…it’s make your mind up time. Polling stations open around 12 hours after I’m writing this, and close 15 hours after that. Then Britain gets to make its real decision: BBC, ITV or Channel 4 for the election night coverage. Or you could even go for Sky News, the informational equivalent of a spoiled ballot paper.
But before then, there is another decision to be made, and here’s my view of the candidates in Colchester:
One can’t really say much about Ken Scrimshaw of the Christian People’s Alliance as he’s been nowhere to be seen for the past several weeks. As far as I’m aware, he’s not been at any of the hustings, and his knuckles have not rapped at my door or his leaflet landed upon my mat. However, from what I have seen of him and his party, I’m quite confident in saying that voting for someone who regards the Bible as infallible truth is not something I’m likely to do anytime in the near future.
Likewise, as I believe that being in the European Union is a positive for this country and immigration brings massive benefits to this country, there’s no chance of me voting for UKIP’s John Pitts. However, in a spirit of generosity I will say that I agree with Nigel Farage that we need electoral reform and the poisonous air a lot of our elections are carried out in is a result of the ridiculous electoral system we currently use. Beyond that, though, we have very little in common.
Green Party candidate Mark Goacher has impressed me during this campaign. He’s a thoughtful and intelligent man and at the hustings events I’ve seen, he’s engaged with the questions and given honest answers, not merely what people have wanted to hear. Unfortunately, while the Greens do have some very good policies, they also have some incredibly bad ones, to the point where I wonder if they have an overall aim of trying to balance their policy offering between eminently sensible and complete woo. Mark deserves to be congratulated on having a good election campaign, and I think his party’s best days are ahead of it, but for now I couldn’t justify voting for him.
During this election, my impression of Ed Miliband has improved to the point that I think he’s perfectly capable of being a good Prime Minister. He’s an obviously intelligent man who’s thought through issues in some depth and shows remarkable calm and resilience in the face of the attacks he’s undergone over the past four and a half years. If I was living in a different constituency where Labour could defeat the Tories, I would consider tactically voting for them (as I did in 1992). However, Colchester’s not that sort of constituency and Jordan Newell definitely isn’t that candidate. An on-message neo-Blairite robot is not the type of Labour candidate I would consider voting for.
In contrast to Ed Miliband, my opinion of David Cameron has fallen during this campaign. He’s run a campaign based on fear, lies and division, preferring to risk tearing the country and the continent apart if it means he gets to cling to power. Will Quince, his candidate in Colchester would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Cameron’s dangerous policies, be it cutting billions from support for the worst off in society, risking our economy with an ill-conceived plan for an EU referendum or being prepared to discard our human rights. He wins the award for the most disingenuous bit of politico-speak I’ve seen in Colchester this election:
Which of your parties specific policies do you LEAST agree with?
I pledge to be an independent-minded MP and will always put my constituents first. If that means voting against my party, then so be it. There will always be difficult decisions to take but I will never forget that the people of Colchester are my boss.
For all the fine words about being ‘independent-minded’, he neglects to mention any issues he might be independent about or even mildly disagree with his party on. You can judge a man by the company he keeps, and whether it’s the glee with which the members of Colchester’s Tory group have suggested sacking hundreds of Council staff or the negative campaigning and dog-whistle politics of his party, both locally and nationally, it’s clear that the Tories remain the nasty party, and sending another Tory MP to Parliament would be a bad thing for both our town and our country.
Which leaves us with Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester for 18 years and a man you may or may not be surprised to learn I’ve had many arguments with during my eight years as a councillor, but who I will still be voting for tomorrow. I don’t agree with Bob on everything, and over the past few years, I’ve disagreed with many of the things he and other Liberal Democrats in Parliament have voted for. However, no matter how much we like to talk about Doctor Who within the party, we don’t possess time travel and we can’t go back and do it all again with knowledge of how it will all turn out, but we can do the best to make the future a better place. I don’t agree with Bob with Bob on everything but I trust him to represent Colchester in Parliament far better than any of the other candidates. He’ll continue to infuriate me on a regular basis, but I would far rather be infuriated by him than by any of the other options. The Liberal Democrat manifesto (and party leadership) may have plunged down the road to centrist managerialism, but it still contains more good idea than any of the others and a heart and humanity that are sorely lacking in most of the other parties.
