With the general election around the corner loads of people seem to be having complex and heated debates about policies and parties. If, like me, your political knowledge ceases at knowing the definition of “coalition” then it can be rather daunting to think about who we should be voting for, and downright baffling to find yourself amid those debates.
With that in mind I thought I’d share a novice’s guide to voting. I’m no expert but these few steps have helped me feel a bit more confident in casting my vote, so I hope they’ll help you too. I’m obviously not going to talk about how to physically vote, that’s self-explanatory, but rather how to make an informed decision on where to place your “X”.
First of all, it’s really important to vote for the policy, not the politician. Ed Miliband is incredibly annoying, but that doesn’t mean that Labour don’t have some good policies. Charisma (or lack thereof in his case) isn’t really a measure of how well you can structure the running of a country, so the first step should be to check out the policies without really considering the face of the campaign.
I found a really good website for this called Vote for Policies, they basically lay out all the policies relating to certain topics without disclosing the party name. You complete a survey by selecting your preferred policies within that group and at the end you’re given a breakdown of how many times you agreed with each party. Obviously this means sometimes you’re choosing from the lesser of several evils, but that’s politics in general, isn’t it? You’re also prompted to visit the party’s website and read more.
It’s also a good idea to take whatever you read with a big ole pinch of salt. The thing is, they want you to vote for them don’t they? So they’re going to make their promises sound either very good or very vague. Beware of propositions written with super emotive language or without quantifiers. “Increasing education spend” isn’t the same as explaining how much will be spent and on what areas of education, so what might sound like a positive on the surface could actually be a pay rise for the bigwigs in disguise. Why not investigate the confusing elements of their manifesto further, though? All the sites have FAQs and contact options, and whilst you might get lost in a sea of jargon, you might get a bit closer to understanding.
I’ve also found it valuable to consider which media outlets lean toward which party – newspapers in particular. These have a huge sway on how you conceive the big issues and will obviously affect how you feel they should be dealt with. Is the Daily Mail telling you that immigrants are destroying this country? Well, that’s because David Cameron has a policy relating to how long they’ll have to wait before they’re entitled to tax credits. They aren’t the only culprits, though. I’d usually recommend The Independent, who tend not really to sway toward any particular party, but even then err on the side of caution. It’s mostly about free thinking and bearing in mind that a story about a man stealing bread can be about the desperation of the poor and the poverty divide, the lax approach to crime and punishment or the fundamental corruption of a particular group of people – all depending on where you read it.
The hardest thing is putting your faith in a group of people that you’ve most likely been raised to recognise as crooks and conmen – and who are unlikely to appreciate what your life is really like. If you really can’t muster genuine support for a party don’t waste the right to vote by not voting. Go and deface your ballot paper – show lack of confidence instead of indifference, because when your tax is raised, your benefits are cut, your health services are jeopardised and you’re faced with disappointing changes you’ll wish you did something.