Choosing a political party – head or heart?

How do you choose a political party? I was having a discussion with some friends over a pint the other day, concerning a friend of ours who is extremely liberal – but who votes Conservative because her parents do, and she wouldn’t ever consider changing her vote. To me this makes no sense, and I wonder how many other people act in a similar way and if they were to change their vote would it cause a swing?

I have also been having thoughts about my choice of political party and whether or not they suit my changing needs.

When I was 18 years old and first able to vote, in the 2003 local elections – the country had just launched a war on the nation of Iraq and tensions were running high. The Liberal Democrats were a protest vote against the war and they courted it well – they even managed to take over Cardiff council and two years later Jenny Willott (Liberal Democrat) took the Cardiff Central Parliamentary seat from the Conservatives. But at 18 I had different priorities, different ideals.
I was able to vote for whoever I wanted, since a lot of their policies didn’t affect me. I didn’t have children, I wasn’t a homeowner, I didn’t have a car and I didn’t have a high paying job – all of the things that are really affected by Government policy. I was able to be idealistic and vote for the party that played up to my only view – that the invasion of Iraq was unjust and totally illegal – this is why I chose the Liberal Democrats.

Now I am learning to drive, I have a well paid job and formerly owned my own company, I am due to have my first child and I will also soon be a car owner. Government policy now really affects me. If the wrong people are in power I could end up being taxed astronomically and have entitlements curbed – for example family tax credits and free school milk, both of which are under threat from the new “Com-Dem” coalition.

I will stop here and say that I think almost everything I have written previously, and will write after this, may actually be quite moot since the United Kingdom Government as it stands right now is a Frankenstein’s monster that not a single person in the country voted for, so “choose a party” in the case of the last general election is a pretty laughable concept – but I am confident that as soon as this coalition breaks down and a new election is called we will get back to the Government > opposition status quo will be re-established.

Previously I would never have considered voting Conservative – but their policies actually favour me and my situation. Voting Liberal Democrat, it’s entirely possible that in a few years time, once I hit that salary threshold, my income tax would be set at 50% and that is unacceptable. The Liberal Democrats speak to the working poor, students and idealists. Their policies cannot be favoured by successful people as they are the very people that their policies single out to be held upside-down and everything shaken from their pockets to fund lavish welfare schemes and initiatives.

I do still have my beliefs and ideals; especially when it comes to foreign affairs, I am a very apathetic person. I believe that as a well-off country we should be helping countries by providing aid, expertise and the United Kingdom should be a sanctuary for the downtrodden (i.e. asylum seekers). We have built a great nation where we can feel free from fear, repression and persecution – why should we not allow others who are not as fortunate, to bask in our welfare?
But this doesn’t conform to Tory ideals. This is very much a liberal view, so this goes back to my initial question: Do I vote with my heart of my head?
Voting Conservative will always be seen as the “selfish” vote, a vote of self-preservation, while a vote for the Liberal Democrats is seen as an idealistic vote.
This is the conundrum that I faced at the last election, and I continued as I always had, but who knows next time around?


  1. The Conservatives are the party of inequality. If you’re financially successful, then you will keep a bit more of your money, but you will lose so much more (dare I envoke the soul?). Apart from anything else, you’re choosing a more unequal and unjust society to live in.

    If you’re really successful, of course, you won’t be exposed to much of the misery that the unlucky majority has to endure, but you’re still effectively sticking two fingers up to everyone else while you sit in your figurative (or if you’re really lucky, literal) ivory tower.

    Generally when the gap between rich and poor grows, so does crime, poor health, and all the other things we’d all like to be lower. The Conservatives, as they have reiterated with their latest budget (which would have been much worse without the moderating influence of the Lib Dems), are the party of the well-off, and while most people are not in this category, I absolutely think it’s worth voting for a more redistributive-minded party for the good of society as a whole, rather than just myself.

    If I was in your position, who knows if I would change my mind? But thinking pragmatically, I don’t think I’d ever be able to shake the belief that voting Tory is a selfish vote.

  2. This reminds me of my older brother. As I was growing up in the 90s he was always going on about how socialism would have been much better than liberalism (from an economic view). He now has a top managerial position, regularly goes to America for conferences and he bemoans high taxes. Gone is the red USSR football t-shirt he loved in his youth, in with his investment portfolio.
    His views have changed, yet he still votes Labour because politics where I come from is extremely polarised – you’re either with them or with us – and often voting habit is ingrained in families.

    I voted Lib Dems last election not only because of the things you mentioned (although it was the Iraq War that made me switch from Labour in the first place), but because out of the three party leaders, Nick Clegg’s outlook on politics is the closest to my own (NC 1st, DC 2nd, GB was last). I think Government should be there to protect people’s civil liberties and promote equality, and human rights, all that that shebang – socio-liberal rather than an economic liberal.

    The Conservatives haven’t got a good track record on promoting fairness and civil liberties. Tory policy is a mixture of economic freedoms promoted by the high tier business lobbyists, and old style-fox-hunting socio-conservatism. I like David Cameron but I don’t think he has as much power in his party as people think (his intervention in the the baby-milk fiasco suggests otherwise, but to me this was a reflection that no10 is more in touch with public opinion than the Tory element of his Cabinet )

    I accept that harsh financial decisions need to be made immediately – I blame that on Labour mismanagement, and cannot see myself voting Labour again at least until I can trust them with pocket money. Nick Clegg was justified in wanting Brown out – as did over 60% of the voters.

    I think a coalition government was a good result. It gives me hope that the Lib Dems in the Cabinet can provide some fairness during what will be 5 years of austerity. Add to that a good spring clean of the statute books and measures promoting equalities. That is what I voted for.

    I also want regulations related to recreatinal drugs (including tobacco and alcohol) amended, based on epirical evidence related to harm reduction. I know that is (slightly) more possible if Nick Clegg is serious about his civil liberties agenda. I know I’m probably hoping for too much.

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