You vote for a government whom you hope will run the country in the way you believe is best. It may not be perfect, no-one is, but that they are better than the rest.
How do you know that you are supporting the right ones and not misusing your vote?
Well, the best way to know how a party will run a country, is by what they say they will do if elected, their manifesto, their policies. Making a decision based upon policy, matters. It shows balanced consideration of the breadth of their proposals.
Here are 2 policy excerpts from the latest manifestos about the ex-military. Read them for me.
We will support former members of the armed forces, who were willing to risk their lives for us, as they move into civilian life. We will maintain and strengthen the Armed Forces Covenant. We will help veterans to start new careers by ensuring that the skills and qualifications they gained in service are recognised by civilian employers and by introducing a one year holiday on Employer National Insurance Contributions for firms hiring service personnel after they leave service. We will improve the coordination of government services to veterans, including housing, employment and mental health services, by introducing a Veterans Board in the Cabinet Office.
Personnel who are injured while serving should have prompt access to support and compensation. We are fully committed to supporting our veterans. We will promote greater awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant, seek greater consistency in its implementation by public authorities, and promote increased participation in the Corporate Covenant.
We will also roll out a Homes fit for Heroes programme that will insulate the homes of disabled veterans for free.
Based purely on the above policy, which would you vote for?
Out of the two parties, is this the one you usually feel most aligned to?
Now what if I told you that I switched the Party Names around. The first policy was actually the Conservative Party Policy and the second one, the Labour Party Policy. NB I edited the second one slightly to remove wording that made it obvious which party it belonged to, feel free to check pg.120 of Labour Manifesto, for small omitted text.
Does this change things for you? Surely it doesn’t, you made your decision based purely on policy didn’t you?
The reality is that the psychological power of not wanting to vote for a party, or wanting to vote for a particular party, can have a big impact in the decisions we make. This could actually mean we end up voting for parties for whom the majority of their manifesto would not sit well with our sensibilities.
If this already has you questioning your perception and you wish to read the whole manifesto of the party you were planning to vote for, you can find the key party manifestos here
Labour | Conservative | Liberal Democrat | Green | SNP | Plaid Cymru
Why do you normally vote for that party anyway?
Be aware that a large majority of people vote a certain way because their parents do, or because that is how they voted the first time they ever voted. Sometimes it is the influence of friends, you want to fit in and say you voted the same way as the crowd. But people change and so do parties, they fluctuate left and right on the political spectrum. Treat each election as if starting from scratch. Make sure they best represent you. And know that no party is made up of one issue.
The issue of personality
Be aware that apart from the above bias, there are other factors at play. The rise of the personality in politics. That is not to say that a candidate is of zero importance, but the factors that will make the biggest difference to your life is the manifesto that they have campaigned upon, not the person. The detail in their policies, these are the things that will have an impact upon your life and the progress of your nation.
If you want evidence of personality trumping policy, look to the 2016 American election. Two candidates that made the most surprising impact were Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Both were divisive figures for the traditional electorate. Trump with his disdain for authority, to not behave as is expected of a presidential candidate, his willingness to focus on issues that were causing his voters concern and feeding the fear in them meant that he led his support to a fervour, becoming a fanbase. They are not just people who voted on issues, they are fans who vehemently defend him.
On the left side of the Spectrum, you have someone who represents the values of another group of the population. Those who have also had enough of the political game. Who are fed up with the lies and the greed which they believe has led their country to where it is. They see in Bernie an example of someone who has consistently maintained an honest and moral position. They had in one figure a representation of the ideals they hoped for in a President.
Personality in the UK
The same can be seen developing here in the UK. A divisive and fear-mongering Farage gained huge support in the build up to the 2016 Brexit vote. Now, in the build up to the General Election, Jeremy Corbyn is being touted as a figure of hope. Like with Bernie Sanders, and with a number of the same support staff, he has developed a level of Fandom previously not witnessed on these shores. Again he is seen as a person of values, unwavering in his morals. An individual willing to speak out against the traditional elite. It is the ideals that people see embodied in a single figure that have led to his near Celebrity status. The fact that the manifesto he and his party have developed remains true to the perceived ideals, only does more to increase his standing amongst his fanbase.
This unexpected, but vocal force has started to concern the party in government. Whom, with Theresa May as PM, do not have a fanbase but rather a figure representing continuity. Much as Hillary Clinton did for the Democrats. The question is, even though Conservative values tend towards stability. Does the majority of the nation want more of the same?
The discontent is beginning to show. An election was called with the expectation that a substantially increased majority could be achieved. Now, however, the Conservative party are trying to prevent the release and publication of information until after the election fearing that the facts of their performance will reflect poorly upon them. Also, the party and the Conservative media, are targeting the Man, Corbyn, rather than the detail of the party’s manifesto. To make the election about not liking a person, rather than the breadth of what they stand for. The need to target the individual demonstrates the power that the personality can have on an election. Just as much as the power of always having voted for a party can have an influence on you.
So, are you voting for someone because you always have?
Are you not voting for someone else because you don’t like the person in charge?
Have you thoroughly considered the impact the various manifestos will have.
Perhaps you should.
Labour | Conservative | Liberal Democrat | Green | SNP | Plaid Cymru
Or to get a high level feel for which party best fits your views try this quiz. But I highly recommend that you then take these results to guide you to read the relevant manifesto. Then register to vote. For more information, read my past blog entry.