The Definitive Speculative Ramblings on the 2015 General Election

If you’ve been near a television, or a post box lately, it might have aroused your suspicions about an upcoming election.

With all the talk on the news about policies and TV debates, pleas from politicians, and campaign leaflets through letter boxes, it looks like there’s an election in the air

With just 3 months to go before the 2015 General Election, the political landscape can look like a strange, scary place. With politicians left and right making promises and threats about who you should vote for and the dangers of voting for this guy over that guy, with pundits making predictions about who will get the title of Prime Minister in May and what the state of our politics will look like.

Confusing? Worry not. As part of the first blog post on this site, I am endeavouring to take up the small task make the election landscape look a little less confusing.

Welcome to the Definitive Speculative Ramblings of the 2015 General Election.

So who’s gonna win?
With the rise of UKIP, the Greens, and droves of people willing to vote for anyone who isn’t part of the “Big Three”, 2015 is becoming increasingly unpredictable. So it depends who you ask.

Up until mid 2013 if I’d been asked this question, I would have likely said Labour, as summarised beautifully by this graph:

UK_opinion_polling_2010-2015

A graph indicating opinion polls between April 2010 and January 2015
(Red = Labour, Blue = Conservative, Yellow = Liberal Democrats, Purple = UKIP, Green = Green (Quelle Surprise) (10/1/15))

However as notably indicated by the graph, although Labour maintains a slim lead, the Conservatives and Labour are basically neck and neck, and since different opinion polls will produce different results, and considering you can’t survey an entire population and there will always be statistical error, there’s a lot of overlap between Labour and Conservatives, making a clear cut and confident prediction increasingly difficult.

The graph also omits gains made by the SNP, who are represented in Westminster (currently holding 6 seats), and have grown into a genuine political power North of The Wall.

Turning to my favourite election forecaster for all things data: Number Cruncher Politics (I happen to like maths), we get this sexy graph about what the Free Folk are doing:

Scotland20150201 As you can see, rather than be killed off by failed independence, the nationalists have grown into a mighty juggernaut of Scottish politics.

From this, it seems the surge of the SNP is not only genuine but gone from strength to strength (although I’m still waiting on our Lord and saviour, Ashcroft, to confirm this).

Using the Election Forecast prediction data, and the Number Cruncher models, I’d say the SNP are pretty much certain to take 8 seats, primarily from the Liberal Democrats and Labour. And I’d wager another 10 or so are likely candidates to fall to the SNP.

If I was a man who had to speculate and ramble in an article, I’d speculate that they stand a chance of winning about 10-25 seats (margin of error possible – though I’m gonna take a preliminary guess at 15).

I’m sceptical of them taking any more than this. I don’t buy the piece run in the New Statesman which said they could get upwards of 45. It’d involve overturning massive Labour majorities in many constituencies with a die-hard Labour voter base.

Even so, given the almost Athena-out-of-Zeus’-Head kinda way the SNP has sprung up and persuaded some 50% of the electorate, there’s every chance (though it’s not guaranteed) that Salmond will likely hold sway in who forms which government in the event of a hung Parliament.

Considering that (A) Labour sit closer to the SNP on the political spectrum (regardless of what you may think of New Labour from an ideological perspective), (B) Labour have kind of unofficially ruled out a coalition with the Liberals (although I doubt the Lib Dems will have the necessary support anyway to push a coalition above the magic threshold), and (C) the SNP basically said they wouldn’t go into government with the Conservatives, I wouldn’t be surprised by a Labour SNP coalition, though there’s no real quantitative reason I can give for why I doubt it (maybe because Labour hate the SNP for stealing all their votes, or maybe for constitutional reasons in lieu of further devolution. I dunno. I’m no scienstician).

Labour’s support deficiency is a mystery. Over the course of 2 years, it’s somehow managed to erode some 10% of electoral support. So the real question is: why?

The loss of Scotland to the SNP is a big factor in this (as described above).

However it should be worth pointing out that Scotland isn’t a pre-requisite for Labour controlling the House of Commons – as Blair, Wilson and Attlee all would have managed to form majority governments without Scottish support (sorry, Scotland).

