Modern representative democracy really does tend to have a strong “lesser of two evils” theme to it in countries where a small number of major parties dominate. One wonders to what extent the average person casts their vote with the tactical aim of keeping a particular party out of office, as opposed to voting in a strategic sense for a party that they have some belief in. With the UK election now looming, Gary Younge has what might prove to be a telling piece in the Guardian, describing why he’s not that fond of Labour but could never vote for the Tories:
I hate them for a reason. For lots of reasons, actually. For the miners, apartheid, Bobby Sands, Greenham Common, selling council houses, Section 28, lining the pockets of the rich and hammering the poor – to name but a few. I hate them because they hate people I care about. As a young man Cameron looked out on the social carnage of pit closures and mass unemployment, looked at Margaret Thatcher’s government and thought, these are my people. When all the debating is done, that is really all I need to know.
I get the impression that this election may turn out to be rather closer than one would think because of the relative prevalence of this sort of thinking, the unevenness of support for the Liberal Democrats, and the inability of the Conservatives to swing voters their way in all the seats that matter. We’ll know either way in a couple of days.
Of course, with Tony Abbott proving to be a fairly divisive figure locally, there are clear parallels with the Australian situation, and our forthcoming federal election. How many voters, a little disgruntled with Rudd Labor but very unimpressed by some of Abbott’s more extreme and controversial views, will cast their votes for the least objectionable party?