Sunday, July 26, 2009

Politics, Cash and Votes

One thing is certain in politics, money alone will not get you elected.

My advice to the Libertarian Party was not to splash the cash in the Norwich North by-election, spend the minimum and regard it as a learning curve. Our young candidate Thomas, 18 years old and awaiting 'A' level results, worked hard but missed cracking the 1%. But it was excellent experience for Thomas, and for a young party standing in our first parliamentary election.

Contrast that with Craig Murray who spent £46,000 to garner just over 3% of the vote, thus also losing his £500 deposit. Those who thought my advice may have been over cautious, pessimistic or jaded by years of experience in smaller party politics, may like to reconsider. Murray also had a much higher profile in Norwich than some of the by-election candidates but fine motives, and a wad of cash don't get you elected.

I know the European elections are different, using a form of proportional representation, but look at the BNP results in June. They spent very little, their opponents generating much of their publicity, and they got two MEPs elected. In June people expressed their fears to me that the BNP were on the verge of a major breakthrough. My view was that European elections are different, people know MEPs are worthless so the few who do vote tend to protest vote more readily than usual. A few weeks after getting an MEP elected, in the Eastern Region, the BNP got 3%, less than Craig Murray, in the Norwich North by-election in that same Eastern Region.

So yes, resources are crucial but there is another huge obstacle to breaking the mould of British politics, as the SDP found in the 1980s, the public. After 12 years of New Labour the public, as always happens after a few years of Labour government, are desperate to get them out. But they only look at who is most likely to do that and, with the establishment and the media feeding off our three party system, that inevitably means the Conservative Party sadly. In the countries of the UK other than England you will get a few nationalists elected and others but here it will be Tories and a few Liberal Democrats, God help us!

What is needed now, more than ever, is for people to vote for what they actually believe in rather than for 'the best of a bad bunch'. I talk to people all the time who express certain political views, such as Libertarianism, but then admit they will vote in a way to get Labour out come the general election, usually meaning Tory. Get some bottle people, and vote for what you want and believe in, that's how real change comes about.

Don't please think that proportional representation is the answer. 'First past the post' rarely ends in clueless middle of the road coalitions, after months of bickering, but PR gave us two BNP MEPs. But that is perhaps another argument to have.

Now I'm off to watch ITV4's excellent coverage of Le Tour de France entering Paris. I may even blog later about it on This Sporting Life.

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