Balancing heart and head

I’ve been thinking about voting recently. Even though the general election isn’t until May it’s inevitable that the media is going to become increasingly saturated with various election promises, predictions and general coverage. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, deciding who to vote for should be a well informed and carefully thought out decision. But we do need to be able to look past the popularity contest put on by politicians and facilitated by the media, forget about tactical voting and make decisions that we really believe in.

It can be easy just to vote for the party you always have out of familiarity or to choose the person who appeals to you most or even to decide not to vote (though the government is now trying to encourage people to vote through compulsory registration) but perhaps this time it’s worth taking the time to make sure that you cast your vote for a party whose policies you actually support and agree with. After all, by voting you are helping to shape the future of our country for the next four years. A good place to start is with the website www.voteforpolicies.org.uk, a neutral resource designed to encourage you to think beyond personalities and actually consider party policies. There is a handy survey you can take that tells you whose policies you support without knowing which party they belong to at the time of choosing.

Although it was created for the 2010 election, they have updated it for the upcoming election this year. And interestingly, the results so far from over half a million completed surveys put the Green Party in the lead with 27.75%, followed by Labour, Liberal Democrats and then the Conservatives. Reassuringly (at least in my opinion), UKIP and the BNP are trailing behind everyone else with 11.71% and 9.87% respectively.

The rising popularity of the Green Party (dubbed the ‘green surge’) is simultaneously encouraging and depressing. Encouraging in that more and more people are recognising them as a party that is genuinely committed to the welfare of the average citizen, the environment and equality and depressing in that it is quite likely that a lot of these people will still resort to tactical voting or vote for another party with the frame of mind that a vote for the Green Party won’t make a difference in the scheme of things. But if everyone who genuinely wanted to vote Green, did, it would make a difference, both on a national and local scale. We might start to see change in the quality of life for some of the poorest in our society, more care and consideration taken to protect our environment, a stop to the privatisation of the NHS and a more democratic and accountable political culture. In short, a better life for all of us living in the United Kingdom.

But I didn’t start this post with the intention of pushing the Green Party down your throats. No political party will appeal to everyone and no one party is perfect. I do think they are the most attractive option we have but you, of course, are entitled to your own opinion. No. My intention was to try and encourage you to make an informed choice come May and if you weren’t planning on voting to urge you not to waste your vote and to make the effort. Our country may not be amazing but we are so privileged and blessed to live in a society where we can vote, to have a democratic government (even if the democratic mechanisms themselves are somewhat flawed). We shouldn’t take this for granted. We need to think beyond ourselves, to try and perceive the bigger picture. And if we don’t like what we see, we should strive to vote in such a way that if the party we support does gain power, their bigger picture will be more palatable. We should follow our hearts in voting for the policies that would create a country we’d like to live in whilst using our heads to wade through the platitudes and meaningless rhetoric to figure out what parties actually stand for and what they are actually going to do if elected.

An article entitled ‘Follow your convictions – this could be the end of the politics of fear’ by George Monbiot has been trending on social media over the last week and it was reading this that inspired me to write this post today. I’ll leave you with a poignant question that he asks in it that those frustrated with the current political environment should take notice of and meditate on as we start to decide who will be getting our vote come May;

‘We cannot create a successful alternative to the parties that have betrayed us until we start voting for it. Do we start walking or just keep talking about the journey we might one day take?’

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