This Thursday in between pick up, drop off, a meeting with clients, hockey, ballet, swimming and cooking the dinner, you have one more job: casting your vote.
I know, I know. We’re all sick of the election campaign, of too many parties to know which to vote for, of white men (mostly) “making it quite clear” about the economy and “balancing the books“, of last-minute manifestos and general lack of ideology. You no doubt feel you have too many other things to think about without having to wade through all those manifestos to find out what promises these parties are going to break. And as for tactical voting – don’t start, I can feel a headache coming on! (more on that later).
Whilst I’m as sick of this as you no doubt are – if I hear the phrase “hard working families” one more time I’ll throw something at the radio – I also know how important it is for us women to vote. I say ‘women’ because I know from talking to friends and reading the statistics that it is women particularly who are in what I call the ‘Disillusioned and Daunted’ camp. Disillusioned by the posturing of men in suits who the media portray as posh and out of touch (Cameron), untrustworthy (Clegg) or a bit spineless (Ed). Daunted by the prospect of having to work out which of the 6-7 parties to vote for when they all sound rather similar and few, if any of them, have displayed any kind of vision or ideology in the past 4 years. This business of publishing a manifesto only weeks before an election smacks of pandering to the electorate in the extreme to me (Tories, I’m looking at you!).
A tweet by Suzanne from the blog 3childrenandit a week or so ago summed it up when she said “Discussing politics with the OH. My brain now aches and I’m still no clearer on who my vote will go to *sigh*.”
It’s not that us women aren’t capable of working this out ourselves – far from it! Its just that the voting system and the whole political process is, by nature, rather male. It was set up by men, for men, too many years ago. Thankfully, since then, women have not only got the vote, but have engaged brilliantly in the system over the years (Dame Shirley Williams, Caroline Lucas, Diane Abbott to name a few).
But that said, the fact remains that most policies and laws in this country are made by those we vote for. And whilst its true that corporations have as much power as our politicians, we do have a say in who those politicians will be.
So, unless we can be like comedian Sandi Toksvig and start our own political party (Women’s Equality Party) or come up with an alternative, I simply don’t think we can wash our hands of the whole thing.
You see, I used to have a job that brought me into contact with MPs and into the Houses of Parliament a fair bit and I can tell you, most of them work seriously hard for relatively small pay, do have integrity and care about their constituents. No, they’re not perfect, but nor am I.
If you’ve not yet decided who you’re voting for and you’re too confused by the myriad policies and promises then my advice is to go for your gut feel. Go for the party who has consistently said things that sound like sense to you or resonate with your world view. Go for one with not just a good leader (Maggie was considered ‘a good leader’ but look at what she did with that leadership?) but one who you feel has values you like. Not last minute promises that might be broken in a few weeks time.
And as for tactical voting? Personally I disagree with this. It sends the wrong message to the party you do actually support. It doesn’t let them (and the wretched media) know that there are people out there who want a party like that in power. This is especially important when that party is in the minority. Look at the Greens – their popularity wouldn’t have shown to have grown as it has over the past 15 years if their supporters didn’t vote for them, knowing full well they wouldn’t get into number 10.
So, whatever you’ve got on your plate on Thursday, don’t forget to squeeze in time to pop in and cast your vote. It may be one more thing, but that’s all the more reason to tell the politicians how they should run the country – we know what is needed.
PS If you’re still undecided the BBC website has a great resume of all the party’s policies and manifesto pledges in there BBC Policy Guide. Niki Carrick-Steele (@mamaelsie) has written a great resume of the party’s policies on Education on the latest edition of Post40Bloggers.com. Also, see Mark Mardell’s interesting article Where is the inspiration in this election?