There are elections taking place across England today. Local Council elections and European Parliament Elections, anyway. It's not a General Election or anything like that, and we're not going to wake up tomorrow morning with a new Prime Minister or anything (worst luck). Still, in its own way, it's an important day. No day where you are asked to exercise your democratic mandate is entirely worthless, right? It's a tremendous privilege; one denied to millions of people across the world. It's a privilege we feel strongly enough about to try to impose by force in places like Iraq and Afghanistan......
It's also the first chance we humble electorate get to stick it to the grubbing, venal bastards who run this country.
In yesterday's Guardian, George Monbiot put forward that:
"...even in a first-past-the-post poll (such as the UK's notoriously unfair parliamentary elections) voting Green is the least wasteful decision you can make."
But how so?
"Look, for example, at how each of the two main parties desperately flails around for an explanation when it loses an election, blaming first one factor then another. They know that people voted against them, but have only the haziest idea of why that was (in Labour's case this time, it will be a little clearer). Vote Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, and you might help to send someone to parliament. But they won't have a clear idea of what you want them to do when they get there. But if you vote Green, you tell the political class exactly what you want. It's plainly not a tactical vote. There is no Old Green and New Green – the party's policies haven't changed a great deal over the years. The Greens aren't old enough or big enough to have inspired the kind of blind inter-generational loyalty that has helped to keep Labour afloat. You are saying, unmistakably, that you want action on the environment and social justice."
That's an interesting point. The recent expenses scandals that have dragged on for the last few weeks have cast our elected officials in an appalling light. People want to punish them; to let them know that it's not acceptable for them to have their moat cleaned, their duck houses built and their mortgages paid by the tax payer. European and Local elections are often where this kind of punishment happens: they're simply not important enough to most people for a protest vote to feel like a wasted vote. Somehow a General Election feels like a much bigger deal. Actually, in my constituency at least, the reverse is true. I like in an area where Ken Clarke is the nailed on certainty to remain my MP for as long as he continues to stand for election. A vote for any party here is pretty much as good as any other and no-one but the Conservatives stands a chance of winning the seat. The Local Elections and the European Elections are different. For starters, I get to vote for more than one candidate, and more than one candidate will be elected. This opens things up a bit. It's entirely possible that my vote my make a tangible difference today.... especially if, as the polls suggest, "Other Parties" are currently running level with the Conservative Party on 30%.
So what are my choices?
Well, in the European Election I have:
> British National Party - "British National Party - Protecting British Jobs"
> Christian Party - "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship"
> Conservative Party
> English Democrats Party - "English Democrats - Putting England First!"
> Jury Team - "Democracy, Accountability, Transparency".
> Liberal Democrats
> No2EU: Yes to Democracy
> Pro-Democracy: Libertas.eu
> Socialist Labour Party (Leader Arthur Scargill)
> The Green Party
> The Labour Party
> United Kingdom First
> UK Independence Party (UKIP)
Four candidates on each ticket. Choose one party and make your mark.
Eliminate the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems and what have you got? Some very scary choices indeed (including at least one prepared to incontinently use the exclamation mark). People wanting to punish the main parties are going to be seriously considering voting for the BNP, UKIP and (WTF?) the Christian Party.
My choice in the Council Elections:
> Conservative Party
> UK Independence Party
> Liberal Democrat
> Green Party
Two candidates to each party. Pick two of the candidates.
Hmm. On balance, I'm with George Monbiot. I don't agree with the Green Party on everything, but at the moment I'd far rather we pushed a green agenda than a racist one. As for the major parties, do they really think they've earned my vote? Yes, it's a protest of sorts, but there is no way on earth that I wasn't going to vote. This country is many things, but as long as sensible, intelligent people continue to go and vote, then there's some hope. If we don't vote because we're a bit cheesed off with the major parties, then the BNP have already won.
You know what really made my day though? In the school hall where I cast my vote, behind the ladies who handed me my ballot papers, was a montage made by a class of eight year olds. It was a summary of Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold" with pictures of the dwarfs and kings and suchlike. I bet potential UKIP and BNP voters must have loved that. Me? I love the fact that I live somewhere where 8 year olds are taught about Wagner.