European elections

Tomorrow I will be voting in the European elections, having my say as to which party should represent me as an MEP. It is an election that traditionally encourages protest votes as most policy changes enacted by the European parliament are decided by unelected officials. MEPs are well paid members of a talking shop with little real power.

I would like to discuss with my friends why I will be voting for the party of my choice, to enter into an intelligent and nuanced debate on the pros and cons of each candidate and their policies. I find that I cannot. The campaign has been littered with the negative, with finding reasons to despise this or that candidate and their party. There has been little discussion of the positive change that any plan to offer.

I have seen sweeping statements appear on the feeds of my friends’ social media: ‘If anyone I know even thinks of voting for x I will unfriend them’ ; ‘How can you consider x when y from their party has done z?’ It would appear that some think I should not consider all options, even if only for long enough to find a valid reason to reject. I wonder if I am unwise even writing about this in case someone feels offended enough to cut me off because they think I may not be acting in a way that they can approve.

The big three political parties in Britain are now held in general contempt due to their recent history of governance at a domestic level. The changes that they have enacted are littered with broken promises, hypocritical treatment of the rich compared to the poor in society, and endemic milking of the system for personal gain. During this recent campaign a certain smaller party has been subjected to an orchestrated smear campaign to ensure that the unsavoury prejudices of their candidates overshadow any chance to debate policy. The message has largely been ‘Don’t vote for them’ rather than ‘Vote for me’.

All of this leaves a bad taste in the mouth, an inclination to feel such despair as to make it seem hopeless even to exercise my right to vote, because none of the parties appear worthy of support.

But I will be voting, even if it is with a heavy heart. I will be placing my cross on the ballot paper having thought long and hard about my options. I will not be discussing my decision with friends though, because emotions are running too high amongst those who care.

Politics is such a tricky topic to debate. Each of the parties standing have some policies that I agree with, and many that I do not. Those who have exercised power in the past have a track record that is enough to preclude them from even being considered, yet consider them I will because there are no other options. I see voting as a duty. Many women fought relentlessly to win my right to vote and I will exercise it, even if I cannot fully support any of the candidates who stand.

When I try to discuss this with friends though, all of our most deep seated prejudices seem to come to the fore. They will cite individuals behaviour, the calamitous results of policies from the past. They will point out the suffering inflicted as a result of a party’s actions, even when their own party of choice did nothing either then or subsequently to right the cited wrong. We each dredge up evils to illustrate why a particular party should not be considered, whilst selectively downplaying the evils of those we support.

There are obvious policies that we can all agree with: a desire for equality, justice, support for those in need. The debate rages around how these tenets should be defined. There are policies that we can all agree are desirable, yet few examples of any party enacting these in a way that we can fully applaud. Each party has members who say or do things that are almost breathtakingly appalling, yet we cite only those who back up the points we wish to make.

It is messy and personal, full of judgement at perceived foolishness. It is not worth losing a friend over.

I do not regard tomorrow’s vote as hugely important, except in how the outcome may affect future policy decisions made by our home government. In a years time we will have the chance to vote in a general election, and that one matters a great deal more. Given the contempt in which MPs are now regarded, they are likely to fight a dirty battle for the votes that will ensure they continue to live in the manner to which they have grown accustomed. Deciding which of these ne’er-do-wells gets my vote will be a very tough call.




2 comments on “European elections

  1. Gillybirds says:

    We have two first time voters in our house. There has been plenty of discussion over voting choice. It is refreshing to have the opinions of those born after “the Troubles”

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