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Apr 12 2010

Why I’m voting Liberal Democrat

In a change from usual service I’m writing a political blog post, to cut to the chase: Vote Liberal Democrat! This post tries to explain why.

I’ve been a member of the Liberal Democrats since I was an undergraduate at Bristol University, 20 years ago. As a student I attended a party conference, did a bit of canvassing and I was also a “teller” a couple of times. Since then I’ve been in cover, very deep cover, I pay my monthly membership and a bit extra at election time and that’s pretty much the limit of my activism.

As a casual Liberal Democrat I don’t keep a close eye on party policy, essentially I rely on them being my sort of people and doing the right thing, it’s with some relief I can report that I agree entirely with Nick Clegg in his interview with The Observer this week. The whole interview is well worth a read, but I’ll pick up on one point: there’s a real value in a hung (or balanced) parliament with no party in overall control. Reducing the national debt will be a priority for any incoming government, this is likely to be at least a bit painful and I think it’s very obvious this is better done with a government that holds representatives from more than the 40% or less of the popular vote that a majority government is likely to get.  Many other issues will be with us for years to come: care for the elderly, climate change, pensions, the shape of our democratic systems. The solutions that politicians come up with should be robust, and have cross-party support, on recent evidence they need to work on this cooperative aspect of politics. Across the world and the UK, in devolved government and European elections we use a form of proportional representation, the sky has not fallen in. I’m fed up with the “smack of firm government” that first-past-the-post gives us.

The expenses scandal has had a big impact on politics in the last year, the Liberal Democrats came out well on this with relatively few outrageous claims and a very definite plan on how to address the problem which unfortunately was not picked up by the other parties. MPs had an expenses system which begged to be abused, I’m sure that with the same system at the place I work we would see a similar range of behaviour.

I’ve written in the past about the science policies of the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative parties based around a debate organised by the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK. In summary, science has done fairly well by Labour over the last 13 years, with a noticeable wobble at the end over the science advisers, particularly on drugs advice. The Tories seem rather uncommitted to science, and look like they would do no better over science advisers. In the Liberal Democrats we have a champion in the form of Dr Evan Harris, who I really wish was my MP. He has done sterling work on the Science and Technology Select Committee, as well as campaigning on libel reform.

I vote in the City of Chester constituency, pragmatically there is absolutely no point in me turning out to vote. It will have no effect on the outcome, come May 7th not one particle of an MP in parliament after will have my electoral support.

Often party X will tell Liberal Democrats to vote for them to prevent party Y getting in, my response is in the form of an analogy: if I want chocolate cake for pudding the offer of an apple or a plate of cheese and biscuits will not satisfy, and may cause offence and derision. Vote for chocolate cake, vote Liberal Democrat!

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