Political

Apr. 30th, 2015 11:50 am
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
So I have received my ballot for postal voting. I'm going to put in the first post tomorrow morning, so you have approximately 20 hours to convince me to vote for an outcome that you favour, if you like that kind of thing.

I'm registered at two addresses. Yes, this is entirely legitimate, and no, I'm not going to commit electoral fraud by voting twice. I live and pay council tax and use local services in two different places, one where I work and one where my home is.

Constituency A is where I work. It's mostly a deprived, ex-industrial town in the west Midlands, and a safe Labour seat. Constituency B is my home, a thriving university town in the south-east, within commuting distance of London, and with a politically engaged population who tend to the left of the national consensus. It's a Lib/Lab marginal, a heavily targeted constituency and somewhere where it's not implausible a third party might turn up a surprise. I'm anonymizing slightly, not because you can't figure out from reading my journal which constituencies I'm talking about, but because I would like to gather some views without getting stuck in people's preconceptions.

The two options I'm considering most seriously are: 1] Vote Green in constituency A, the Labour safe seat. Or 2] Vote for the incumbent Lib Dem MP in Constituency B.

Option 1 is pretty unlikely to change the eventual make-up of parliament, but it might contribute to the smaller and left of centre parties being taken more seriously in future. It does something to reflect my disillusionment with the two main, and increasingly indistinguishable parties. Given that Option 1 rules out Option 2, it's indirectly casting a vote against the Liberal Democrats. Also, there is a substantial Green presence in the (Labour led, but fairly mixed) local council in A-land, so voting Green in the local elections at least might in fact make it more likely for the Greens to accomplish their goals.

I'm leaning towards Option 2, on the grounds that the incumbent is a really good MP, both locally and in Westminster. He's even voted against the Coalition on several issues that I care about, but not the one that is most important to me, which is disability rights.

In many ways I'm a natural LD voter anyway, on a pure vote-for-policies basis they are the most closely aligned with my ideas. Also I have many friends who are active in the party and at a grass roots level I think they're pretty good. But they have a horrible track record when it comes to actually implementing their policies; they formed a coalition with Scottish Labour when I voted for them in the 2000s specifically against Labour, and they formed a coalition with the Westminster Conservatives after the last election and this coalition abandoned the pre-election promises of both parties. So I feel like voting Lib Dem means essentially saying, either of the mainstream parties is fine by me, whereas in reality I have quite strong reasons to dislike both Labour and Conservatives.

I disagree with some of the Green party's policies; they're economically way to the left of me, for a start. But there's nothing in their manifesto that horrifies me the way I'm horrified by the Conservatives' attacks on disabled people (which the Lib Dems have never effectively opposed, even my "good" local MP in constituency B, and have often actively supported), and Labour's stated intention of making our already horrific immigration system even worse. I am not prepared to vote for more killing of disabled people or more killing of migrants, refugees and foreigners. The problem is that I don't see much way to vote against these things, in the current system; I only wish I had the luxury of voting based on things like economic policy or science funding, let alone little things like copyright terms.

I find myself very strongly in agreement with [personal profile] nanila's wishlist. I mean, unlike her I am not myself an immigrant and I am white, and I want to be very careful of being the sort of annoying white liberal who claims to be targeted by xenophobic policies because their grandfather immigrated from Canada or something. But equally I am Jewish, and yes my recent ancestors were immigrants, economic migrants who primarily came here looking for opportunities for a better life, which only incidentally included a slightly lower chance of anti-semitic violence, they were in no way refugees. I find it impossible to believe that a political consensus towards denying rights to Muslims and Eastern Europeans (many of whom are, you know, at least as white as I am), or even removing them from the country or encouraging racist violence against them, is somehow going to continue to be safe for Jews. And quite apart from the fact that I have loved friends and relatives who are disabled, it's pretty clear to me from history that once you start thinking of PWD as just a drain on the economy and not as people, you make space for dehumanizing other out groups too.

I mean, it's not just disablism and xenophobia, this so-called austerity (which really isn't) system is leading to plenty of white, British, able-bodied people being deliberately driven into extreme poverty, starvation and homelessness. The Lib Dems have been somewhat effective in making things better for poor but stable working class people, with things like the raised income tax threshold, free school meals etc. Labour also have some stated policies that might be good for this demographic. I think the unlikely event of Lib Dems or Greens holding substantial power in the next parliament would make things somewhat better for middle class people like me and somewhat slow down concentration of wealth in the hands of the ultra-rich, and maybe I should vote for that. But there's no party I can see who are actually going to end this system of punishing people who can't earn enough to live on through their own labour; Labour have overtly distanced themselves from people who receive benefits, which really negates any motivation I might have had to vote Labour (or refrain from voting against Labour) as a better alternative to the Tories.

I want to vote for a party that will actually help disabled and long-term sick people, people who live in areas with chronic job shortages at their skill level, children, retired people, people who use their labour for caring for children, disabled and elderly family members rather than for companies who pay them a wage, people newly arrived in the country who don't yet speak English well or have contacts to help get jobs and support. People who are marginal and at risk of severe poverty, not just ruddy "working families," those who have a low but dependable income and a strong social network. That's the point of having a state after all, if we can't even manage that basic minimum of food, shelter and medical care for everybody, why should the government take a big chunk of my money in tax and interfere with how I live my life?

Oh, and the NHS. Is there any party at all that's (realistically) going to reverse the current asset-stripping of the NHS and head even vaguely in a positive direction of preserving a nation-wide, publicly and sensibly funded health service?

So, given that's how I feel, and that's my particular voting situation, how should I vote? I should note that the least effective kind of arguments for me are along the lines of how "people like us" have always voted Lib Dem or have always hated the ebil Tories. If I have a political identity at all, it's as a swing voter, I see myself as someone who considers the issues and the current situation and doesn't just pick the team they've always picked.

I am increasingly feeling like things have got bad enough that I need to get politically active beyond just voting, which I am reluctant to do because I'm very busy and I don't like politics. It's starting to feel like a moral obligation to do something more direct against attacks on disabled people and immigrants, though. That should probably be another post, because it's way complicated; let's start with casting my vote in the most useful way available to me and see what happens after next week.

My predicted outcome for the election: Labour plurality, no party achieves a majority, everything ends up in chaos even worse than in 2010 because we basically suck at coalition-based governments. I predict that everybody will step down from their ridiculous blustering about how they're going to win the election outright and refuse to consider any coalitions with anybody, because any chance at (shared) power is always going to be too strong a motivation to stick to that nonsense. Which makes it even harder to know how to vote because it's really hard to tell what compromises the small parties will make if my prediction is true. Or how the regional nats will play into this; I have talked about England cos I'm voting in England, but I think Plaid Cymru and the SNP will likely be important in the mess that I predict to ensue once votes are counted. I only hope that whatever emerges out of this doesn't end up giving power to UKIP or other extremists.

As I'm thinking along these lines, I do recommend [livejournal.com profile] smhwpf's very interesting analysis of the current hung parliament situation in Sweden, including discussion of where the UK is similar and different.
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