There’s a General Election here next week. That probably sounds like a ridiculous statement, given that it’s impossible to watch TV or to pick up a newspaper without having it shoved down your throat…. And you’d think it would be hard to miss, but around where I live, it almost might not be happening at all.
I live in a very safe Conservative seat; my MP has been this constituency’s representative in Parliament since 1970.
Kenneth Clarke is now well over 70 years-old, but he’s a Tory grandee and one of the few remaining “big beasts” that almost everyone would recognise. To be fair to him, he’s been a good constituency MP: he lives in the area and has always responded personally whenever I've had cause to write to him. It’s just that… well, I’ve never voted for him before and I’m not going to start voting for him now. He might be a "good" Conservative, but he's still a Conservative after all.
Because it’s such a safe seat, there’s been very little campaigning around here at all…. When you have limited resources nationwide, logic dictates that you target what you have at places where that campaigning might make all the difference. You occasionally see the odd person handing out party leaflets at the Farmers’ Market here (second and fourth Saturday of every month), but when I compare it to the bombardment my friends down the road in a much more marginal constituency are receiving, it’s all a bit quiet round here.
To be honest, I rather think that this is, in part, quite such a safe Conservative seat because of how well respected Kenneth Clarke is as an individual…. We have UKIP European MPs and a Labour controlled council, so if he wasn’t standing, it might conceivably be a different story (which I think perhaps explains why a 74 year old man is standing for another 5 year term: because it takes the seat off the table for everyone else)… but as things stand, if you’re not going to vote for Ken, then your vote is essentially meaningless in a national context. It doesn’t even make much sense to tactically vote around here either: the Liberal Democrats were second here in 2010, and I voted for them in an attempt to make my vote more useful.
Clearly, I won’t be doing that again and I doubt many others will either. The Liberal Democrats have been the most conspicuous by their absence here. I know what the Green candidate looks like, but I have no idea even if our Lib Dem candidate is even male or female.
Everyone should vote, of course. If you don’t have your say, how can you complain? Isn’t that what people say? It’s just hard when I know what my vote won’t amount to a damn thing and other votes, elsewhere, are clearly worth so much more.
To be fair, for all that this is the safest of safe Tory seats, I did meet the Labour candidate when he knocked on my front door one Friday afternoon when I happened to be at home. That’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever been door-stepped by a politician, and I was quite impressed that he was making the effort… not least because my house is about 100m from Ken Clarke’s constituency office. Our Labour candidate is a local man who has taught in Nottingham schools for much of the last twenty years; he may be onto a hiding to nothing, but it’s clearly a big deal to him and I think he deserves a lot of respect for the amount of effort he’s putting in to make himself visible. There aren’t many posters in the windows around here, but the few you can see are often his (UKIP actually mailed a window poster to my wife personally…. They didn’t drop it through the letterbox, they actually posted it to her. She was naturally horrified at the thought that she had somehow made it onto their mailing lists)
We really need to change our electoral system. I’ve always voted and I’m hardly likely to stop voting now…. But the system we have only serves to keep the same old people in power and when so many people find that their votes are meaningless, something needs to give.
Mind you, watching the news this evening with one full day of campaigning left before the polls open, perhaps I should be grateful that things are a bit quiet around here.... politicians of all colours were all just spouting the same nonsense and using the same key trigger words in their last ditch attempts to try and make an impression on someone; on anyone. I'm sick of it... and if we don't get a clear result on Thursday, we'll have months more of it too. Heaven help us all.
Democracy is, after all, the worst form of government.
...Apart from everything else.