, they are worth keeping. There are members of all political parties that fit into both the former and latter categories.

The above is frankly obvious.

But ultimately voting by itself really isn’t a big deal, particularly in safe seats. As a civic act that most people will only get the opportunity to do less than 20 times in their life (national elections anyway), it really isn’t as important as the MSM make out.

There are far more important things you can do that will make a bigger difference towards creating the kind of society you want to live in: don’t wait for your own team to win – get active, do voluntary work, give financial support to charities, and get informed and interested.

All of the above would be far more important than any vote for a party; the levels of knowledge regarding economics, sociology, political philosophy, science etc are shocking (if you think some of the comments on here are stupid and ill informed, just listen to the level of debate that occurs between the tabloid reading people who don’t read blogs or take an interest). The ignorance is also the reason why politicians who should know better make stupid statements and advocate stupid policies aimed at carrying favour with the Daily Mail rather than doing the right thing. It is the reason why the political culture in the UK remains unable to have an informed discussion about the prohibition of drugs, immigration policy, welfare reform, housing, foreign policy, reform of taxation, and virtually any issue of national importance. It is thus the reason why this election yet again arrives with no major party in a position to publically offer policies that would start to tackle these issues.

But while we wait for elections and the political system to become more mature, another far bigger civic act is to make a difference in your area by making a difference. There are numerous good causes that need time and money. So donate time and money, because putting a cross next to the lesser evil is just insignificant compared to what a good charity could do with even a fraction of the efforts that go into electioneering.

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2 Responses to “Vote Tactically, Get active and informed”

  1. Heh am I actually the first comment to this great article!

  2. Heh I am literally the first comment to this awesome writing?


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