You Cannot Achieve Change By Short-Circuiting Democracy

It is easy to be cynical about democracy. It has been abused, controlled and manipulated to the point that it has come to seem like a method for embedding the dictatorship of the establishment into Western society: providing a corrupt gangster class with an excuse for their parasitism of the masses of populations.

Yet, at heart, democracy is an expression of collective will and, like so much that humans do as social animals, it relies upon certain individual qualities to be effective. A properly functioning democracy requires that its participants be informed, attentive and, above all, honest.

One of the most disheartening responses among people with whom I share a political outlook is the belief that, in order to oppose the establishment lock upon democratic outcomes, we must resort to tactics that are as ‘smart’, or, as I would put it, corrupt, as the establishment does. It was this attitude that led to professionalized, stand-for-nothing-and-dress-for-the-part, pander-to-the-city, dominate-the-news-cycle Clintonism in British politics.  Well, so much for that: Blair is hawking Israeli weapons to the despots of the world, and we have had six and a half years of corrupt Tory rule as a result of trying to play them at their own game. What few pay-offs we gained from the last Labour government-rational, effective criminal justice reforms; better public services; early-years care and education,-have been squeezed, snatched and abandoned by the Tory backlash.

Unfortunately, the dream of being able to short-circuit democracy persists among people who aren’t as clever as they think they are. Its latest manifestation is the influence of ‘tactical voting’ websites in this election. There are two main ones: Tactical2017 and Best For Britain, which, at least, has the honesty to wear its condescending arrogance in its name.

…websites that, with the tap of a touchscreen, lift the burden of democratic decision-making from their users.

They both have flashy JSON/CMS responsive websites that, with the tap of a touchscreen, lift the burden of democratic decision-making from their users. They use their web-design savvy well, loading their pages with scroll-down statements of noble intent that lend an air of knowing inevitability to their manipulative, partisan projects. Best For Britain is, more-or-less openly, an anti-Brexit site: Tactical2017 seems to be a broader, more honest attempt to attack Tory rule, but they both miss an essential point: this election is not the 2015 election, and it is most certainly not the recent local elections.

When you delve behind the Tactical 2017 site, you get a shonky CSV file, incomplete and muddled. They state that it is no longer maintained and we should rely upon the API because it is better for mobile devices. Well, I don’t know about you, but I can read a spreadsheet, but being given computer code to interpret goes beyond the layer of transparent comprehensibility that I require of my information sources. They might as well be shrieking “Leviatus” and blinding me with flashy wand movements. It is meaningless.

The Best For Britain site publishes graphs that, they claim, justify their stupid conclusions. Super. However, they are graphs of the 2015 election result. Here is their justification for instructing us to vote Green on the Isle of Wight:

What’s changed since then, do you think?

They also publish a helpful recap of voting statistics, just to labour the meaningless point:

Again, does anything strike you as a little out-of-date?

In answer to my captions, what has changed is two-fold. Firstly, there is only one returning candidate, and she has not a hope in hell of winning. All Vix can do is further split the non-Tory vote, but that’s okay, because that is what she is supposed to do.

  • The UKIP candidate from 2015, Ian McKie, balked when his party’s racism got too much even for him, and is sniping at his replacement on local media, but that doesn’t matter, because UKIP are as much a spent force here as they are everywhere else. 15,000 votes are thus released.
  • Andrew Turner has been given the unceremonious boot retired to spend more time with his heretical and bigoted misapprehensions of Christianity. His replacement is a camera-shy scion of local landed gentry who was heard apologizing to his party members for his uselessness at the hustings. He is campaigning on trains. Trains. In a constituency with under twenty miles of track and poverty levels rivaling the worst of any area in Britain.
  • The LibDems have run a really nice twelve year old as a candidate, but are getting no more attention here than nationally.
  • Ian Stephens has been replaced by a sweety who seems to be throwing money at a vanity project.
  • Stewart Blackmore has had to stand down because of family health reasons and has been replaced by another superb Labour candidate.

Secondly, Labour are running an unbelievably effective national campaign: the Tories are in meltdown. There is no way that Labour will not significantly increase its national vote share; that battle is won. What we have to do now is translate that vote share into seats.

Seriously, voting Green on the Isle of Wight is the stupidest thing that an anti-Tory voter could do in this election. It is splitting the left-of-Tory vote; it is a vote for Theresa May. Think of the upset results that we see at every election: think of 1997, when Labour got a lower absolute vote nationally than they are polling for now. Think of Portillo’s face at the count. Think of what a Labour victory on the Isle of Wight would mean for the Tories. Tory voters are abandoning the party they have supported all their lives: that is not just anecdotal, although I have, personally, spoken to three such people now. A two percent drop in their core vote, which the polls are suggesting now, with a week still to go, could have a huge impact nationally, and, given that the UKIP vote on the Island last time was widely reported as strongly at the expense of Labour, we could be seeing an end to tribal Tory automatic voting having the Island sewn up. LABOUR CAN WIN.

I want to return to honest voting. I have no problem with honest, heartfelt Green voters. If what the Green Party represents, whatever that is, chimes with you, plod on, with my respect. I would love to see a fairer voting system, where Greens, Cornish Nationalists, and even the hard-core racist right, have a democratic outlet for their views, whether I agree with them all or not. (For the record: I have no problem with Green politics, am not even sure Cornish Nationalism exists and I have a fiery antipathy for the hard-core racist right.)

However, for now, we have the first-past-the-post system, and we must make it work with integrity, solidarity and intelligence. When you feel that you must treat my, honestly cast, passionately and proudly arrived at, Labour vote as “wasted”, that is not a sign of political realism, informed cleverness or idealism.

It is anti-democratic, and it is stupid. You don’t change the world by playing a computer game.

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