As we are all pressed to go the polls in an election that we were told should never happen, while a clear majority of the country would really rather like to have another vote on how we got into (and get out of) this mess, I thought it might be helpful to give a concise guide to how best to use the vote you have been given while considering what you might do in the vote that nobody in power seems to want to give you right now.
It is probably best to start by looking at what matters to you. Are you a fan of big government, the union of nations, or are you a fierce independent minded separatist? Are you a socialist looking for more co-operation, or a believer in the triumph of the individual will? Or are you a bit confused and totally bamboozled by an out-of-control BBC, a loopier than ever free press and a world of nagging social media chumps like me?
This simple guide is written to try and help you decide whether and how to bother with casting your vote on the 23rd of May (yikes! – tomorrow!) to get what you want out of it at best you can.
Looking at Norwich probably slightly more than half of you (who could be bothered) probably voted remain in the last referendum. So what now? Let’s start at the bottom. One of the many new political groupings, Change UK, also known as the ChUK-ers or even the Tinge Party are mostly for remain. You may not know the people involved, mostly people who left other parties before they were booted out, and you will have no idea who funds them or pulls their string. Currently polling about 1% means that even with proportional voting your vote for them will be in the bin.
Next on the remain bandwagon are the old LibDems. Remember them? Everyone though they were like your cuddly uncle (not that one) and basically alright until they got into bed with David Cameron, pausing only to kick the pigs head aside. Now they are furiously claiming that they say ‘bollocks to Brexit’, rather oddly as they not so long ago campaigned for the very referendum that got us in this almighty mess in the first place. And don’t ask about tuition fees or any other LibDem promise. Your kids won’t like the answer. Hard to tell what they would actually do if elected, as it always has been.
Straying into a more dignified area let us look at the Green Party. Their Norwich fortunes took a dive when Corbyn took over Labour, but now that he is being regularly roasted from all quarters they are regaining their single digit poll popularity and even exceeding it a bit. They have probably been the most consistent of remain parties, and let’s be honest more Green MPs would probably do little to harm the British reputation in the European Parliament after an excess of UKIP loons.
What about Labour? In a commendably democratic effort to acknowledge all sides of the argument Leader Corbyn has broken with Labour Party tradition and listened to what the Conference says Labour policy should be, and is following it. Needless to say this has confused all, and means that equality is now defined for him as being attacked from all sides. But in terms of placing that precious vote of yours, it is worth reminding yourself that the conference policy he is sticking to includes another peoples vote, even if these are words that seldom struggle from his lips. To be fair, Labour MEPs actually turn up to Brussels and Strasbourg and do the jobs they are paid for, which makes them a novelty aside most other British MEPs. I have met several and like them all. Even that odd one. I am not biased at all.
Now let us go across to the dark side and say ‘what if I want out from this European monster’? A good question, I am told, although I have yet to find out why. Once again, several parties offer you a prospect for your crosses. UKIP soared ahead on the last Euro poll five years back but can anyone name one apart from Farage, who confusingly is not one any more? Their MEPs have been distinguished by non-attendance, numerous prosecutions for expense fraud and a strong propensity to either leave their party or get booted out. Under current leadership by a chap called Batten (not a plank) they seem to have happily encompassed candidates who think rape is funny and intolerance is British. Which it is not. If you are an anti-everything false traditionalist this is the vote for you, even though they are unlikely to win a single seat this time. But if you did last time, give it another go now. You know you want to.
Or you could vote Conservative. They tell us that they are pro-Brexit, but on grounds of competence alone they have so far let you leavers down rather badly. And I bet you could not name one of their MEPs. Ever. It is fair to say that they do not expect a happy ending from this election, but I guess one or two will still vote for them out of habit.
Or you could jump on the bandwagon that is leaving everything sensible we know and vote for the Brexit Party. This has two reassuring features – first, it is clearly backed by the BBC news editor team and secondly it features everyone’s favourite aircrash survivor Farage. Don’t panic, he landed on his head. They do not yet have policies, or members, or any kind of accountability or that boring important political stuff, but they do now include your favourite TV sex goddess Anne Widdecombe (74) who still seeks the first among equals to yield her loyalty to.
If you are serious about leaving the EU though there is a better answer to your voting dilemma. If you are a leaver you simply do not believe in all this EU Parliament nonsense, so why dignify it with your vote? Much better to be true to your principles and boycott the whole business. You do not want to go electing people, however often they are on Question Time, to a body that you think should not exist! So save yourself the effort and be true to your beliefs and stay at home on the 23rd.
If you are one of that rather specialised minority of Leavers who want a second vote, then you have a rather restricted choice as Labour is the only Party that seeks a second referendum but recognises that 52% of the last vote was to leave. You will also need to be prepared to be plonked in a museum as a member of a sub-species likely to be extinct before next Tuesday. But get your postal in now just in case.
Long story short: want remain, probably Labour or Green is your reliable Norwich choice. Want leave, why vote for what you don’t believe in? Give it a miss. Stay at home and stick to your principles.
However you use your vote on Thursday please remember this – you are not ‘making a statement or protest’, you are voting for somebody to decide what is important across the whole continent for the next five years. If you do not want to see your candidate paid to be a member of the European Parliament, don’t vote. If you do want the European Parliament to work please look at what each party has stood for in the long term and vote to see your principles in power.
Although the vote is counted on a proportional voting basis called D’Hondt you can only put one cross on the ballot paper against your preferred team or independent. Perhaps one of the reasons for low interest in these elections is that a region-wide panel of candidates who we have little choice in selecting do not feel particularly accountable.
If I have, happy to have been helpful!
© Julian Swainson 2019