I am a floating voter. My views don’t fit within a single party. It’s much more of a ‘pick and mix’ situation for me. If I could choose a Fantasy Cabinet and vote for that I would. My Fantasy Cabinet would look a bit left of centre on many issues and would have MPs from most of the parties in it. On some issues I change my mind from time to time. I keep myself informed and I think about politics, the economy and equality a lot. I’m also a fan of reform and modernisation of politics and the state.
Admitting to being a floating voter is not a cool thing. We are The Undecided. The agnostics of politics. Without sufficient political backbone we blow around in the wind.
And yet, as a floating voter, I am clear about what I believe on many issues and my beliefs haven’t changed that much over time. I sometimes adjust my views as I learn more about an issue, or if something is particularly complex. Lots of issues are complex and I’m suspicious of simplistic views (e.g. landlords are greedy, immigrants are taking our jobs). In general, I don’t think it’s me who floats, but rather the political parties that float around me. I tend to vote for the one who comes closest. Sometimes I vote tactically.
During the 1990s Blair floated towards me and I supported him (before Blair I found voting an extreme version of the least worst choice). Then Brown floated away and I went Lib Dem. I thought the Lib Dems did a reasonable job of keeping the brakes on the more troublesome policies of the Conservative-led coalition, but didn’t maintain a clear and brave enough vision of what they stood for. I thought the Conservatives were right to focus on the economy and public spending during the last parliament, but it got a bit ideological and scared me particularly in the areas of education reform and benefits sanctions. I support staying in the EU, so the anti-Europeans worry me too. I was cheered by the introduction of same-sex marriage, but wanted more done about tax avoidance.
The Labour party under Ed Miliband, floated further from me, at a time when I so wanted them to come nearer again. Rent controls and tinkering with the price of oil doesn’t work for me and I sensed too much of ‘business is greedy’ vs ‘the poor are noble’ although the emphasis on addressing the wealth gap appealed to me. I got bored with the ‘hard working families’ thing which became both meaningless and patronising from both of the main parties. I always felt that Ed was the wrong guy, although I like him. I felt the Labour party lost this election when Ed was selected over his brother, although I accept this perhaps doesn’t address the collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland. The left made too much of Dave C et al being posh. I wanted to hear more about the alternative and how it might be achieved and I wanted to be reassured that the economy would be in safe hands.
Although the SNP are left of where I’m anchored and I think a break up of the Union would be terrible, their campaign appealed to me. It was a breath of fresh air, it didn’t get repetitive and it didn’t come over as too ‘try hard’. There weren’t any ‘hell yeah’ s or fist pumps or ridiculous tombstones (a serious lapse of judgement). I hope that they become a voice for reform, because we could do with some brave ideas. (Personally I’d start by building a new Parliament for the UK, designed for a modern democracy, but that’s easy for me to say.)
I hope that over this next parliament the Conservatives don’t get too mean and mad and don’t pull us out of Europe or in any way add to the risk of the break up of the Union. I hope that the Labour party chooses a reforming leader who appeals to the centre ground and who can rebuild the Labour party in Scotland. I don’t think these are mutually exclusive objectives. It is important that whoever is given the job can form a strong team around them (a single figurehead is not enough) and act as a robust opposition, because we’re going to need one.
Many left-leaning commentators have rushed to blame the electorate for Thursday’s election result, accusing voters of acting selfishly. It’s no wonder that Conservative voters are ‘shy’ in coming out to the pollsters if this is what they can expect in return for their honesty. Shaming voters will do nothing to build support for the Labour or Liberal Democrat parties. As always it’s about presenting a viable, realistic alternative and it’s about the economy (stupid).