It should be worth keeping in mind, however, that ejection from Scotland closes off the easy routes to a Labour controlled government, and tight elections in 1964, 1974 and 2010 all would have shifted the balance of power. And not having Scotland makes it that much harder for Labour to win outright.

Also, as much as I may like Aardman studios ‘Miliband’ creation (and all his nerdy credentials), Harold Wilson he ain’t.

Ed Miliband’s inability to be Harold Wilson is something I’ve come to call “The Miliband Effect”; personified by this picture of Ed Miliband*:

ooof!

*Dramatisation may not have happened

It’s primarily for this reason that The Telegraph says David Cameron should win the star role, on account of him being as close enough representation of a functional human being as opposed to someone who was rapidly sculpted out of play-doh like it was crunch time at Aardman studios.

The Economist (putting their money on a Hung Parliament) also say that the “Miliband Effect” is going to deter less ideological voters (known as the British public at large) from voting Labour.

Now, considering the fact David Cameron looks like the living incarnation of a “My First Politician” Inaction Figure, the fact that his main opponent happens to look like this…

10352348_1447779915480359_4867682696231600174_n

… means David Cameron being more “Prime Ministerial” isn’t much of a stretch of any imaginations.

And, maybe it’s just me being naive, but I’d like to think our political system didn’t have the depth of a teaspoon when it came to deciding how the vote goes; and that there are bigger, more pressing issues which decide our voting behaviour other than who happens to be the prettiest face on the ballot (if it were being decided by looks then we would have unanimously declared Hugh Laurie as Prime Minister for life eons ago and collectively knocked off for lunch).

Having said this, Labour has a good few advantages for electoral success.

First off (as I’ll bring up again later on), what is generally considered the “left” is oddly more united than at other points in electoral history. The unpopular decision for the Lib Dems to ally with the Tories, which ultimately cost them some two-thirds of their support, has lead to a windfall for Labour in electoral support.

Also considering electoral bias in Labour’s favour (which means Labour needs fewer voters than the Tories to win seats), Labour really can get in on the “33% Strategy”, where it needs to turn out it’s core supporters along with it’s windfall of Lib Dem apostates come election day to secure power.

However, these plans have caveats. Most notably in the shape of the SNP, which will cost Labour heavily in Scotland, and the Greens – who have soaked up some of the Lib Dem support destined for Labour, along with some of the disillusioned Labour supporters who aren’t happy with the direction Labour took towards the “Third Way”. The evolution of the Greens as a credible force on the left makes any prediction of the electoral verdict harder still.

But regardless, Labour still maintains a slim lead, and due to electoral bias in favour of Labour (which we’ll discuss later), it’s likely we’re going to see Miliband grace the doors of Downing Street.

If you’re a numbers driven kinda person (like me), and you’re looking for decent socio-spatial analysis for election prediction, then I’d recommend either Electoral Calculus, UK Polling Report or Election Forecast.

The numbers produced by Electoral Calculus suggests a Labour Minority government short of 28 people in the Commons come Election Time 2015 (1/2/15).

The UK Polling Report, for now anyway, agrees that Labour will be short of a majority by 1 seats (1/2/15).

But Election Forecast (1/2/15) says that it’ll be a hung Parliament with the Conservatives being the largest party on 285 seats.

Things can change rapidly over the course of a few months, so these predictions may be out of whack. If I were a betting man, I’d say the result will be a small Labour majority government, or a Hung Parliament with Labour being the largest party (and if that’s too wishy-washy of an answer, I’m gonna say Labour minority government).

TL;DR – Labour win (Maybe).

Are you ruling out a Tory/Labour Coalition?
Yes. I am one of the people who scoff at this idea.

The reasoning of this one seems to be “well there isn’t much difference between the two parties”, which I haven’t found to be backed up by looking through their policies.

I’d be more willing to argue the case that Labour’s acceptance of neoliberalism since Blair hasn’t necessarily negated Labour filling some sort of niche for progressives to support, or stopped them being credible opposition to the Conservatives (“Paternal Socialism” which the 1960s Macmillan Conservative Party advocated for when defining Toryism, with social welfare spending on par with Labour is a good example in my mind as a modern analogue for “Blue Labour”).

