The UK General Election has been called for 5 May*. The BBC's Andrew Marr provides (as always) a great context and analysis. I like my local representative, Clive Soley MP (Labour), not least because has a weblog (updated personally and regularly) which he uses to engage with his constituents. He's also sufficiently involved at the Commons, and although I don't agree with his whole voting record, his views and comments (from reading his weblog) are generally in tune with mine, and he seems to ask the right questions.
However, he's not getting my vote. There are certain issues where I'm not on the same card as Labour, or Soley, and there are broader issues to do with their respect for debate where I definitely disagree. Case in point: fox hunting. I don't like fox hunting. A ban, I believe, was something to aim for. There are a lot of issues, however, where I have a certain opinion and a lot of other people have a different one. That's an opportunity for debate, understanding, and attempting to grasp the other person's point of view. A ban, in short, shouldn't necessarily have been the outcome.
Just because I happen to agree with Labour on this issue doesn't mean I agree with the way they made the decision. If decisions carry on being made like that - forcing legislation through without full understanding of context and issues - I don't want to be on the other side of the fence. Over the Iraq war, a lot of people were.
There's an unpleasant lack of respect displayed by the Government for the electorate, and that's reflected by an unpleasant lack of respect citizens of this country have for each other and for people in general. There's an unhealthy obsession with consuming and entitlement, and with the individual.
I'm still closer to Labour than I am with any other party. But, like the Economist, I'm looking at the Liberal Democrats (actually mainly this Economist article, but it's behind a pay-for wall). They're strong and consistent on civil liberties, and their background in local government has demonstrated a respect for community and situated decision making. If they could back this up with a consistent economic policy (closer to the current levels), I'd be very pleased. And I believe they should have a chance to show what they're made of.
The Conservatives have not held the Government to account, and the Tory philosophy appears to be one of rubber-stamping whatever the gut response of the day is: I don't want to pay tax! I want better hospitals! I want to shoot burglars! This is a difficult moral dilemma so I'll legislate against it! It's stupid. If the country worked best with all individuals doing whatever they wanted the whole time, we wouldn't need a government, and just because you think things from moment to moment, it doesn't mean it'll work in practice. A government is there to provide a baseline to prevent it being a free-for-all where you have to watch your back (and what you say) and carry a gun, so this can be a civilised society where we can prosper freely, and are encouraged to help each other out, as citizens, not consumers. (And I don't mind saying that seeing the speeches of the Conservative choice in the constituency I grew up in makes me feel ill.)
The Lib Dems, on the other hand, have been on the ball and presented well thought-through critique in most interviews I've heard on the radio, have policies and - more importantly - a general attitude I want to see promoted, and a good chance of being strong in the next Parliament.
So despite the strong Conversative showing in elections in Ealing, Action and Shepherd's Bush (Labour about 50%, Conversative at 25% and Lib Dems at 10-15%), and the chance they'll get in if Labour support drops, I'm taking the risk. Even if the Lib Dems don't get elected here, it sends a message to the other parties that this is a point of view that needs to be regarded and taken seriously.
Short of some terrible manifesto error, the Liberal Democrats will get my vote.
* I think it's important to use the date-before-month convention when writing it down like this, because when we all move to a planet with a slow rotation we'll have to start numbering the months, and
May 5 will become ambiguous.
Update: (I since understand that Soley is retiring. This makes no difference.)