Why bother voting if you don’t live in a marginal constituency? This is the question posed by a BBC News article published today. (here)
Exactly the question I have been asking myself in the runup to the election on May 5th.
To explain to those who aren’t politically savvy, a marginal constituency is where the area that you vote in, judging on the results from the last election has 2 or more candidates that could possibly win the seat. This is judged by how far apart they were last time.
In my constituency, Cardiff South & Penarth, there is little to no chance that Alun Michael, the current Labour electorate, will lose the vote. He has won each and every time since 1988 and his pre-decessor, the late James Callaghan (recently passed away, ex-prime minister) held the seat from 1945 to 1988. A long, long time.
In the 2001 general election, Alun Michael won by a clear 12,287 votes. To give you a picture of how big a win he enjoyed, his closest rival, Maureen Owen, received 7,807 whilst he received 20,094. Close to 3x more.
As far as I can see, the picture is going to be pretty much the same this time around, my vote for the Liberal Democrats is basically going to do absolutely nothing to change anything. So why should I bother wasting my time walking to the polling station? (For reference, the Lib Dems only received 4,572 votes last time around).
However, in the constituency bordering mine, Cardiff Central, the Labour MP, Jon Owen Jones, only just held onto his seat in the 2001 election, winning by just 659 votes over Lib Dem candidate Jenny Willott.
Cardiff Central is made up mainly of student from the two univesities that sit in its area, UWIC and Cardiff University, so this constituency is highly likely to be won by Jenny Willott as I think it would be fair to say that the students haven’t been very well looked after by the Labour party in the past 4 years.
Those who weren’t outraged by the war in Iraq (of which I would imagine there were very few) will definitely have been enraged by the fact Labour will be introducing “Top-up fees”, in other words, having to pay to go to university, something the LibDems wholly oppose.
Uh-Oh. Bad news for Mr Jones, although in his defence, he did vote against the motion to go to war in Iraq, and also against the amendment to the higher-education bill, which has introduced the power to charge university top-up fees, obviously in the interests of his constituents.
However, the hard-line of his party as a whole on these issues will be the cause of his downfall.
That’s my two pence, anyway.