How does one decide whether or not to vote for a politician? That is a question that I have often wondered. Do you vote for their own views on big national issues such as the NHS, tuition fees, austerity and the economy and the environment, or do you vote for them based on what they say they’ll do to address issues closer to home in the community such as crime rates and local unemployment, or do you vote for them based on which party they are a member of, and your own tribal loyalty?
Since Jeremy Corbyn took power of Labour, the Left has increasingly become more radicalised, more socialist, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Corbyn and his US counterpart Bernie Sanders have sparked an interest in politics amongst the young that hasn’t been seen in decades. In the recent general election in the UK, the turnout amongst voters aged between 18-25 was higher than it had been since the 1992 general election. Many voters and many pundits have attributed this to Jeremy Corbyn and the ideals he espouses which have captured the hearts of many thousands of young people.
This is not a bad thing. For democracy to survive and prosper the young as well as the old need to feel like they have a share in events, that their voice matters and that it will be listened to. Young people engaged more thoroughly with the 2017 general election because Corbyn and his candidates in Labour brought up issues that mattered to the young. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats then scrambled to present themselves as also trying to connect with the young, but often fell short.
However, despite this, it is important to remember that Labour did not get a majority. They did not even get enough seats to form a properly cohesive minority government. So, whilst their message might have resonated with the young it did not really clinch them line and sinker. The Conservatives held onto power by the skin of their teeth, or rather Arlene Foster’s teeth, and the DUP have gained concessions for a region badly hit by a recession amongst other issues.
This returns us to the main crux of the article. What or how do you decide to vote for a candidate? There is no certified research, there are no papers published which truly identify voting trends, and it is technically illegal to ask someone how they voted. Still, upon asking several people how they would vote if there was an election tomorrow and why, they all answered either Labour or Conservative, not because of the potential candidates that would be put up by the parties-because of course how could they know that- but because they had either always voted for one of the two parties, or because either party had views or policies that chimed with their personal beliefs.
Now, this is a perfectly reasonable reason to vote, if a party shares your views or has policies you like, naturally you will vote for them, the concern comes in when the candidate that party puts up in your constituency does not necessarily hold true to the key issues that you do, or does not truly spend time within the constituency to try and bring about something measuring accountability or achievement.
Roger Godsiff the MP for Hall Green in Birmingham was elected with a thumping forty thousand majority; against a Conservative candidate whose home base was in Herefordshire. Hall Green has been a Labour safe seat for over twenty years, speak to the average person on the street and they will tell you they are Labour supporters and as one man told me. “It doesn’t matter who they put up here, we’re going to vote Labour, because who else will listen to us in London?” Hall Green is a big constituency it contains affluent and poor areas, but the majority vote Labour, because they either always have done or simply don’t like the other options. This suggests a worrying point. That when there is a lack of credibility for voters, they will stick with the safe choice, even if that choice will end up shooting them in the foot. Roger Godsiff is one such example, he has not attended many Parliament votes, nor has he ever truly submitted anything of note in regards to his constituency. Very few in the constituency actually know who he is.
Similar things happen across the country. MPs are elected for the party they represent, not for what they themselves wish to do for their constituency. The presence of safe seats such as Hall Green, Bromsgrove, Erdington and others suggest this. This is a worrying concern and one that needs addressing. As long safe seats exist, and as long as voters vote on tribal not logical lines, there will be trouble for democracy as someone will always inevitably get left out in the cold, and that’s not very democratic now is it?