Vote for Policies is up and running for the 2015 UK General Election. As in 2010, it gives you a list of policies on each of ten policy areas, you say which one you like best, and at the end it tells you which parties you voted for. It’s a good way to decide how to vote.
In support of this principle, what follows is my own take on voting.
Vote for policies not against them
Many people are tempted to vote tactically, against the party they want to keep out rather than for the party they really believe in.
The overall result is a two-party system. So many people vote for what they consider the second-to-worst party that they never get what they really want. They vote governments out rather than in. This is the most important reason why proportional representation would deliver better governments than our present First Past the Post system.
Just imagine what it would have been like if, 20 years ago, somebody set up a party which was exactly what you wanted, every detail perfect. Would you have voted for it? Or would you have voted tactically for one of the big parties?
If you had voted for it, and if everybody else who agreed with it voted for it, it might have got into government by now.
Vote for policies not crises
Many people say they would have preferred to vote for x, but this is an absolutely critical election, so they are going to vote for y to keep z out. The Bedroom Tax, the National Health Service… there are plenty of reasons for saying it.
I first voted in 1970. Then, and every election since then, people have been saying ‘This is the most important election for a generation’. There are always plenty of reasons for saying it. As the decades go by, the uniqueness of the current one begins to wear off.
Vote for policies not for a successful vote
Many people say that if you don’t vote for one of the leading candidates it will be a wasted vote. Television commentators often provide this misinformation.
Think of the maths. If you only focus on the coming election, and ignore all other considerations, your vote will be a wasted vote unless the person you vote for gets in by only one vote. This hardly ever happens.
Instead, focus on what the commentators are saying now, and what they will be saying until the results are in. They will be looking back at how many votes each party got in 2010. They will also take other elections into account. All this information gets fed into their calculations and produces observations of who is likely to win this time.
So think of the future. If more people vote for the best candidates this time, even if they don’t win they will be taken more seriously next time and therefore stand a better chance of getting in.
Vote for policies not people
Sometimes people are torn between a really good candidate and the party they generally support.
Most of the MPs we are going to elect will not become cabinet ministers. The biggest impact they make may well be on the numbers of MPs per party. Most vote as the whips tell them. You may know of exceptions, but in general what will matter most is the policies the candidates support.