All over the country voters will mark their ballot papers in exactly the same way as they have done ever since they were 18. Many of us who have ever been out campaigning will have knocked on a front door and when the voter opens it you say: “Hello. I’m campaigning on behalf of your local candidate, who is asking for your vote in the General Election.”
Most voters will tell you honestly whether or not they’re going to vote for your candidate or even if they’re going to vote for None of the Above, and many will answer the question: “Who are you going to vote for?” But if you get an answer to that one and ask the follow up: “Why that candidate?” on so many occasions you will be answered: “Err….”
If pushed, they will say: “I’ve always voted for them,” or “My parents did,” or some such reason but, again, if you ask what policies their preferred candidate advocates, they’ll be at a loss to name any. This is ‘tribal politics’ at its most obvious.
This election is different, and it has been made different by Brexit. The result in the majority of constituencies following next week’s General Election is obvious but there are some seats which could change hands, perhaps a formerly solid Conservative seat that voted heavily for Remain in the referendum or a patch held by the Lib Dems where the majority wanted to Leave the EU.
In the 316 constituencies that returned a Tory to Parliament, the majority of voters opted to Remain in the EU in almost 80 of them. These could be targeted by Labour or even the Lib Dems, especially the few which have the lowest percentages of Tory majority. Some of these constituencies, most of which are in either Scotland or London, voted more than 60 percent Remain.
Voters in some Labour constituencies which heavily backed Leave are now considering where to place their vote. If they have a Brexit Party or UKIP candidate their choice may be easy, but if they don’t? There will be some Labour voters who wouldn’t vote Tory in month of proverbial Sundays. Some Labour-held Remain seats could be taken by the SNP in Scotland or by the Lib Dems in other parts of the country.
However, all the seats that could change hands on Thursday are very much on the edges of pollsters’ predictions and could number fewer than 100. Of course, this is enough to change the look of Parliament, to put Jeremy Corbyn into No. 10 and to drastically alter the direction in which our country is going.
But in the vast majority of constituencies, the winner is eminently predictable and in those seats – probably more than 500 of them – your vote will not really count. Perhaps it’s time to record a protest vote and vote for None of the Above, which is not the same as spoiling your vote.
I hope that everyone is reading the literature that is coming through their doors or at least checking out the manifestos of the various parties, but even that is no guarantee of what the winning party will do because politician’s promises are totally worthless!
In 2004, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons he would hold a referendum on the terms of an upcoming EU constitution and this promise was included in the Labour manifesto for the 2005 General Election.
The constitutional document was put to voters in the Netherlands and France, and was soundly rejected. So just in case British voters went the same way, Blair changed his mind and decided not to hold the referendum. As is always the way with the EU, the French and Dutch were forced to vote again until they agreed the treaty.
Blair did a bit of work on the document and after the GE brought it back as the Lisbon Treaty, and as it was a different document (!), he said there would be no need for a referendum and it became law, despite it handing power and control over British laws to the European Commission.
In 2008 a chap called Stuart Wheeler sued the office of the Prime Minister for not keeping to the promises he and his party made in their manifesto. Once again, as we have seen recently, the law courts were pitted against Parliament and in this instance, Parliament was ruled as being paramount. Because there is no statute enforcing manifesto commitments, during an election campaign politicians can claim whatever they want in the sure and certain knowledge that even if they form a majority government, they won’t have to carry out their promises. And who would bet that MPs would actually pass a law binding parties to their promises – they’re not that silly!
Certainly, if there is a hung Parliament there has to be negotiations between the parties and it may be that one or other has to give up on a promise, but if there is an overall winner in this election, even then that party cannot be forced to adhere to its manifesto promises.
So back to my initial question. If, like me, you live in a constituency which is a surefire win for any one of the major parties, who do you vote for? Of course, if your patch has a slim majority in favour of any of the parties, your vote might just matter. Several of today’s papers hold a list of those constituencies, perhaps only 40 or 50 of them, where your vote will matter.
But if all your candidates are Remainers or you’re unsure who to vote for, then try None of the Above. It is not something that happens here in the UK but perhaps it ought to be an option. And None of the Above is quite different from simply spoiling your ballot paper.
A ballot paper is spoiled if is unmarked – so write ‘NONE’ across your paper; it is spoiled if you vote for more than one candidate – so put a single diagonal line through all the boxes; it is spoiled if you put your name on it – so don’t sign it.
If you write ‘NONE’ across your paper, your intention not to vote for any of them is clear. Your vote can’t be registered as ‘spoiled’ and it will be recorded as a protest vote, so that’s what I will do.
Who will join me?