It’s been over 100 days since the general election took place, 100 days since David Cameron and the Conservatives won their first majority in eighteen years and 100 days since the collapse of their biggest rivals Labour and the Liberal Democrats. UK politics is a complicated topic and given how plenty of talk is going around following the one hundred day mark, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on the current state of UK Politics and the aftermath of my very first vote in a general election.
Scrutinising positions of power and freedom of speech have always been incredibly important responsibilities of the media, as has the tradition of taking one side over another in politics, but this is a double edged sword; some articles bring problems with bias and could potentially add more fuel to the issue of stigmatisation. In the aftermath of the election we had a stereotype going around called the “Shy Tory”; voters who went for the Conservatives but then concealed who they voted for. Those who did reveal where they placed their vote often wished they hadn’t, because in extreme cases they are branded and shamed as “posh pricks” who don’t care about anyone but themselves, people who spit on the poor and take pride in staying high and dry while those beneath them suffer. The same applies to UKIP with an overly generalised stigma of “Oh you must be racist if you choose to vote UKIP, you hate migrants and anyone who isn’t British”. Voting in a general election always creates some sort of divide between individuals, but it feels as if more stigmatisation is being thrown around than ever before. If more outlets in media took a more impartial look at politics as a whole, then this issue could be lessened. One of the best examples I find for this is The Guardian and “100 Things the Tories did in their first 100 days”; this article takes a more balanced look, allowing the reader to form their own judgements.
The way an election is framed can have a strong impact on voting; one thing that I feel hasn’t been talked about so much is The Sun and their rather blatant headlines: “It’s a Tory!” and “Save our bacon”. They directed attention towards the Tories whilst simultaneously slamming their opponents in Labour. Think about it; The Sun is still (grudgingly) the most read newspaper in the UK and the more people it reaches, the more people the outlet can potentially influence into voting for a specific party. This also brings to mind “It’s the Sun wot won it!”, an interesting case of how the tabloid apparently played a pivotal role in the Conservative’s election results in 1992. Even some Conservative MPs admitted that The Sun did assist in their triumph back then. Could the same sort of thing have happened again in 2015? Of course there were many other media endorsements as with every general election, but it always felt like The Sun had the biggest influence of all and as some citizens become disillusioned with the voting process as a whole, more often than not they may choose to follow along with who their favourite paper says they should vote for.
The bottom line with UK politics and indeed any kind of government is that there is no party that can please everyone; there is no man or woman of the people, or a perfect party which will do everything right. Even Jeremy Corbyn who is currently in pole position to take over Labour leadership has his critics and those who don’t want him to lead.
To quote another WordPress blogger, Gary Walsh: “Yes I voted Conservative; no I don’t hate the poor”. I went for the Conservatives because I believed they would be the most decisive in getting the UK’s economy sorted out and by doing this, they would be able to focus their attention on other problems more quickly. Labour’s plan just didn’t do it for me; reducing the deficit gradually each year rather than pouring efforts into getting it fixed sooner? There have been many protests surrounding the Tories extensive plans for austerity and I can’t help but wonder if Labour would have shied away from doing the same thing, just staggered over a longer period of time. Not only that, but they would have had Scotland breathing down their neck, demanding a say in our parliament and perhaps delaying decisions even further. Is austerity a necessary evil in the drive to stop the bleeding in the economy? Is it better to have a large chunk of cuts as opposed to smaller ones over a number of years? I’m no economist or politician, but I stand by my reasons nonetheless for choosing Conservative, despite all the bad press they’re getting at the moment.
There’s a wide array of influences that define politics and as a student of journalism I was exposed to a large amount of these, particularly during my coverage of the elections in the West Dorset where I got to speak to some of the political candidates. That was where my opinions towards UKIP began to change when I spoke with David Glossop; a genuinely friendly and down-to-earth man who had his reasons for supporting UKIP rooted in protecting Dorset’s tourism. When I first heard that UKIP had only won a single seat, I thought to myself: “Good, let’s see Farage’s little crusade get taken down a notch”, but then after a talk with some work colleagues about the results of the election, I found myself taking on a different mind-set; that the party isn’t inherently racist as some people make them out to be, but instead home in on looking after the British public first and foremost. I can see why people would get behind that sort of policy, even if I don’t agree with it personally. Nowadays I believe that the main issue with UKIP lies with its leaders; the likes of Nigel Farage haven’t done a very good job at presenting the party to the overall masses. This creates a bad image for the party that ends up taking its toll on the MPs who do have genuine reasoning behind their chosen party.
I expected a disdainful individual from UKIP on the night of the election, but that instead came in the form of Conservative MP Oliver Letwin; winning in his constituency by a landslide, I managed to grab him after the election was over for a quick talk. Something just didn’t feel right when I spoke to him; the way he looked and spoke to me came off as rather arrogant, as if he knew that he was going to win from the offset and was feeling rather proud for doing so. I’ll never know if this was the case or if the man simply wasn’t too fond about talking to the press but it left a bad aftertaste in my mouth as a result.
Finally we come to the under-representation, the flawed voting system that gives the biggest parties all the power and the smaller parties less so. I know a lot of fellow students who put their support towards the Green party in the elections this year; from the perspective of prospective local MPs, any seat won is something worth celebrating, but how much weight does this have on the overall government? Not that much. Case and point: UKIP obtained a 12.6% share of the votes and yet only managed to muster one seat in the House of Commons. The reason is that the polls for local elections don’t translate into overall parliament very well, and the “first past the post system” can only really apply to Labour and Conservative as both are the biggest parties in the UK. As a result the rest have little to no sway at all in the grand scheme, meaning that voting for parties like UKIP and Green didn’t really have much weight or purpose. What would be the point of voting for a party that would have barely any effect or say in Parliament at all? Does anyone see the one UKIP MP and the other from Green having much influence in their seat stacked against 330 Conservative and 232 Labour members? Yes they can take their constituents views into account, but chances are the dominant parties so far ahead of them in both seat count and votes will steamroll any suggestions they try to make.
Despite having cast my vote for the Tories and seeing them come to power, I do feel a strong sense of remorse for my country’s voting system and the way many votes feel wasted; since covering the elections, my opinions have grown and changed, perhaps more so than for any other topic I’ve looked at. So what do I think should be done about the voting process? First of all, FPTP should be thrown out in favour of a more balanced system that better incorporates the lesser parties into the process; CGP Grey has come up with some great ideas for this and you can see these from their channel on YouTube. Second, more effort should be made to educate people on politics, no matter how difficult it may be; with people being able to make more informed decisions about who they support, endorsements won’t hold as much weight as they used to and this will create a fairer background to voting. Ultimately, even though the general election has come and gone, it’s clear that there’s a lot to be done when it comes to fixing things in the UK’s political system.
“It’s a Tory!” Headline and Image sourced from The Sun: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/6434539/Sun-2015-election-verdict-Tory.html
“Save our bacon” Headline and Image sourced from The Sun: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/6443303/The-Sun-urges-you-to-keep-Miliband-and-his-lies-out.html
CGP Grey on Mixed Member Proportion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT0I-sdoSXU&feature=iv&src_vid=r9rGX91rq5I&annotation_id=annotation_1700130593
All images sourced from Google Images. Used under fair dealing for the purpose of criticism in UK law. Items are in the public domain and labelled for reuse.