Behavioural economics has had a field day since 2008, identifying problems for the human brain when faced with complex risks: oversimplification, overconfidence and “confirmation bias”, where we ignore facts that challenge our existing beliefs.
– Paul Mason: The Guardian
Why do you vote for who you vote for? Is it a ‘tradition’ that emerged somewhere back in the smog of time: when your ancestors coughed in the workhouse they either owned or died in: those towards the right and the rich watching the inmates slaving away; or the collectivist and cash-strapped themselves slaving away their short, atrocious existences? Or are you amongst the few – of whatever position on the political and wealth continua – who think long and hard each and every time they place that important cross in the box?
Do you also consider each vote in context: rather than blanketing every ‘choice’ with the same political party – believing that what works at national level must also therefore trickle down and “work” at regional, county, district, and parish…? Or do you vote selflessly: thinking that this party’s member, this (perhaps independent) candidate, will make a great Parish Councillor (i.e. be best for the village, rather than just for your desires or any organization you belong to); but that someone with different allegiances, different policies, would be better for representing the village on Stratford-on-Avon District Council (SDC); and that someone with utterly contrasting views has actually been a really good MP, and therefore you might as well stick with the devil you know – even if you carry a membership card of a different hue in your back pocket or purse? (And that it really doesn’t matter that, like most, you haven’t got a clue who your MEPs are?)
I spend a lot of time reasoning before any election: and this one – giving us the opportunity, in Tysoe, to vote for representatives at many levels – has therefore taken up a great deal of Bardic brain uptime (as you may just have noticed). But I am pretty sure that I am in a minority. I am therefore likely to put my party membership to one side, and vote extremely selectively – although the quandaries I face would be much more streamlined by a sensible system of proportional representation (PR): as practised in, say Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden (to name just a few); and a conversion, nationwide, to a belief that the resulting coalitions, may – Borgen-style – actually be good for us (rather than following the absolutely abysmal and amateur example we have witnessed over the last five years: which achieved nothing – well, apart from destroying the economies: both national, and of those individuals at the lower end of the income scale – but demonstrate that those who now go into politics will do absolutely anything, however repulsive, to gain the smallest taste of power).
So: the likelihood (and I still have over a month of deliberation left: so have not yet come to any concrete conclusions) is that I will vote for someone standing for the Parish Council (PC) based on what they have already done for and in the village – not for any party allegiances; but based more on their character, their hard work, and (especially) the love they must obviously share with me for this wonderful place in which we live.
Considering the mess we are still in – this, I feel, may be where my political allegiances may win out: driven by a belief that fresh blood is needed; and that the Tory-promoted Stratford-upon-Avon air of entitlement that we are forced to breathe every day really needs replacing with something cleaner, more tolerable, less carcinogenic; less liable to erode the Bardic heritage that keeps our economy miraculously afloat, yet amazingly still attracts visitors despite the awful tortures they must suffer (in traffic jams, and through a lack of pedestrianization, etc.) before they even get a chance to pay homage to my predecessor(?!). My criteria for the (sorry for the sexism, here: but the UK does not have a good track record of equality in politics) “man for the job”, therefore, are very different. And, even though I have hinted before that I think the likely ‘winner’ of the title will probably do (at least) a half-decent job, because of his local knowledge, etc., his association with the (apparently – or at least how it looks from where I stand) anti-PC Rule 6 group (which ensured that people like myself were unable to speak at the recent Gladman appeal – despite repeated requests to the Planning Inspector) tarnish him quite badly in my eyes. Just because someone provides a fantastic service to the village in one function (although let us not forget that this is done to make money: it is a business – we do not have a community shop run by volunteers purely for the benefit of the village residents), does not mean – even if the motives are not that dissimilar – that he will repeat this in a political capacity. Especially, as – lying deep in the Conservative heartland of rural Middle England – any selection is not really our choice; but that of his peers. You could, indeed, make a case that he was foisted on us as councillor-elect by Conservative cronies. (But even their trumped-up loyalty lacks consistency: considering how quick and willing they were to throw Chris Saint to the – possibly well-deserved – wolves, House of Cards-style.) Our votes are just mere daubery. (But, then, the Tories are good at self-selection, aren’t they?)
I have made no secret that Nadhim, in a personal capacity, has been a very helpful and proactive Member of Parliament (MP) for me; as well as being generally supportive of the village during our fight with Gladman. This, then, leaves me with my hardest decision (which would be, if not easily remedied, at least eased by the mechanism of PR – as I said above). At the moment – as anyone who has read my Wall of Separation series may have inferred – I am tempted to contribute to the massive groundswell of belief in (and membership of) the Green Party: to demonstrate, even with my single vote (albeit hard-earned – “Unless we exercise the democratic rights that our ancestors struggled for, we will share responsibility for the failures of the political classes”), that their sudden surge in popularity, and their allied growth, politically, in Europe, are not one-offs, or will-o’-the-wisps that will be blown away by other political gusts (real or imagined); and that there is a tangible foundation that can be built on to produce not only the sole governmental chance we have of saving humanity from destroying itself (whilst it simultaneously, temporarily, ruins its home planet); but that can produce a much more equitable, less power- and cash-crazed society.
But I am reminded – almost daily, by email – that I should consider all aspects of a candidate’s policies; or even (as the Catholic bishops’ letter suggested) question them.
I believe, as I said earlier, that I have (practically a duty) to think long and hard before casting my votes. Otherwise, if I just throw them away robotically, they are wasted and valueless. For them to have even richer meaning, though, they have to nestle against others in the ballot box that are the result of similar deep soul-searching and research; and emerge from discussions, perhaps, with those close by – my companion voters – yet who ally themselves in many different ways. (If the only people you talk to already share your views, then perhaps it is time to widen your social circle – or at least read a newspaper or book that you wouldn’t normally be found dead with? Or even – and here’s an idea…! – a blog by a writer with socialist tendencies actually based where you live: “deep in the Conservative heartland of rural Middle England”…?!)