To Vote Or Not To Vote - Is That The Question?
Those of us who live south of the border are faced with the prospect of local elections. The blogs I've read on the subject make it seem like a doom-laden choice - this writer provides an exhaustice list of 47 reasons not to vote Labour, and then excoriates the other parties, before advocating a campaign of 'none of the above' rubber stamps'. This writer replies, suggesting boycotting the elections completely on the basis that at least that way, they won't be able to claim a real mandate. Finally, this writer weighs up the previous options, and declares the decision to be 'between a rock and a hard place', before eventually advocating spoiling so that politicians can't force compulsory voting on us.
I think this has been a particularly well-argued debate, and it demonstrates more than adequately the problem that the New Labour project has given those of the centre left. Where, after all, is there to go? Labour has given us a horrific distortion of a nanny state (as if the concept weren't horrific enough to begin with) - its increasingly totalitarian nature, its determination to spy upon its own citizenry, the chutzpah to presume to lecture people from on high about the minutiae of their daily lives, and its increasing use of the violence of the state to intrude upon those lives.
All of these are compelling reasons not to vote Labour. What of the Conservatives? Well, all three of these writers reject them, implicitly or explicitly, as too right wing. It's important, though, to remember that we are talking about local elections. If the ruling party is just too awful to vote for, as in this case they are, then it makes sense to give them a bloody nose locally by not voting for them in order to force the national leadership to have a rethink. However, if the Conservatives were to do well in these local elections, fewer people would take it as praise for them nationally than as criticism of Labour. That said, Conservative local councils can be a nightmare. They inevitably spend vast amounts of time on moralising, and little on services (incidentally, fascinating postscript to that story - Westminster has the worst record for people killed or injured in road accidents anyway). Anyway, the national party doesn't even appear to know what it stands for yet, so what would you be voting for?
The Liberal Democrats are a fairly poor option. They fashion themselves as a party of local government, but in reality the quality of their service varies greatly from place to place. Yet again, they don't seem to know what they stand for.
As for the rest, they're all crap.
Having dismissed all the main parties, and all the minor ones too, would seem to leave only spoiling or boycotting. I sincerely advocate spoiling, if you can't bring yourself to vote for any of the parties. I think it's crucial to participate, just to keep the democratic process alive.
A small point of order - in this piece, the writer states the following:
'The horrible truth is that neither accomplish very much - it’s not as if when more people spoil their vote than the “winning” candidate gets, or turnout is below a quorum level, a ward or constituency does not return a representative (maybe such rules should apply, I don’t see a good reason not to).'
A government is for all its people not just its electors. The same is true on a council. However, the reality is that both governments and councillors prefer their electors, which is why it is crucial that all constituencies and wards return members, which theoretically covers both bases - in most councils, all the major parties are represented, so ideologically you are covered, and you are theoretically covered by your representative's unwritten contract with their electorate.