“Politics” is a world of grey areas and “yes, but”s that, for most of my life, I’ve gone out of my way to keep clear of. Not only is it murky and difficult to understand but it is also, for the most part, deeply tedious - no matter how glamorous West Wing may have made it look.
However, as I get older, it’s becoming more and more obvious that not everyone sees the world in the same way that I do and that rather than standing back and shouting about how crazy everything is, I need to get involved and try and do what little I can to affect things, to make things more fair.
It is a thankless task with very little gratification as what is fair is commonly hamstrung by what is most profitable.
Back in 2010, as the election drew close, British politics was a bleak landscape with very little hope left in it. Rocked by the global recession, led by a conservative Labour party fronted by Gordon Brown, a man solidly lacking in charisma (perhaps chosen as an antidote to the winning, grinning, war-mongering Tony Blair) things were bleak.
Then something strange happened. Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, stood forth from the crowd and made the Lib Dems look like something close to a viable option. Suddenly, I dared to hope.
Having always harboured the feeling that I would ideally vote Lib Dem if they ever displayed anything close to a real ambition of challenging the Tory/New Tory dichotomy, I dared to dream. As The Cleggster strode through the reams of broken promise metaphors, his honest face beaming with hope and pride in his ideals, his manifesto held boldly before him, his attitude indomitable - I allowed myself to hope.
For once I could use my precious vote, my tiny democratic voice, to shout for what I believe rather than the usual shout for what I believe has the best chance of keeping the Tories and their relentless “Fuck you, poor people” beliefs and slyly elitist policies, out of power. How they continue to operate with any kind of popular mandate totally escapes my comprehension.
Unfortunately it was all in vain as Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems turned king-makers to the Tories in return for precious few scraps. The man himself got a front-row seat as Cameron’s Apology-Monkey (or Deputy Prime Minister) working hard to explain why complete U-Turns on strongly campaigned Lib Dem policies such as voting No to university tuition fee increases were totally the right thing for him and Cameron to do.
A lot of people are quite angry at Clegg for everything that has happened in the wake of the Election (the tuition fees snafu being an especially low point for Nick) but I think that this misses the point.
Firstly, the Tories won the majority of seats in the election. Clegg aligning the Liberal Democrats with the Tories was arguably the right thing to do, following the will of the people and putting the Lib Dems in a much stronger position to affect change and shape policies than in a weak Labour-Lib Dem coalition.
Secondly, hating Clegg is exactly what David Cameron wants. The more we hate Clegg, the less attention we’re paying to the people that are forcing his hand.
For example, the No to AV campaign (popular among Tories) is utilising the contempt of the people for the Deputy Prime Minister in their leaflets. After a stream of unsubstantiated nonsense attributed to Vernon Bodganor, Professor of Government at Oxford University, which claims that AV would immediately mean an increase in Lib Dem numbers and therefore more hung parliaments, the leaflet states “Under the Alternative Vote, the only vote that would count would be Nick Clegg’s”.
On the other side of the leaflet is a laundry list of Lib Dem broken promises. Fully half of this No2AV pamphlet is devoted to demonising Clegg before insisting that the AV system will somehow magically ensure a boost in Lib Dem numbers, which is scientifically assured by clever people to be bad. It’s bogglingly stupid. Similarly, a previous pamphlet listed the complexity of the voting system as a reason to vote it down before succinctly explaining the system.
The one argument No2AV.org have going for them is that the new system will cost more, but what price proportional representation? What price for a system that can help to avoid the need for tactical voting, a system in which voters can follow their hearts and know that, should their first choice not win, their voice can still be heard in driving forward a party of similar ideals rather than standing silent and wasted against an opposite force?
One major reason for voting yes on AV is that David Cameron feels in his gut that it’s a bad idea. This is a quote I came across while watching a video about this subject on guardian.co.uk website by Headline Superheroes.
Mr Cameron, Dave, if you will, feels in his gut that this system is a bad idea. It’s entirely possible that Dave went on to provide some non-bilious reasons for his opposititon to the system, but I love the idea that he left it at that. Ultimately it would be his way of avoiding the answer, “because the Tories are no-one’s second choice and AV would ultimately hurt us”.
People shouldn’t need to check which way the wind is blowing to make sure that their voice is heard. It may be imperfect, but AV is a positive step in the right direction. A journey of a thousand miles and all that…