When asking how people would vote yesterday, Krishnan Guru-Murthy encountered confusion and bewilderment. In his words “I have never seen before so little idea what to do”.
The ideological certainties of left and right are confused by political marketeers targeting soft votes and ignoring core support. Understandably this makes for frustration and accusations of being taken for granted by those in safe seats and cynicism from those who see themselves as targets of a politician’s munificence.
The end result is a statement, as made by a member of my family that “they’re all bent and I’m not voting”. I think a lot of people feel that way right now and it will be interesting if their numbers will increase or decrease as a result of the next five or six weeks.
Who will manage us best?
I sense we are going through a readjustment from simple party choices to complex multi-party choices. Cameron’s insistence that this is about a choice between him and Milliband doesn’t ring true to me at all. More like it’s a choice between whoever will work with Cameron and Milliband and they might include Liberals, SNP, Plaid Cymwru, the Greens, UKIP and the DUP.
The political leaders will be people who can bring others with them and manage effectively through consensus. You may not like the croneyism of it, but the coalition of the last five years has been effective, at least in joint management.
Making the choice easier
In my field , pensions, things are much easier because we have had a good minister who, by common consent, could manage the pension brief for any party. Were Steve Webb re-elected, or even kicked into the Lords to govern from there, there would be relief among most pensions people.
I am not able to vote for Steve Webb but I can vote for his party and quite likely will. Steve makes my choice easier (though I hope to give further support to the shadow pension minister Gregg McClymont- who I hope upon hope gets returned by the electors of Cumbernauld.
My choice is easier as I can see that a strong pension minister is needed to manage the reforms in train and to do something to stop the Office of Pension Irresponsibility- the Treasury.
Many of us will vote on single issues.
Europe, immigration , the budget deficit, jobs and most of all the NHS and welfare. Those, like me, voting on pension issues, will be in a tiny minority but the mosaic of individual decision making creates a picture which- in years to come – comes into some kind of focus.
Many of us will not vote
Where the difficulty of choice leads to apathy or hostility against the political process, many people, who would have voted, may chose not to. This does not add to the mosaic and does not give us a big picture. It simply concentrates the power of decision making on a smaller voting pool.
People who spoil ballot papers, do no more than waste a couple of seconds of the counter’s time. Their votes will be cast into a waste paper bin and forgotten.
Why I will vote
The democratic system we have in this country is not perfect, for many years I have wanted a better voting system but I sense that there is less need for proportional representation and more need now for some kind of online voting.
I will vote because I am part of a mosaic and though when they look at the big picture, no-one will see the piece I represent, without that piece, the picture would be diminished.
I will vote because for generations my family has voted and I do so to honour my father who stood for local and national office. Respect for the achievements of earlier generations is a driver
Finally, I think the new politics is – once we have got to grips with it – much better. The fragmentation of political parties , the movement away from ideology to management and the concentration on single issues are by-products of a new social empowerment where every individual has his or her voice.
Power to the people?
The ability for people to influence Government through what they write, say and how they get their message out, has increased over the past ten years. We have opportunities to have our say on everything from radio shows to twitter and there’s a fairly good chance that if we say it well, it will be retweeted or repeated and we may get a call for us to appear on something or write for something and become a part of the wider debate.
People are no longer frightened or in awe of the TV, it is no more than a big You-Tube, the amplification of Facebook and Twitter can give bloggers more influence than politicians.
The new politics
We have new ways of doing things and coming to grips with these changes is challenging. At 53, I may be half way through my voting life and am as interested in what is to come as in what has happened. I see many, my father among them, totally mystified by the new politics in which they seem to play no part.
I see my son setting out in his career, so familiar with the new campaigning trumpets that to print a poster or a leaflet is not even on his agenda. Talking with him, it is about getting things done, a party label is merely the brand by which he and his peers can get themselves heard.
He is standing as a conservative at his school on pragmatic grounds – his views are those of his father and his grandfather and are very far away from the conventional image of the braying Tory-Boy.
I am looking for some honesty in this election from certain politicians who will accept the new conditions of power – that majority Government is likely over, that minority Government is unsustainable over a 5 year fixed-term and that coalition is not only likely but desirable.
Such a politician, and they do not just have to be from a smaller party, is someone who I would trust and support.