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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!

12 comments

  1. Julia

    Every time we have an election, local or general, I waver between Lib Dem and Green. And with the exception of our last local council election (where the independents got my vote) I've always gone in the end of Lib Dem. This year will be no exception. Paul and I are in the marginal constituency of Brentford and Isleworth, which is going to apparently be a battle between Ann Keen and Mary Macleod.

    The latter keeps urging us to vote for change – suffice to say, if I want a change from Labour, then Tory is certainly not who I'm going to vote for!!

  2. SomeBeans

    I'm starting to feel a bit quixotic in my voting. I see Cambridge has gone Lib Dem since I left tho'

    I think it would be good to have greens in parliament, personally I wouldn't vote for them.

  3. Esther Montgomery

    I'm heading in this same direction. I voted Liberal once, otherwise Labour. I used to be a member of the Labour Party but left in a very cross, disappointed, distressed and angry frame of mind.

    I would love to discover things I have in common with our sitting Labour MP but, so far, despite trying, I haven't found a thing.

    On the other hand, I have found myself agreeing with Liberal Spokespeople. The trouble is, although you've got a major asset in Vince Cable, after that, in terms of particular people, I'm unsure.

    The main reason I've had for not voting Liberal in other elections is that the party is commited to proportional representation. I think a firmly based, well known, local MP is important. (Proportional representation, I'd suggest, is one of the reasons people don't take more interest in the European Parliament.) However, the Labour Party itself is examining various PR options so maybe something could be found which would satisfy us all.

    The funny thing is, the way you explain things in your last paragraph, I imagine you don't believe in proportional representation either!

    If I vote Liberal, it will be because I like its policies and would want them to be instituted, not as a protest or strategy.

    I will need to meet the candidate if possible first though. I once lived in a household where all of us were planning to vote Green but the Green Party candidate made the mistake of coming to call. We invited him in to coffee and, when he left, sat and stared at each other in disappointment. None of us could bring ourselves to vote for him!

    Hope it's ok to have left such a long comment. Hope it's the kind of thing you hoped for when you posted your post. I came here once before (from the Inelegant Gardener) when you first started this blog. You were talking about MRI scanners. I tried to say how hard I'd found my first experience of being in one but the screen filled with lights and distortions. The very memory of the terror I'd experienced had brought on a migraine. In fact, having raised the subject, I'm now going to have to get out of here quick!

    Best wishes

    Esther Montgomery

  4. SomeBeans

    @esther thanks for your comment, I'm sorry my blog induces a migraine for you!

    My final paragraph really is a plea for proportional representation, I refuse to vote tactically!

    As a youngish professional I've been fairly mobile about the UK. Thinking about how I actually communicate with people these days, through e-mail, twitter, blogs and (in extremis) telephone – physical location seem less and less important.

    Through twitter I've actually had a little interaction with @DrEvanHarris (LibDem science spokesman) and @LordDrayson (current Science Minister). I also follow @JoSwinson (LibDem MP for East Dunbartonshire), and @TomWatson (Labour MP for West Bromwich East) who is interested in technology issues.

    I guess the point of all this is that the location of people is becoming less important, I'd much rather be able to pick my own MP regardless of location rather be "wedded" to one in the same locale as me but with whom I shared no common outlook.

  5. Esther Montgomery

    Sorry to misunderstand your chocolate cake!

    Shocked by your reply though.

    By building politics round social networking sites and special interests, we'll find class, age and professionally biased distortions flying in. When people from very different age groups and class backgrounds (who share a broadly similar moral outlook) are forced to rub shoulders at political and other meetings, our ideas can be challenged quite fundamentally and this is both important and necessary. We can't end up voting for MPs simply because they are congenial for young, professional scientists!

    Help!

    Esther

  6. SomeBeans

    @Esther I'm not arguing for replacement of people talking to each other in person. I'm saying that there are some new ways of communicating that work well for me (and apparently a lot of other people), this is the most engaged I've been in politics for a very long time.

    To be honest the idea of inviting a stranger into my house for a chat about politics over a cup of tea is the very last thing I'd want to do!

  7. Simon Higgins

    My vote would go to whoever I believe will be to the Left of both the Tory and Tory-lite, a.k.a. New Labour, in my constituency, if it were not for the fact that my local MP is very good and at least a moderate socialist. I voted Labour for the last 30-odd years. I am extremely disheartened by the triumph of new capitalism in both major parties in this country since the late '80's. Voting Lib Dem will, I am afraid, change nothing in that regard- and anyway, in Liverpool, most LD's are closet Tories in my experience.

  8. Ian Wright

    The problem with the current system is that the vast majority of the country effectively have no say in the outcome of the election based on relatively arbitrary boundaries (notice how Labour have benefited from the latest changes).
    My vote is completely irrelevant in terms of electing an MP as I live in Cameron country but if I moved a couple of miles to the east I'd be in Evan Harris' self declared marginal where it would count. I will vote however as in a hung parliament one feels that there should be some weight given to the overall percentage of the vote – I know that's idealistic…

    The major parties have no interest in changing the system as it basically guarantees them the chance to do whatever they like as soon as the other lot make such a mess of it that we get fed up with them (elections are lost not won…) Considering all the work that has gone into looking at alternative systems there's little or no debate on the subject – even the LibDems seem to have largely given up on reform (I did get quite interested in this for a while as the nuances appealed to the mathematically interested part of me – look a science type link!)
    Part of the problem is that it's a very complex issue and I don't think anyone's come up with a great solution yet although there are a few better than what we've got now…. I do think that there's something to be said for a link between MPs and their constituency but then again how much will we see of DC in future…

    P.S. youngish?? – are you ignoring your upcoming birthday?

  9. SomeBeans

    @Simon Higgins I'm not a committed capitalist, I think capitalism minimises the price of baked beans effectively but it has no morals and it requires exceedingly careful management by government to harness it to provide services rather than profits.

    @IanWright I was hoping that no one would raise the issue of our forthcoming 40th birthdays!

  10. Anonymous

    Hi. Only problem with voting liberal democrat is that Labour will get in again.
    As much as I don't want to see the Tories back, its probably a better vote in the end.

  11. Anonymous

    Hi,

    Im working for a newspaper called Expressen in Stockholm, Sweden. I wonder if you could contact me on josefine.elfstrom@expressen.se when you see this. I have a question about the election tomorrow.

    Thanks.
    Best regards
    Josefine

  12. SomeBeans

    I think there's some chance my vote in City of Chester may in fact count, Thursday night's going to be interesting!

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