Who the hell am I supposed to vote for? That’s the question that has plagued me for a month now. I have absolutely no idea but I’m determined to work through it right now.
Sunderland has changed a lot in the last couple of decades (the regeneration, Nissan bringing plenty of new jobs, Sunderland being found to be the worst city for deaths caused by excessive alcohol intake and the city is a prime candidate for hosting a WRC event) so it’s easy to see why local elections are important. However, we’re still one of the most deprived areas in the country and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon. My votes are always swayed thanks to what is going on in a national level too- for instance, I was unlikely to vote Labour last time around thanks to a deep distrust of the government.
My voting slip came through the letter box yesterday and there are only four candidates to choose from- one from the Conservatives (surprisingly my local councillor is actually a Tory), a hopeful Liberal Democrat, a Labour candidate and an aspiring member from the Greens.
Just a year ago I was a devout Tory supporter and completely right wing but now I’m beginning to transform into a Marxist. I don’t hate the Conservatives but I don’t agree with a lot of what they stand for. I’m sick of hearing about how Christianity is under attack when it is the church that is denying equal rights based on sexual orientation, I don’t believe in the nuclear family, the Libertarian lot certainly aren’t for me as I don’t think anyone can get through life alone especially the poor and I detest what is happening with the NHS. Yet I struggled to really rule them out. At the General Elections (the first time I could vote) I remember being filled with so much hope and it was because of them. I still like Cameron- the NHS was more Lansley’s fault, he was strong on Libya, he’s good on the international stage, he’s sticking to the cuts whether rightly or wrongly and he’s the one who is trying to push gay marriage through. I don’t always agree with him but he was the one who first sold the Tories to me. It’s the truly Conservative ones behind him that really scare me. If I forget that last shred of loyalty though I know in my heart of hearts that this party can never deliver what I want now. I guess that’s a “no” for them.
I could go then for their partners. The Liberal Democrats are a nice, safe middle ground for the undecided or they used to be. I feel a bit sorry for Clegg; he made all of these promises thinking he would never have to deliver them all and now his party is shackled with the Tories who they fundamentally disagree with. His influence is limited but he has access to power so he’s finding he’s making all sorts of compromises he never dreamed of just to be able to sit on the nice bench. At a local level I imagine the Liberal Democrats will be separate from all that posturing and fighting and will just get on with the job. The problem is I’ve forgotten what they stand for. A tough call so I’ll make them a maybe.
Then there’s the usually safe Sunderland option- Labour. Out of all the parties on an ideological level I’m probably most aligned with them now however, if I struggled to dismiss my loyalty to the Conservatives I’m definitely finding it difficult to trust this team again. I grew up despising Labour. Sunderland did grow under them but compared to other cities we’re completely mistreated, underfinanced and underserved. Labour on a local level may be trusted but endorsing their party is just asking too much. As a whole, they did nothing in government for the north/south divide or for social mobility and that’s the one thing we really need. Too many of the familiar faces who got us into trouble still occupy comfortable positions in the party so they don’t get my vote- at least not yet.
My only remaining option- if I vote- then is the Greens. I don’t like their name. Whenever I’ve heard Caroline Lucas (who seems like a fantastic MP) I’ve always felt that there’s so much more to the party than the terror their name evokes of stealing our light bulbs and monitoring our recycling habits. Most people don’t like to have orders barked at them but that’s always what the word “green” used to mean to me but it doesn’t any more. I believe more needs to be done for the planet and that a green economy makes sense but I also believe in their other policies. They opposed rising tuition fees, they support the legalisation of cannabis, they want to tackle the “poverty trap”, it supports the EU but doesn’t want us to be all buddy buddy at the cost of giving up more of our autonomy and wants a reformed House of Lords (although I think the desire to reduce speed limits is barmy). The big downside is that they’re such an unknown that I have no idea what they’d do at a local level, the upside of that is that they’re the only choice that hasn’t screwed us over already. Voting for them would be a protest more than an endorsement.
After all of this then I guess I’ll plump for the Lib Dems. Or perhaps I’ll take a chance on Labour or the Greens. Or maybe I just won’t vote. I wish there was the option of “no vote” on the form so that the parties could see my disillusionment and work harder to win my trust. It’s interesting to note that so far I’ve only had one leaflet through the door and that was from Labour. At the last election there was a woman from Labour who came in her car with a megaphone attached and shouted up and down the street in a very annoying manner and the only other time that election was brought to my doorstep was when a leaflet landed from the Tories. No one from any political party has ever once knocked on my door despite the fact I’ve lived here since I was born twenty one years ago. Maybe if they put a little more effort into wooing the voters so many of us wouldn’t be disgruntled.