Aside from telling you how I’m intending to vote here, I’m not going to make any recommendations or endorsements, though I would ask you to sign this petition for electoral reform so the issue doesn’t get forgotten about as soon as the election’s done. I have been looking through some of 2010 election blogging and found this that I write about who or what to vote for, which I think stands the test of time:
You have a choice today when you go to vote. It’s a simple one: do you choose hope or fear? Do you vote because you’re scared of what the Daily Mail predicts, scared of all those nasty foreign people, scared of changing things that people say have worked for them for so long, scared of your neighbours, scared of those young people with nothing to do, scared of everything somehow going wrong unless the media’s designated strong government in waiting is allowed absolute power to tell you they’re dealing with all these problems while spending your money on finding new ways to terrify you? Or do you choose something else?
And so that brings 38 days of election blogging to an end, which has felt like a particularly nasty route march at times, but has generally been fun and interesting to do again. Now I get to shift to results blogging, then interminable government-formation negotiation blogging until we finally find ourselves with a new Government and I can get on with boring you about my Masters dissertation. I’d like to thank all of you who’ve been reading these posts, all the parties who are standing, especially those who were my minor party of the day, and all the people who’ve uploaded things to Election Leaflets to allow me to point and laugh at them. Please make sure you get out and vote tomorrow, even if it’s just to spoil your ballot paper, and let’s just hope we don’t have to do it all again later this year.
One thing that’s interested me this election is that the Tories appear to not be bothering in the local election in my ward. We haven’t received a single leaflet from them mentioning their local election candidate, but that’s not too much of a surprise when the large majority of Tory propaganda we’ve received hasn’t even bothered to name their Parliamentary candidate.
However, after spending the weekend arsing around with a cardboard cutout of Nick Clegg, I finally spotted our local Tory candidate for Castle Ward on my street last night, and he was actually delivering something. Unfortunately, it yet again failed to mention him or their Parliamentary candidate, and was instead a rather nasty smear leaflet trying to claim that Bob Russell is responsible for all crime in Colchester. Indeed, if you didn’t notice the rather blurry imprint in very small writing, you might think it was something independent and not actually a Tory campaign leaflet. I’m sure that wasn’t intentional on their part, as was the fact it omitted to mention that one of the leading local anti-knife crime campaigners backs Bob’s re-election.
I think it shows the contempt the Tories hold the electorate in by not running on their own record and policies, but instead spreading lies and fear amongst the electorate. Whether it’s fear of crime, or fear of the people of Scotland daring to vote how they want to, the Tory campaign has been a spectacularly unedifying spectacle, seeking to do nothing more than whip up divisions within the country.
Locally and nationally, Tory policies are dangerous, and coupled with a mentality that’s happy to divide society and whip up fear for short-term electoral gain, they don’t deserve to be in power. We all have the power to ensure that they’re not.
There’s one question that’s been predominant in my thoughts today: as the leaders set off on their final legs of their great campaign tours, some of them are promising to campaign day and night and go without sleep. So, how exactly do you campaign at 3am? Yes, there are a few people working overnight shifts and people who happen to be up at that time for one reason or another, but is loitering around a police officer on a night beat really the best use of anyone’s time compared to sleep?
John Thurso on a casual day.
Nick Clegg’s on a tour of the UK from Land’s End to John O’Groats (both conveniently Lib Dem-held and giving us a chance to review John Thurso’s facial hair at the end of the campaign) which gives me an idea for a fundraising challenge to coincide with the next general election if it goes on the same schedule. If you go at around 20-25 miles a day and stick to the more direct routes on the roads (I was on a more roundabout route), you can walk Land’s End to John O’Groats in less time than it would take to run the entire election campaign. So you could start on the day the campaign begins, get to John O’Groats and still have time to get back and vote. Maybe that’s what I’ll do for 2020, and count the posters on the way.
In local election news, I went to the Meet The Candidates event at the Mercury Theatre yesterday evening, which was an interesting experience even if I didn’t learn that much new about any of them. Indeed, the biggest mystery of all remains to be answered: just who is Ken Scrimshaw, our Christian People’s Alliance candidate? From chatting to seasoned hustings-goers it seems he hasn’t turned up at any of them, which does make me wonder if he’s been Raptured and taken away from search Earthly considerations as elections. So have any of you seen CPA candidates at any time since the election started, or should we be concerned?
For a more detailed analysis of the hustings, see Jason’s report at the Colchester Chronicle. For me, it reminded me why these sort of things are very frustrating to be at when I’m not a candidate as there are so many things I take umbrage with and want to interject into the debate and argue about them. Especially when a discussion about the economy gets derailed by the household fallacy and repeating mediamacro myths straight away, its hard to stay silent. I did manage it, though, and just kept most of my grumbling to angry ranting on Twitter which I hope amused someone.
