In 2010 I properly voted in a General election for the first time. I had put my card in the ballot boxes before, but always spoiled it by writing 'who' or 'none of these people' or something on it. This time I had reason to believe that the person I was quite happy to vote in might actually beat the person I was very keen to vote out, so my vote seemed to have some actual value, The person I voted for got in, which gave me a real sense that I had made an actual difference, although you can imagine how I felt when I tell you I voted Lib Dem to get rid of a Tory. So the question is, who should I vote for this time?
I've tried out some of those 'who should you vote for?' tools that you can see kicking around all over the place at the moment (like here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/03/31/who-should-i-vote-for-general-election_n_6977452.html). You answer some questions about your political views and they match you up with the parties closest to you, like a sort of electoral tinder. These consistently suggest to me that my idea match would be the greens. I quite like the greens, as it happens. Their one MP, Caroline Lucas, is local to me, so she's in the news quite a bit and it seems like you'd get what you voted for with her, which is always a plus. I suspect we'd have a first date at a fracking rally and I'd end up having to tell my mum I'd been arrested. But of course their leader these days is actually Natalie Bennet, and an evening with her explaining their polices over the soup would inevtiably be awkward. I can't shake the fear that some of their ideas really aren't workable, and it would be too much like the days of the old look Lib Dems when their ideas were just whatever they felt like because they weren't going to get in anyway.
I would firmly level the same accusation at UKIP. I had a look at their website a while back and if you ignore the glaring prejudice and the touching assumption that if we pulled out of Europe everything would be fine, their polcies are mainly just a bit silly. Besides, I don't fancy an evening in a restaurtant being told how this foreign muck is taking work away from our honest chippies.
So what about a night on the tiles with Red Ed? I like Ed. I like his willingness to punch up rather that down, I like his refusal to try to appear cool or photogenic when he isn't and I massively like the fact that he isn't David Cameron. Whatever the nature of multi-party politics .the truth is that there are only two men in the running to be Prime Minister, so I might as well vote for the one I am most willing to accept. But, and here's the rub, I can't. Labour, according to the projections I've seen, have no chance of winning in my constituency. Neither do the Greens. It's the Lib Dems or the Tories,
So why not just repeat my 2010 vote then? Were the Lib Dems that bad? Was my MP that bad? Well they possibly weren't, and he certainly wasn't. My problem with them is that I'm by no means clear that they won't form another coalition with the Tories, and I do not want to vote for that by any means. My problem with him is that he voted against some policies that I personally value very highly. I e-mailed him to ask why, but since he hasn't got back to me I feel that demanding change means not voting for people who's approach doesn't match my own in key areas.
I am, lest we forget, lucky to have a choice. For many people up and down the country match.com cannot help them, because there's only one single in their area and he's not even that hot. If you're in a marginal seat, like I am, at least you have some sort of choice, even if neither of the available options are ones you actually want. Many areas have a more or less nailed on candidate, so if you don't want them then why would you bother to vote. The briliant Armando Ianucci argues that if we want electoral reform we need to demonstrate that there are votes out there for numerous parties. But if we want to engage the population at large in voting, we need to ensure that every vote counts, and that every voter is able to make a meaningful impact. By the time the next election rolls round, we need to have found better way of running the system.