In the absence of a "none of the above" (or below, or to the side...), I will be spoiling my vote on Thursday. This is nothing personal to the specific people standing in my constituency. I'm sure they are all pleasant enough - not that I would know as none of them have knocked on my door begging for me to mark "x" in their spot. It's more that I, like a large majority of the British public, have become disillusioned with Westminster, and politics in general. It's become a bit of an epidemic, like the break out of some before unheard of disease, silently sweeping the nation.
I have always been incredibly critical of people who make the choice to not have a choice. The people who optionally do not register to vote, who do not take ten minutes out of five years to mark a piece of paper and make their voice heard about the direction our country is going. And before I get excuses about not being in the country, or finding it hard to get out of the house, there is always a postal vote, or you can ask someone else to vote on your behalf. Where there is a will, there is always a way. I truly believe that if you can't be bothered to vote, you have absolutely no right to complain about pretty much any aspect of our society. Everything is affected by politics; schools, roads, doctors, housing, street lighting, it all comes down to who holds local and national power. As a young women, I feel it is my duty to turn up to vote, to honour those who a mere 100 years ago were willing to die for my right to do so. The problem comes when your vote doesn't actually change anything...
My area is ruled by one party and has been since WWII. I've looked into all of the parties, I know what their manifestos claim, I've listened to the propaganda and spin that each party seems to be throwing over every journalist they can corner down dark alleys. I know which government I would choose, but my vote won't alter that in the slightest.
My personal preferences would be another coalition government. I think it means that more people's opinions are heard and it feels like it's working more for "the greater good". But, and here is the big but, neither the Conservatives nor Labour are telling me what they are actually going to do post May 7th when neither of them has a clear outright majority and no clear right to govern. Neither have said what their non-negotiable policies will be, regardless of who they get into bed with.
David Cameron and Ed Milliband are set on sticking to their party lines "no, we're not even considering the prospect of a hung parliament, we're solely focused on getting an overall majority". Well good for you, but I agree with Nick. If either of them really and truly believes what they are saying, then they have clearly been driven stir crazy on their campaign buses and they should take a lie down in a darkened room. I want to know what their real ideas are, I want to know who they fancy wining and dining, in the hope of making a five year "understanding" with. I want to know what they actually see for Britain, our economy and our schools in five years time.
The main issue I have with this joint Tory/Labour party line, is that it is an outright lie, and I do not want to put an X next to someone I know has been lying to people. I find it incredibly frustrating that they think it is okay to lie to members of the public who are genuinely asking the question "what will you be doing post May 7th?" We all know that there will a be a hung parliament. We all know that even if they run a minority government and decide not to enter a formal coalition they will have to make compromises, otherwise their budgets and Queen's Speech will be voted down.
The Liberal Democrats have set out their red line issues, they even printed them on the front of their manifesto which is nice and helpful, but from the two parties who are really going to be dictating from Westminster? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. It feels like Dave and Ed are treating the members of the British public like naughty school children who don't really understand what is going on. I would have so much more respect for them if they came out and said:
"Look, we realise that the way the polls are headed we are not going to get a majority. We are working tirelessly for a majority, but it doesn't look like we are quite going to get there. As a result of that, I want to outline our key policies, that if we are in a position to form a stable Government, this is what we will definitely do, and what there will be no room for negotiation on".
But they won't. For some reason they don't see voters as adults with the ability to make comprehensive decisions, to make proper choices for our economy and our future. Instead they see us as a hope they can just get one more vote. What they don't seem to realise is the reason the polls aren't changing is because no one is listening. No one trusts what they are saying, and in a country that nearly every single voter can cite some of the items claimed for in the expenses scandal, it's no surprise why. In a world where our trust with MP's is already fragile, they just continue to lie to us and think that it's okay. It's not.
If I lived in a marginal seat, I would be taking a completely different attitude. I'd be voting tactically for the person who would bring about the coalition I think would work best. Unfortunately I live in one of the safest seats in the country. My voice is not being heard. My frustration at the outright lies to the public are going unnoticed. I could vote for anyone and no one would listen. This, I believe, is how a lot of people feel in these "safely held seats". There is absolutely no point in me voting for a small party, because who cares if they get 1,000 or 2,000 votes? The only way I feel I can make any kind of sound on Thursday is to spoil my ballot paper.
The sad truth of the matter though, is that if the 30-40% of people registered to vote, but who do not exercise that right, actually turned up and voted they could completely change the outcome of their local constituency and the election as a whole. The safe seats would no longer be so safe. In the majority of seats in the country, these people alone are enough to cause a swing, but they are either so disillusioned with all of the parties, too busy, or feel like their voices aren't being heard so they simply don't bother. It's a shame we live in a society where these feelings are commonplace amongst voters.
I guess the question to ask is, is spoiling your ballot worth it? Is there any point in me spoiling my ballot paper if no one is actually going to notice? No matter what, something drastic would have to happen for my safe seat to change hands. By spoiling my ballot paper, it feels a little bit like I will be holding my own personal protest rally inside a soundproof room, in the middle of a huge desolate field on a stormy night. But all-in-all I think it is worth it.
Spoiled ballots are counted in the overall count for every constituency. They are announced. I think that a newly elected MP in a safe seat is more likely to think their constituents are pretty unhappy with 1,000 spoilt ballot papers, than 1,000 protest votes for a small party and this, I think, is key. This is why I believe this is the only way to make a statement and have a voice in a safe seat. If every disillusioned voter in a safe seat stood up and wrote "none of the above" on their ballots, would that not begin to send a message to our politicians? Would that not begin to highlight how desperate we are for change? No matter who I vote for, my opinions will not be represented. I appreciate that me, on my own, spoiling my vote will not bring about a huge change or a radical swing in my constituency, but at least it says something other than "I am voting for the status-quo".