Who are you voting for?

Most people in answer to that question would probably name a party: “I always vote Conservative”, or they name the leader of a party: “I’m going to vote for Gordon Brown”. However, what we are really voting for is someone who is representing our constituency. Technically, unless you live in Gordon Brown’s / David Cameron’s / Nick Clegg’s constituency it is impossible to vote for these people.

And so I’m wondering whether we should spend more time considering who would be best at representing us (as constituents) rather than which party we would most like to see in Government. This, I suggest, might be a way out of the disillusionment that we currently feel about politics. Everything seems to take place in those closed corridors of power in Westminster. It is easy to feel forgotten when you live in the rural provinces of Britain.

Indeed, sometimes constituents do get stirred up into voting for a person rather than a party, as has been the case with the election of Independent MPs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen often enough. The first past the post system admittedly isn’t the fairest (since a person can be elected by only a small minority of the population) but at least with the constituency system we do have someone that is supposed to represent us – a specific and designated population. This means we are able to hold our MPs to account – it would have been interesting to see how many MPs that were subject to scandal over their expenses who are now standing down would have been returned (think of Neil Hamilton in Tatton).

So I’m urging those of you who are disillusioned with Party politics not to throw away your vote and lose your voice but rather to find out who would best represent you and your constituency. Here are some questions worth asking about your candidates:

  • Do they have good local knowledge? – too many Parties are just parachuting in career seeking candidates who have no local knowledge of their area and no real interest in the community they represent.
  • Are they passionate and reasoned in their values and principles? – All Parties have different ideas as to what makes a fair and just society but it is important that your MP really believes in making a difference to the lives of the people they represent.
  • Do they have experience outside politics? – Experience will always be limited to a set of specific arenas or cultures (no-one can have knowledge of every sphere of society)  but with experience and reflection upon this experience comes wisdom.
  • Are they honest and hard-working? – the expenses scandal has shown many MPs were neither of these. Look for a candidate with a virtuous character – I’d rather have someone who was straight-talking and admitted to making mistakes and learning from them rather than someone who falls back on sound-bites and stubbornly refuse to say that they were wrong.

If we all voted this way, rather than along Party lines, what would our House of Commons look like? Arguably, it would be a much better, more collegiate, more productive place. Unstable Government? I doubt it. Alex Salmond recently made a very good argument on the benefits of a hung parliament as has been seen in Scotland. People have to make compromises, he said, and this means that there is more reasoned and rational discussion which ultimately leads to better governance.

My final remark is to say that we all need to get out and actually find out about our candidates. We need to vote from an informed position as to who would be represent us and our values, not from one of ignorance and laziness. This is our duty as the electorate.

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3 thoughts on “Who are you voting for?

  1. This is great Emily! It is the way I have been thinking for a long time especially having lived in Truro and voted consistently for Matthew Taylor because he worked hard for his constituency!

    Living in Lancaster now I voted last year having not the slightest idea what the many candidates stood for and often fall back on a ‘safe’ vote being the one I’ve always voted for with one exception when I voted strategically! The year Labour came into power!

    I think that finding out what your candidates in your area stand for and voting for the one who really has the best interests of the community at the centre of their policies is definitely the best way to go! As you say if there is a hung Parliament then maybe it would better represent the interests of this country and not make empty promises just to get the vote!

    I will be reposting this blog as I think it is sad that so many people don’t vote! maybe this will help them to decide to vote and how to work out who to vote for!!

    love Teri xx

  2. “we all need to get out and actually find out about our candidates. We need to vote from an informed position as to who would be represent us and our values”

    Can’t disagree with that.

    But… when your fave candidate gets elected and goes off to Westminster, s/he then becomes part of the party system (unless they’re an Independent) and gets generally whipped into voting for what their party tells them to vote for. So you can’t ignore the party affiliations of the candidates. If I think the UKIP candidate is likely to be the best person at representing the constituency, but I totally disagree with their party politics, I really can’t see the logic in voting for them.

    So I’ll be voting for the candidate for the party whose ideals and policies I agree with most, because that’s what I think my little insignificant X on the ballot paper is really for.

    See http://www.voteforpolicies.org.uk/ to find out which party best matches your views on major policy areas.

    • Thanks Francis, I think you’ve highlighted exactly why the Parliamentary system and the way the Commons works, needs to be radically overhauled. The problem is also that being an MP is now seen as a career rather than an opportunity to ‘give back’ to society. These kinds of MPs aren’t critical enough of their party’s ideas, either from a lack of experience and confidence, or because they maintain the party line in order to increase their chances of promotion.

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