I suppose before we go any further it’s worth giving you a bit of background on what my involvement has been in past general elections. I’m intending for this to be a politically neutral blog (something that I’m quite good at doing is arguing every point of view simultaneously) but I have, in the past, been a member of a political party. Bringing you up to speed on that, and what my involvement was, not only puts all my cards on the table but also might give you an idea as to why I have a bit of insight onto how the whole ‘election’ process works.
For the past two general election campaigns I was an active member of the Liberal Democrats. I campaigned on their behalf and worked closely with the local parliamentary candidates throughout the campaigns. I attended planning meetings, spent many an hour in local town centres talking to people, went door-to-door canvassing and got up at 3am on polling day to deliver thousands of ‘get out the vote’ leaflets. I produced election leaflets and materials and spent some time reading up on electioneering and campaigning.
In addition I attended the counts at the last two elections as a party observer, firstly in Loughborough and then, in 2010, in my current constituency of Erewash. I spent most of the election night tallying off votes as they were verified and counted out of the ballot boxes from target wards. I remember distinctly being somewhat worried when tallying off the votes from a particular box in Erewash where (by my count) over 60% of the votes were for the British National Party. (Attending the count does give you a very useful indication of the areas of your constituancy where you may or may not want to live. Being a marginal constituency Erewash has pretty much every extreme. Some ballot boxes produced over 90% of votes for the Conservative party whereas others produced a similar amount for Labour. One ward in Sawley was very heavily Liberal Democrat – bizarrely not one we had targeted – which may say something about our campaign. There was one particular box where three votes had been spoilt with a very crude drawing of a piece of the male anatomy. While it’s nice to see that certain areas of Ilkeston have a thriving bohemian artistic community, the fact that three people out of only 600 or so decided to draw that same image is, perhaps, slightly worrying.)
The benefit of being at the count is that you get to know the election result around three hours before it is formally announced. There’s nothing dodgy with that, it’s just due to the vote verification and counting process that is used. I’ll cover the mechanics of the count in much more detail in a later post but, for the record, if you follow the twitter feeds of the election agents at the various marginal counts around the country you’ll know what the picture is well in advance of the BBC. It was through this backroom network that we found out relatively early on in 2010 that the perceived Liberal Democrat surge had not represented itself in actual votes – while those on the BBC were arguing that the exit poll that showed exactly this point must be very wrong.
Shortly after the 2010 election I left the Liberal Deomcrats. There were a number of reasons for this but it was mostly to do with how the seniors in the party decided to conduct themselves in that first year of coalition government. I appreciate that a coalition is all about compromise, but the party sacrificed an awful lot for what eventually turned out to be very little gain. I felt we had misrepresented ourselves to a large number of voters and, having stood on a doorstep and told people ‘in government we will do x’, only to then do the exact opposite, I felt the Westminster party had let its local supporters and activists down.
So for the past four years I have been sans-party, an undecided voter if you will. I honestly don’t know who I am going to vote for in four weeks time.
If you look at my current profession and industry I should be voting Conservative. If you look at my background and where I grew up I should be voting Labour. But if you take into account the fact that I have, on occasion, got very drunk on cider while on holiday in the South West, I should still be voting Lib Dem.
Maybe in the next four weeks I will find some clarity. Hopefully you will too.