This election has been a very strange one. Not just because of the most incompetent Tory campaign ever waged. Or the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. Or the fact the polls are all over the place, from a hung Parliament to a Tory majority of around 100. It’s also been strange because it’s the first time for many years when I’ve experienced the joys of being a floating voter. Ever since 1997 I’ve been one of that small band of stalwarts who’ve voted MK. So I could remain detached but hardly objective about the ebb and flow of London politics.
This time I have to admit I’ve been changing my mind. And not just once. My first thought was to revert to an anarchist vote and spoil my paper. Whoever you vote for the government gets in! I still think that elections are fundamentally superficial, a way of legitimating an unequal society geared to maintaining the wealth and power of a few rather than the needs of the many. Real democracy needs community-based, bottom-up organisation that can build institutions and networks and challenge statist and private hierarchies.
Then it began to look as if Labour was in with more than an outside chance in Camborne-Redruth, my constituency. The Labour surge began to make George Eustice’s demise a real possibility. Should I therefore vote Labour and help this process along? It would have been a lot easier had the Labour Party not foisted regional centralization on Cornwall, if Labour in Cornwall had signed up to a democratic Cornish Assembly, if the party came out in favour of PR, if its leadership hadn’t spurned the possibility of a progressive alliance, if its policies on things such as climate change and Trident were more consistent.
All these made me hesitate. But live by the numbers, die by them. So I decided that if the YouGov election model was showing Labour within 5% of Eustice today, then I’d vote for them. If not I’d vote Green, which would be my preferred choice, as the big issue is climate change and their candidate in this constituency appears to be intelligent and sensible, as far as I can make out. The prediction has now just appeared and Eustice is still 6% ahead. As this is the most-Labour leaning poll it makes it extremely unlikely that they can unseat him. Therefore I’m voting with my conscience and not succumbing to tactical voting. Phew, what a harrowing process – much simpler to have a system of PR and no ‘wasted’ votes.
But if I lived elsewhere in Cornwall I’d be voting differently. It would be nice if we could decide how to vote at least relatively rationally, taking in the context, rather than fall for blanket (and more often than not tribalist) calls to vote for this or that party to ‘stop the Tories’. Therefore in St Ives and North Cornwall I’d vote Lib Dem as Andrew George and Dan Rogerson have a real chance of beating the Conservatives. In Truro and South East Cornwall I’d vote Green as the Tory is too far out in front to be caught. In St Austell there’s no Green candidate so I’d end up voting Labour or spoiling my paper.
Anyway, enjoy one of your few opportunities to partake in the democratic ritual tomorrow before they abolish it.