HOW do I vote? WHO do I vote for? SHOULD I vote? Handy guide to GE 2017 and general voting advice.

 

Are you stuck on who to vote for this June? Confused by safe seats, marginal seats or you live in an area where the MP is not aligned to your political view? Have a look at these graphics and handy guide on what to do.

 

What is a safe seat?
Safe seats can be really frustrating. And let’s face it, they’re not very democratic as it feels it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the same person will get in. For more on this check this link, but in short: it is a ‘seat’ (political post) in a government body (e.g. Parliament, City Council) regarded as fully secure, for either a certain political party, or the current representative personally or both. In such seats, there is very little chance of a seat changing hands because of the general voting tendencies in the area and/or the popularity of the current member. Note that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal! (See below about tactical and non voting.)
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What is a marginal seat?
The opposite of a safe seat (i.e. more competitive) is a marginal seat. Here your vote could have a LOT more effect. The MAJORITY (number of votes they won by) will be small, sometimes even a few hundred or less.
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What is first past the post?
Of course we have a system in the UK called first past the post, which again isn’t really democratic. You can only vote for one person for the job, and the result of this is that the larger parties gain a disproportionately large share of seats, while smaller parties are left with a disproportionately small share of seats. It is more likely that a single party will hold a majority of seats too.
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This also makes it frustrating if you do not feel the ‘main parties’ have much in common with your political stance.
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Perhaps the only ‘good’ thing about it is that it’s very easy to understand, and ballots (voting forms) can be easily counted and processed. The problem is that governments can get in with not many votes as all other votes are disregarded. In 2015, the Conservatives got in with only 37% of the vote, an amount even ConservativeHome admit is low, and in fact only a 1/4 of the votes if we count all the people that did not vote.
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So yes it can feel like it’s hardly worth the bother. But that’s the point, if the ‘lost third’ of voters did vote, it could make the very difference you might be wanting. There are many campaigns out there to make the vote fairer and ‘count more’. The Labour Party seem to be moving in that direction; Tony Blair was against it. The Lib Dems, the SNP and even UKIP want it. The Greens want it too. Guess who’s missing?
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What do they want?
Proportional representation.
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What’s that then?

Proportional representation is the idea that seats in parliament should be allocated so that they are in proportion to the votes cast. Although there are many different types of PR, this is the base requirement for a system to be described as proportional.

Different PR systems have different ways of electing candidates. With some it is possible to vote only for a party, with others directly for candidates.

Rather than the winner-take all approach of other systems, PR ensures that votes carry equal weight. To do this, a single area elects more than one representative. The size of this area can vary according to the system, ranging from the size of the whole country to a county or local area.

