As an activist I am intolerant of those people who won’t exercise their vote. Universal franchise was only achieved after an heroic struggle and we owe it to previous generations to make the effort. I would much sooner see people abstaining by spoiling their ballot paper with a rude comment than not bothering at all.
Given my values, and my undeniably tribal background, it would be hard to see circumstances in which I wouldn’t vote Labour. I did hold my nose when voting for some of our candidates in the worse excesses of the extreme left in Islington in the 1980s. I often wonder where they ended up politically. My support was also tested in the later years of the Blair premiership.
There is however one vote that I cast that I regret. This was in the May 2011 referendum on electoral reform. To remind ourselves the question posed was: “At present, the UK uses the first past the post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the alternative vote system be used instead?”. The alternative vote (AV) would have allowed people to indicate a second preference on their ballot paper.
The result of the referendum was an overwhelming ‘no’, with 67.90 % of the population voting against. I was amongst the 67.90% but I was wrong. I voted that way, like I suspect many others, to give the LibDems a bloody nose for their duplicity over student fees. They had made a referendum on electoral reform, for which they had campaigned for many years, a condition of their coalition agreement and jettisoned everything else to that end. I have always supported electoral reform and admit to some twisted logic by voting against. However the betrayal of the promise on student fees – the LibDems promised to abolish them and voted in favour of a three-fold increase – made me so angry.
Would AV make a difference to the result here in North Norfolk? My guess is that it could. UKip are likely to poll well but will not win. If we had AV the destination of their second preference could indeed alter the outcome, though it is hard to say which way. Their voters are a motley lot and our canvass returns suggest that are drawn from across all parties.