I got another email from my Dad yesterday trying to convince me to use my vote at home, vote Lib Dem on the off chance it will keep the Tories out. I must say I considered it. Either way that would be handing over my vote to five more years of the current coalition, but while it might not make a difference to me, a Lib Dem or Tory MP in my home constituency could make a significant difference to a lot of people's lives.
But then I caught myself, the same person who had almost been swayed by the Russell Brand school of active disengagement, and I decided I couldn't do it. The email I sent back to my Dad was of the effect I would rather not vote at all than vote tactically.
Here's the thing. Just about everyone will agree the system we have at the moment is flawed. We cannot continue a system of voting that privileges a tactical redrawing of boundaries by the people already in power, or one that can be swayed by crafty canvassing tactics rather than listening to what the people want. We cannot continue a system of voting where a party could hypothetically receive 10% of the national vote but represent only 0.1% of the members of the parliament. It is not representative in the true sense. In fact it is an abuse of the word democracy.
But change only comes about with difficulty. Most people will suggest the only way this is going to come about - unless we want a full-on revolution - is from within. But by voting for a Labour or Conservative Parliament, we are merely endorsing the narrative of two-party politics. We are endorsing the system.
I respect the fact that from my seat of privilege it can be hard to understand the difference a Labour or Conservative government would make to a lot of people's lives. But should we really have to choose between two parties? Two parties that agree on so many fundamental issues many of us don't? Two parties that have made so many mistakes we resent them for? Two parties we don't really want in government?
Surely if we want real change for the people who need it the most we are going to have to stop voting like this. We are going to have to vote in a way that shows a real difference in voting statistics. Something they can't ignore, not just the same old neck-and-neck until someone comes out on top.
The alternative is carry on, keep voting tactically. Vote Labour to keep the Tories out because you're constituency is on a swing vote. Or vote Lib Dem because they might represent you slightly better in parliament. But then what? It will be the same thing in five years time and the same five years after that. The politics you believe in will become redundant because you've stripped yourself of your vote. The only thing that matters is keeping the other party out, which leads to the system of centrist politics we see now where serious issues are being neglected in favour of populism. We're left with two parties that are trying to appeal to everyone and in turn represent no one.
Two-party politics is a distraction. It's something to vent your hostilities into rather than engaging in real change. Tactical voting is a trap that keeps Westminster unrepresentative. If we want things to actually change we are going to have to start voting for what we really want.
I think it's already happening. The distribution of voting this election should show that British politics needs to change its game. The trend towards coalition is demonstrating people in this country no longer feel represented by the two or three traditional parties. And in this way we are really onto something.
The instability of coalition may, for now, appear daunting. But this is a massive step towards parliamentary reform. How many more majorities must it fail to meet, how many more weak coalitions must be made, before Westminster is forced to do something about the inadequacy of the current system?
So that's why I won't be voting tactically. Because I don't want to use my first vote in a general election to endorse a system of disconnected politicians. I don't want to vote for the same old centrist politics. For a truly democratic system we should vote for what we seriously believe in, rather than just voting for the lesser of two evils.Suggest a correction