What difference did engaging with my candidates make to my vote in #GE2017 ?
I made a deliberate decision to be more engaged with the political process, my candidates and the issues leading up to #GE2017. And this decision has really made me debate how to spend my vote. It forced me to explore tactical voting v party preferences. To follow my instincts, or go with who impressed me the most during my conversations.
There are two things I think it’s helpful to know.
Firstly, my constituency of Horsham holds the record for being held for the longest time by one party. Since 1880 it has been held by a Conservative candidate. In 2015 the winning candidate won 57% of the vote with second place receiving just 14%. It is a rather depressing prospect second only to Buckingham, where parties don’t even put up an alternate candidate to the frustration of their constituents.
I’m also a fully paid up member of the Liberal Democrats. A new one, but this year I took the plunge and joined. But they didn’t get my vote this year.
Reminder! I contacted all my candidates with a simple question:
— Expat Julia (@ExpatJulia) May 21, 2017
So who did and why did they? Did contacting them make a difference? It sure did. Before I got in touch with them I had pretty strong views on who I thought I would vote for. But I went into this with an open mind.
I felt more engaged
You can’t make that feeling up. I felt more engaged. I was participating in the democratic systems and it felt good. The actions I took helped me be more informed. I was impressed with the responses I received, unimpressed with the non-responders and downright disheartened by the obligatory ghost candidate. And I learned a bit more about the manifestos of the candidates who contacted me - I even contributed to one of them.
Engage to be engaged
I started out thinking I would vote for my liberal democrat, Morwen. But a funny thing happened, I was engaged with another local candidate, James - he was clear in his support for expat rights, but went one step further. He engaged me right back. And he kept doing it! Aside from asking for my email address, not one other candidate asked me a question (prompting the open letter to my candidates).
When tactical voting is really not an option
The tactical voting sites like the guardian (and any other paper of your choice) and Best for Britain urge me to vote liberal to remove the tory incumbent. In another constituency I might have been swayed, but on the balance of probability of this strategy delivering a liberal MP for the region being very low, I chose the curveball option.
Opportunity over party loyalty
If taking part in democracy includes being torn between what I feel I should do, and what I feel I ought to do, then I had quite the experience. My vote for Something New candidate, James Smith, was based on my positive impression of the opportunities for startup political parties like them (like GroenLinks in the Netherlands) to effect real change, if only voters like me would give them our support. It was also born out of the frustration that from my vantage point, the liberals offered no support to Morwen (noted this may be different on the ground) which let’s be honest is a clear an indicator that they don’t believe she has a real chance of victory.
Where does this leave me?
I’d be delighted if I had to eat my hat on Friday morning when I find Morwen has been voted MP for Horsham. Or even better, James Smith MP! Whatever happens I’ll be engaging with whoever is voted in, and I’m going to be paying much more attention to the discussions and votes that are taking place on issues that affect me. And I’ll be gearing up to help other expats do the same, but then you know that already!
Attribution of images:
Header image: Source: The British Library via Europeana, manuscript from "The Register of persons entitled to vote in the election of Members of Parliament for the City of London, etc", Public Domain Mark
Horsham constituency information: Democratic Dashboard, Horsham
Also published on Medium.