If this sounds better to you, you can go on their website to find out more, and see how you can campaign to get this closer to a reality.
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I was going to vote for Candidate A but I saw in the paper that…
Ok, stop right there… KNOW YOUR SOURCES. A source is WHERE you get your information from. Newspapers and wesbites follow certain sections of politics and are against others.
The ‘news outlets’ who think they’re ‘on the right’ are:
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The Daily Mail, Express, Star, Telegraph, Sun, Times
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The ones who think they’re ‘centre’ are:
The Guardian, The Independent, the BBC, Observer
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The ones who think they’re ‘on the left’ are:
The Mirror, The Morning Star, The Word
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and these are just the UK papers…
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Are they though? Well for a start the terms ‘left’, ‘right’ and ‘centre’ are relative. Politics all moved to the right in the past two decades. No matter where they say or imply they lie, they can get around it by publishing ‘opinion pieces’ that radically move away from the position they usually hold.
Often it’s best to take ALL the papers with a pinch of salt, and try and see what they are ALL saying. DON’T stick to just one.
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Do your own research, look at more than one website, whatever ‘side’ they seem to be on. Sometimes blogs *cough* are more objective, or at least admit when they’re being subjective.
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DON’T think that everyone else knows more than you do, they’ve just been reading the papers or watching the news JUST LIKE YOU HAVE. Or haven’t seen anything at all and are making it up from ‘what the bloke in the pub told me’ or ‘what my parents told me’.
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Use sites like the parliament TV channel (where you can see it all live and search for certain MPs and days to see if they really said that) or look up what people said on Hansard too where full written info is there on all discussions, Acts and motions (a move to put an issue to government) Want to look up who voted for what? Try here. Want to see see the progress of Bills, or how Acts came into being,  or how Parliament developed, look here. Yeah, I know, ‘facts’ can be dry and boring, but with facts you have weapons to counter media ‘foam’.
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Maybe you really have no idea who really stands for what so thinking about ‘right’, ‘left’ and ‘centre’ doesn’t mean much to you. This quiz might be a good place to start, comparing you to the parties rather than wading through pages of manifestos. You might end up looking at those papers, websites and news shows with different eyes 🙂
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Why do people do ‘tactical voting’?
In an attempt to try and get past the ‘first past the post’ restrictions, some might vote for a party that might not be their choice but feel it’s ‘better’ than the one currently in the seat. This is called ‘tactical voting’. On this map below we can see what parties are in second or third place and how voting for someone to keep the party you don’t want can backfire now.
C9z6G_jWAAEC6n7
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How can I find out what’s going on in my area? That map’s not doing it for me.
Wiki has your constituency on it with voting records, just put in the name of your area and the word constituency.
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LOOK at the tables and see which the second and third party is and LOOK how close their vote is. Many of them are Labour.
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Check who won, and by how many votes, look at previous elections to see if they’re losing the swing (%age) of voters and how many voted.
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If UKIP are 2nd or 3rd in your area watch out, especially if the LDs are battling with them. This idea that voting for Lib Dems is a tactical option for many areas will simply let in someone from UKIP in 2017, especially in the south.
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THINK of what issues are important to you. Check your MP’s record on those issues here: just add their name in the search box.
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Tactical voting in marginals is also tricky but the same model could be followed.
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Can you give an example of how to do all that? This is new to me and I’m really confused!
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Sure thing! 🙂
Derby North is a good example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derby_North_(UK_Parliament_constituency) the Cons and the LP have been scrapping over it for years and now as has been said on here, it’s a Con majority of 41.
BUT in 2010 less than 2000 votes behind were the Lib Dems and the LP had the seat by only 600. Even the BNP got 2000 votes in 2010!
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Now fast forward to 2015. LDs lost 9000 votes and UKiP (3rd place) gained almost 6000 (previously on less than 1000). LP and Cons (2nd and 1st) close again.
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Laxton, the long time serving LP MP was bleeding votes since he won the seat in 1997, hand over fist- 3% in 2001, 7% in 2005, and then 9% when Williamson took over in 2010.) Turnout over the period generally increased from mid 50% to high 60% so it’s not ‘voter drift’ or apathy.
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What caused this? Thinking it was a safe seat? The rise of UKIP? (No they were at a steady 800ish for a decade till the LDs imploded.)
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Who do people who want the Cons out vote for here? Well, it’s obvious- Labour.
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But look at Laxton’s voting record: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/10351/bob_laxton/derby_north/votes pro Iraq war, against a transparent parliament but pro ID cards; pro tuition fees etc.
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Is Chris Wiliamson (the LP MP who just lost in 2015, and one time leader of Derby city Council) any better, let’s have a look… ok good on LGBT, bit aggressive with his foreign policy, good on social policy, ropy on tax avoidance votes etc https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24830/chris_williamson/derby_north/votes
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So a bit better BUT the rot had already started- a slide of almost 15 years accelerated in 2010 (but not enough for Williamson to lose the seat) and despite his 4% swing comeback in 2015 it was not quite enough to win, as the Cons had a 5% swing.
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By the way I knew nothing of this area, I just looked at the voting figures and collating information from official sources (and am used to analysing data for work) tonight.
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If any readers want any help with analysing the data for their area, please drop me a message as I am happy to do it for free.
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>>>>>>>>>>>>
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Or if you just feel fed up with the whole business already like ‘Brenda from Bristol’ who recently went viral, and want to add some much needed levity you could check this handy little link which also gives you a direct link to the online voting registration form– just press the part where it says ‘but seriously’.
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Why should I vote?
Well, nobody is going to make you do it.
Sometimes politics feels a little like Tom Cheney’s cartoon…
tom-cheney-not-voting-this-year-new-yorker-cartoon
Some reasons for some not voting are here:
2014YouthVote-header
You may feel it won’t make any difference…
2015-11-11-1447264958-1653153-vote
Or think ‘well, they’re all the same aren’t they?
polyp_cartoon_corporate_rule_democracy_ballot_paper_box
BUT at the risk of sounding partisan, Jeremy Corbyn is not the same as ‘the others’. All through my blogs I have given instances of how he isn’t, but I am not about to try and force you to vote for him.
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If you are a woman, then perhaps you should read this, or this if that link’s a bit dry, on the struggle to win the vote for women and how it is important for their voices to be heard. Many thought at the time that if women voted, society as they knew it would collapse! (And while it’s not at the level of the graphic below, aren’t equal rights for all actually a good idea?)
p033snb4
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If you’re aged between 16 and 17 and want to vote– great! I want you to be able to vote too and so does Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP, the Greens and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. You can sign up to be a member of a party too, and have some say in how your party works. If you’re pro Labour and over 14 you can sign up. If you’re pro Lib Dem, their site doesn’t seem to have an age limit and neither do the Greens though they have a  ‘student’ rate (if I find one for the Lib Dems I’ll put the link in the name of fairness). The Conservatives allow people under 23 but don’t seem to have an minimum age. And so on… and when you’re old enough, vote for a party that supports votes for 16-18 (if such a policy hasn’t come in already) to help other young people.
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If you’re worried about being able to get to the polling booth, due to work, illness or disabilities, you can do postal voting or proxy voting (giving someone permission to do it for you). Plus many parties offer transport to the booths, and they’re often closer to where you live than you think! Here’s one such guide on how to find your polling station if you can go in person. People with disabilities only made up a THIRD of the vote in 2015, partly due to lack of support or lack of disabled access to polling stations, according to SCOPE.
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If you are LBGT+, a Person of Colour and/or just concerned about equal rights, then look up your MP here and see how they voted on equal rights issues. You may be pleasantly surprised, or disgusted. KNOW your MPs voting record.
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If you feel you don’t have many opinions on politics or politicians, perhaps remember this. Some people who have ‘extreme’ views do, and will vote…
the-election
You cannot vote if you’re not registered and DON’T ASSUME YOU ARE REGISTERED. CHECK! This link here answers lots of questions too and here is where you can check to see if you’re listed.
Especially if you’ve not had local/mayoral election polling card or postal votes info yet.
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You may NOT be on the lists. If you don’t sign up by 22nd May, you wouldn’t be able to change your mind and vote in the GE. Please don’t be left feeling like this on June 9th 2017.
cartoon-voter-apathy
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35% of people DID NOT VOTE at the last GE-
NOVOTE
that’s a staggering 15.9 MILLION people.
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More people DID NOT VOTE than the amount that voted for all the other parties individually!
If they all put an X in the box, how different might the result be?
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That’s despite safe seats and first past the post.
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What you do now is up to you.
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All comments and contacts happily received. It’d be worth it to get even just one more person to put the X in that box 🙂
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