I’ve been a member of the Liberal Democrats since I was 18, when I joined shortly after the 2010 General Election. I have voted for them in every single election that I’ve been able to, whether parliamentary, local, European or PCC. Despite the shortcomings of our archaic and unfit-for-purpose voting system, I’ve always been more than happy to vote this way, regardless of whether the Lib Dem candidate has stood any chance of winning the seat or not. Primarily because as a member of the party, I feel compelled to do so and because the Lib Dem candidate represents my views and values. But also because I’ve always been of the opinion that if everyone took the “they’re not going to win so I won’t vote for them” approach, then none of the smaller UK parties would ever get anywhere.
However, the last few months have challenged everything I thought about voting in General Elections. Gone are the days that I used to grumble quietly about the Conservative government, whilst mostly being comfortable with the majority of what they were doing in office. Nowadays, I genuinely fear for the future of my country, my public services, and my fellow Brit (whether native or immigrant). I can no longer claim to be comfortable with “wasting my vote” on a candidate who has no chance in hell of winning, simply because it’s the candidate I prefer.
I want to see Boris Johnson’s Conservative turfed out of office. I want to play my part in making that happen. But that might involve me voting for a party I do not support.
I live in the Scarborough & Whitby Constituency, which has been solidly blue since Robert Goodwill won the seat from Labour’s Lawrie Quinn in 2005. My party has been consistent in its failure to get anywhere near winning the seat, which hit an all-time low in 2017, where the vote share fell below 3%. Voting for the Liberal Democrats here is utterly pointless if ousting the Conservatives is my aim. First-Past-the-Post renders the cross on my ballot paper meaningless. Yes, it counts to my party’s overall vote tally and share of the vote, but in this broken electoral system, the number of votes doesn’t make a Prime Minister or government; it’s the seats that count.
Those of you who know me, know that I am no fan of Jeremy Corbyn. I don’t agree with a number of his policies and I have issues with what has happened to the Labour Party under his watch. However, when I compare the two men most likely to become Prime Minister, I have to ask myself who I would prefer to have the keys to Number 10, and the answer is the man in the red tie.
Jeremy Corbyn, in all reality, is the only man capable of replacing Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and whilst that prospect fills me with anything but delight, I have to acknowledge that that outcome would be far superior to another five years of Conservative rule. At least I can say with certainty that Jeremy Corbyn has the country’s best interests at heart, even though I might fundamentally disagree with the means he chooses to employ in order to achieve his aims.
So, I’m left torn between supporting my values, my principles and my party, and pursuing the goal of ensuring my country isn’t decimated by more right-wing governance. I believe so passionately in liberalism; I want Jo Swinson to be our Prime Minister so much; I want to wake up on Friday 13th and see and an ocean of gold on the map as the Liberal Democrats sweep to victory. But I know it isn’t going to happen, not under this system.
But then I come back to my earlier point: if everyone took this view, then the smaller parties would never get anywhere. So, am I simply a walking contradiction? What if enough people vote for the Liberal Democrats in my constituency?
So, for the very first time, I have no idea who to vote for. What do you think I should do? If you were in my position, who would you back? If you’re a Labour supporter in a Tory/Liberal marginal, would you vote Lib Dem to reduce the chances of a Tory victory?