Big election complaint today: I’ve had several emails from the Lib Dems about Operation Manatee today, and not one of them has used the ‘oh, the huge manatee!’ meme. I mean, what is the world coming to when a party can’t spot the obvious image that all it’s internet-savvy members think of as soon as they see the word ‘manatee’? Unless this is all just a big wind up, and the plan is merely to drop that image on millions of voters on Thursday morning, but with Paddy Ashdown’s head superimposed on the manatee.
Perhaps fittingly as we approach the end of an election that’s revealing all sorts of issues with the way the UK works, today’s one candidate party with a dream of greater things is the Democratic Reform Party. And linking to an earlier election update, their candidate in Lewisham Deptford is a badger. Well, he’s called Phillip Badger, which is close enough, even if he’s not a nocturnal mammal. Their policies are actually what their name suggests – reforming the way Britain works to bring power a lot closer to people – though someone in their party seems to have got a bit carried away when coming up with their ‘Online Parliament’ policy process, which makes the Liberal Democrat one look simple and streamlined. They also appear to have a penchant for stock photography on their website, which does make them look oddly generic at points. Still, good luck to them, and maybe the people of Deptford will rise up and demand reform on Thursday.
Some interesting stuff on Election Leaflets as the end gets nearer – I’d love someone to explain the issues on this one, or point me to somewhere I can find out more, for instance – but today’s featured leaflet has to be King Arthur Pendragon, standing as an independent in Salisbury. Yes, the King Arthur Pendragon often seen protesting at Stonehenge who believes himself to be the reincarnation of the ‘real’ King Arthur, and here described as ‘Titular Head and Chosen Chief’ of ‘the Warrior/Political arm of the Druid Movement’. Which is a much better title than leader of a party, I suppose. He’s stood at elections before, gaining 459 votes in Aldershot in 2001, 581 votes in Winchester in 2005 and 290 in Salisbury in 2010, so he hasn’t yet come close to retaining his deposit, let alone getting himself elected.
Only one more election blog post to go until the day itself! The finish line is crawling closer and we’ll soon find out whether the voting public can match up to the opinion polls, or if we can reject the result as it was a self-selecting sample and therefore not a statistically valid test of public opinion.
Only a few days left for me as a councillor – I’m not quite sure if my term ends when my replacement is announced on Friday, or if I’m technically still in office over the weekend – but I’ve been chatting with Jason from the Colchester Chronicle about my decision to step down, which he’s now published as a post.
And if you missed it, my original post explaining why it’s time to move on is here.
As in the rest of the country, our local Tories are never averse to screaming ‘dirty Lib Dem negative campaigning’ when anyone says something that’s less-than-positive about them (and those sort of comments are frequent in Colchester when they propose silly ideas like this). Of course, what’s sauce for the goose is never allowed to be sauce for the gander, and the Tories are always keen to point out that their own campaigns are as pure as the driven snow, never negative or personal. Which makes this hard to describe.
(The original Tweet is here, that’s a screengrab in case wiser Tory heads have it removed) Ben Locker (the person on the left in the picture) is the Tory candidate for Mile End Ward in the local elections and also a friend and regular campaigner for Will Quince, the local Tory candidate. Judging from the pictures here and here, it appears that Castle Ward Tory candidate Darius Laws, another close associate of Quince, is also involved in this little stunt, which in absolutely no way surprises me.
This is what our local Tory campaign has been reduced to – wandering around with a carboard cutout of Nick Clegg, encouraging people to believe it’s all his fault. Whatever ‘it’ is and how ‘it’ can all be Nick Clegg’s fault is a question that Ben Locker refuses to answer. It does seem an odd message to be spreading, given that the Conservatives have been the larger party in the coalition, but maybe he’s just following the logic of their attacks on the SNP to their logical conclusion? If he genuinely believes his party’s idiotic propaganda that a Labour government would have to do whatever the SNP says, maybe he thinks that’s how the last Government was run too? It’s quite clear from their local proposals that Colchester Tories have no idea how local government works, so perhaps it’s fair to assume that understanding national government is a project that’s way too complicated for them.
If the Tories want to spend their time on silly personalised negative campaign, that’s entirely up to them, but they shouldn’t expect other people to forget it, and they certainly shouldn’t start complaining when people criticise them.
This weblog is purely a personal site and unless explicity stated otherwise any opinions stated are purely personal and do not represent those of Colchester Liberal Democrats, Castle Ward Liberal Democrats or Colchester Borough Council.