06 May 2010

How to vote in the UK general election - if you believe in freedom

Even last night it would appear as many as 20-30% of voters are STILL undecided. So here is a guide to vote, for those who don’t believe the government should do more for them, for those who don’t believe in higher taxes and think, by and large, government should focus on protecting the country and protecting citizens from the initiation of force and fraud from each other.

Step One: Decide what voting means for you. If it is about granting moral authority to someone to be in government, then you might find yourself with limited choices. If it is about choosing the least worst option, then it is easier. If it is about making a statement of values closest to your own, then again the choices are limited. If it is about choosing an individual, then it will be luck as to whether you have a good choice or not.

You see if you want to grant moral authority, then you are saying “I agree with enough of your manifesto, to accept you have my endorsement to implement the lot, and make decisions outside that based on your principles”. If you do that, then you have less reason to complain if the winner is the party you endorsed, and it acts as it said it would. You always can have your opinion and express it, but I will simply be able to say “well you said it was ok for xxx to govern”. Bear in mind that it is mainly party members and enthusiasts who should fit that camp.

If you want to choose the least worst option, then you wont find it difficult. It is how most people vote in my view. You hold your nose, and you decide X because at least it keeps Y out (which is worse). If you believe that way, then prepare to be disappointed. Is X REALLY that much better? Or is it that Y is SO bad, that you can’t imagine X being worse? Bear in mind also that by doing this you are saying it is ok for X to govern you. The least worst option also means choosing a government, which means picking a party likely to win in your seat.

If you just want to make a statement of values, then it is a middle ground. You are not granting moral authority, you are not succumbing to the least worst option, but selecting a party that reflects part of your values at least. That is what I did.

Finally, if there is a candidate who personally represents your values and is in a party where he or she might have a chance to spread that influence, then go ahead, positively endorse that candidate. Good luck finding one though.

Step Two: Check out your constituency. If it is a safe seat then you can at least know you’re either endorsing an encumbent who is likely to win, or you can vote for any other candidate knowing there is next to no chance of that person actually wielding power.

If it is a marginal seat then some will suggest “tactical voting”, but frankly unless you are on the left of the political spectrum it is fairly meaningless. Only in Buckingham, where the Tory Speaker faces no challenge from the main parties, have you got any real alternative (UKIP candidate Nigel Farage, hospitalised overnight from a plane crash) if you don’t believe in socialism. A Labour-LibDem marginal may as well be a safe seat for either of them. A marginal with the Conservatives may make your decision a little more difficult, unless the candidate is a Green in disguise (Zac Goldsmith) or a thief (see the full guide to the expenses claimed by them all).

Step Three: Hold your nose and choose. If you believe in less government, more individual freedom and personal responsibility, then you might consider this list:

1. Where there is a Libertarian Party candidate or one endorsed by the LPUK, or an independent libertarian, give him or her a tick. None are likely to win, but you will be voting against the status quo of big government. If you have no such option then…

2. Where there is a Conservative Party candidate who speaks, writes and talks fluently about free markets, who has not bought into the anti-human agenda of the radical environmentalists and who talks more about less government than about how government can help, then consider voting for that candidate. For the foreseeable future, the Conservative Party is the only major party with a wing of members who DO believe in freedom and less government. Endorsing those who can move it away from the pablum of populism that is currently dished out is a positive step.

3. If there is no inspiring Conservative Party candidate, then if you think you must vote for someone, then consider the UKIP candidate. UKIP believe in flat tax, leaving the EU (but retaining free trade with it) and in cutting state spending to the level it was in 1997. That is enough of a platform to give the Conservatives a message if they do not win a majority, that compromise to the left means losing votes from the core.

4. Finally, if your Conservative candidate is odious, and your UKIP candidate is really a complete wingnut who would be better placed in the BNP (and so should lose his deposit), then write in “John Galt”. It wont count, but one person will look at it and probably ask “Who is John Galt”? and will remember it, briefly. You will then have said, to hell with you all, but you might consider standing for Parliament next time.

5. Oh and if you are in Ulster, then you have a very different choice. You might simply choose to opt out of picking between parties of sectarianism. The Alliance Party is the main party that rejects unionism and nationalism, but it is aligned with the Liberal Democrats. Bear in mind that what happens in Ulster may end up influencing the government, but your choices are not ones to envy.

Whatever happens tonight, it will be a long night. It may well match the 1996 New Zealand election, with Nick Clegg playing Winston Peters, and David Cameron and Gordon Brown playing Jim Bolger and Helen Clark.

I intend to party with some like mindeds from down under, to celebrate every time someone odious loses. What am I hoping for? For Labour to come third in proportion of the vote (or to do worse than in 1983), for the Liberal Democrats to not hold the balance of power, for Nigel Farage to win in Buckingham, for Nick Griffin to come third or worse in Barking, for Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists to lose heavily, for the Green Party to win nothing, for Ed Balls to lose the seat he is contesting, Old Holborn to win Cambridge, and for the Conservatives to ever so barely miss out on a majority.

Sod them all, none of them deserve to govern.

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