Monday 25 April 2005

Used, abused without clues, I refused to blow a fuse - they even had it on the news **

The British General Election is now only two weeks away. Although we had a lengthy "phony war" in the run up to the official announcement, we've only actually had two weeks of campaigning, and there are another two weeks to go. In other words, we're halfway through.

I consider myself to be a reasonably well-informed person:
  • I read a newspaper every Sunday
  • I check websites for news several times a day (mainly the BBC and the Guardian)
  • I watch the news on TV two or three times a week
  • I watch Newsnight once or twice a week
  • I listen to Radio 5 Live for a couple of hours every day (and not just for the sport, either)
  • and of course, I read lots of blogs, some of which talk about politics... from time to time
As you might have noticed, I have one or two opinions. I have voted in every election since I turned 18, and I am sufficiently politicised to have written to my MP and been pleased to receive a lengthy and quite detailed reply.

So how come I hardly know anything about this election?

I've had one leaflet through my door (from Ken Clarke - I noticed that he kept all mention of Michael Howard to an absolute minimum). No one has been round.

There are a couple of massive billboards on the way to work, and over the last couple of weeks they have featured a number of electoral posters. Funnily enough (given my intense dislike of them), it's been the Conservative posters that have stuck in my mind. First we had the immigation poster, then the "you want five more years of this?" poster, and today I noticed they had opted for a clearly photo-shopped Blair with a rictus grin. It's good that they have focused on their own policies, isn't it? There was a Liberal Democrat poster there for a while; I can't remember what it's point was, although it had a big picture of Charles Kennedy and them proposing and opposing something or other. Finally, today I spotted a Labour poster for the first time - it was totally unmemorable.

Until I looked it up the other day, apart from Ken Clarke, I didn't even know who else was standing in my constituency. If I had wanted to vote tactically to try and unseat Ken, I had no idea who the second placed party were likely to be, and where my vote might be of the most use.

Why is this?

Apparently Rushcliffe is Labour target seat 53, and Liberal Democrat target seat 216. Ken Clarke's majority is 7,357 (which in itself was up from 5,055 in 1997 - which you imagine is as close as Labour are ever likely to get as long as there is breath in the old boy's body. In the Tory salad days of the 1980s, the majority here was more than 20,000).

So the bottom line, and the reason that I haven't had anyone standing on my doorstep or pushing any leaflets through my letterbox is that the major parties don't much care about Rushcliffe, and certainly aren't in a hurry to spend any money here. No-one has troubled to ask me if I have made up my mind, or if I might like to consider casting my vote for them, because they don't care. This isn't a marginal seat and it has a popular and well-known MP who is very unlikely to lose his seat. That's it.

When the votes are counted on election night, Rushcliffe will be "held" by the Conservatives.

So what price my vote?

If I lived somewhere like:

Dumfries & Galloway (Lab majority 0.3%)
Dorset South (Lab majority 0.3%)
Boston & Skegness (Con majority 1.3%)
Cheadle (Lib Dem majority 0.1%)
Taunton (Con majority 0.4%)

I'd be fighting people off my doorstep because my vote could really make a difference.

In Rushcliffe? Nah.... not bothered.

Not much incentive to get off my arse and vote is it? It's easy to understand why turnouts are low and have been shrinking.

Fear not, dear reader!

I will not be brushed aside by anyone as a "couldn't be bothered to vote" statistic. If I decide that I am not going to cast a positive vote this time, then dammit, I'm going to take the Montgomery Brewster approach and I'm going to get off my arse and vote for "none of the above". And as that isn't actually an option on the ballot paper (and it bloody well should be), then I'll write a pithy message to the government on what I think of the First Past the Post electoral system.

Or I'll just write some rude words.


** post title courtesy of YokoSpungeon, as her prize for being joint-winner in the poster competition. Very apt it is too. Well done kiddo!

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