Thursday, 8 April 2010

Who to vote for?

In an unusual combination of events, I'm currently in a constituency where my FPTP vote will have a much larger than average impact on the general election results.

The seat itself is a Lab-Lib marginal, currently - like most of the North East - held by Labour, but that would change hands on a 4% swing to the Lib Dems. It's unlikely to actually come down to a single vote, but it's close enough for this to be theoretically possible. The Labour incumbent, seeking re-election for the first time, now has the usual advantages an incumbent gets, but countering that is the decreasing national popularity of the party.

Nationally, of course, the situation is very different indeed. On current polling, the most likely result appears to be a hung parliament, in which the Conservatives are the largest party, but the Lib Dems in coalition with either Labour or Conservatives would form a working majority.

I've been considering for which party I should vote for several months. The possibility of a hung parliament makes things more complicated.

LabourHave passed some decent legislation over the last 13 years and seems to have at least some good ideas for the way forward.
Their local ex-MP and candidate has done some good work and consistently replies to letters.
Of the larger parties, they have by far the greatest proportion of non-default MPs and candidates, and it shows in the policies they put forward.
Labour also have some incredibly bad policies, especially on civil liberties and immigration.
While the local ex-MP replies consistently it's relatively rare that I'm satisfied with the reply.
Lib DemsMany good policy suggestions, and on paper go further than Labour on many equality-related policies.
Strongly support electoral reform, especially Proportional Representation (PR), and in the event of a hung parliament would be in a better negotiating position for getting it with more MPs.
For a party with a strong paper commitment to equality, they seem less good at the practice - their candidates are often less diverse than the Conservatives, and their record on issues such as abortion is extremely variable.
In a hung parliament, they might prop up a Conservative government.
The local candidate is unimpressive (and it's unclear how much of the party's national policy they support)
GreenExcellent policies on most issues.
More diverse than any of the big 3.
No candidate standing here, as far as I know.

I won't be making a final decision until I've had chance to look through the manifestos of the parties, of course, but I think the problem is that which party I would prefer for a local MP depends on who wins elsewhere.

Overall ResultPreferred local resultReason
Labour MajorityLib DemLabour rebels plus the opposition stand a better chance of blocking their worse policies with a smaller majority, and the Labour candidate here won't be a rebel.
Hung parliament, Labour largest partyLib DemGreater leverage for the Lib Dems in getting PR out of a coalition, more chance of Lib Dems having enough votes to make a coalition.
Hung parliament, parties about equalLabourThe Lib Dems alone won't be enough for a coalition, so it's better if the Conservatives are smaller than Labour.
Hung parliament, Conservatives largest partyLabour1The Conservatives will never go for PR anyway, so either Labour need enough seats to form a coalition with the Lib Dems anyway, or to help block a Conservative minority government (propped up by the Lib Dems or not) from breaking too much. In this case, an ultra-loyal MP is a bonus.
Conservative MajorityLabourEither party would oppose the Conservatives, so picking the one that will do it better and where the local candidate is more communicative seems better.

1 There's an argument that in this case the Lib Dems would be the better vote, for the same reason as the scenario in which Labour are the largest party, but I don't quite trust them nationally not to coalition with the Conservatives without making PR a requirement, in which case things are very bad indeed, and I'm not convinced by the local candidate either.

The next step will be looking through the party manifestos in detail to see if anything useful for making a decision comes up, and hoping that the national situation continues to improve for Labour enough to keep the Conservatives from forming the next government.