Another gem justifying this is: “They’ve worked together on things in recent years”, which seems to me as a critique of cross-aisle co-operation (which I’ve given the weird sounding name: “governing”).

People may point to Greece and Spain, but I don’t think alternative parties on the left or right have enjoyed the same sort of surge as Podemos or Syriza in the UK. Even if people have become disillusioned with politics as usual.

So yeah, no, I doubt that there will be a Tory/Labour coalition.

TL;DR – I am ruling out a Tory/Labour coalition.

What makes you doubt a Conservative victory?
Mostly maths, with some electoral bias and lackluster support of the electorate.

Basically, because of how the boundaries are drawn, and because the re-drawing boundaries takes time to account for moving and growing populations, the Conservatives require larger voting swings than Labour does.

Now it’s not impossible to have a surge of Conservative support prior to voting day, as Thatcher did with the Falklands in the 1984 General Election, which looked like it was going to sweep the then Conservative government out of power for a Labour one.

But for the Tories to change their support (if you like, “pull a Thatch one”), they need to do something on a par with “it’s great to be great again!”

They could point to a rapidly growing economy at 3%, but this has some major holes to it and people aren’t buying Osbornomics anymore.

A look at the data paints the following picture:

Year GDP Forecast Actual GDP Growth Deficit Forecast (% GDP) Actual Deficit (% GDP)
2011 2.1% 1.6% 7.6% 7.9%
2012 2.6% 0.7% 5.6% 5.6%
2013 2.9% 1.7% 3.5% 6.8%
2014 2.8% 3% 1.9% 5%

A look at more of the data paints a worse picture.

Research done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows the cost of living is continuing to rise:

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Actual earnings haven’t grown either:

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And, as pointed out by the TUC (Trade Unions Congress), if earnings had grown in line with the OBR’s forecast during the June 2010 Budget, the Treasury would have made £175.6bn in income tax receipts in 2014/15 – £17.1bn higher than estimated.

Meanwhile (even ignoring Labour’s outdated statistics and use of RPI inflation) using the ONS introduced RPI-J (Retail Price Index – Jevons, based on the geometric Jevons formula, which brings RPI readings in line with international standards) shows people are still £907 worse off since 2010 (January, 2015).

In fact, to quote Dr Craig Berry of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI):

“Austerity is a self-defeating agenda. We now know, if we didn’t already, that if you rely on a private sector struggling to overcome a severe recession for desperately-needed investment, you will be sorely disappointed. Productivity and earnings will ultimately suffer – and the tax revenue forecasts underpinning your deficit reductions plans will fail to materialise.”

Even if you point out consistent growth (and numbers tell a nice story), it doesn’t change the fact that the 76 months (according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research) to get the economy back to pre-2008 levels was the slowest recovery in economic history.

And considering a lot of people don’t feel like the Recovery has benefited then (just 1 in 7, according to the Financial Times), no one really will until incomes rise faster than prices.

This has caveats, Conservative supporters are more likely to say the recovery is helping than UKIP, Green or Labour voters. But the numbers tell a more condemning story. And if it’s not felt by the electorate, it won’t translate to votes come Vote Day.

Now, the Tories are trusted more with the economy. Consistently so. So it’s not impossible for them to spin the recovery in order to gain support, and in lieu of any events like, say, the Falklands, which landed Maggie back into Office for her second term, or the First Gulf War which pushed George H. Bush’s approval rating to 89%, it’s probably the way they’re gonna do it.

Enter the following poster:

The-Conservative-campaign-007

If that’s the best Cameron et al. could come up with, and combined with (relatively) weak support from the electorate, I can’t see any way the Conservatives can get the needed support to gain an outright majority, even when spinning what is now a strong recovery.

Sidenote: This isn’t me being anti-Tory, it’s me pointing out that the data for the people on the street shows that the economic recovery has not benefitted them, and it has been a slow recovery to pre-2008 levels.

TL;DR – I doubt it’s likely the Tories will get the swing they need to gain a majority but elections are, by definition, unpredictable to 100%

The Tories lose because of Labour Bias in Constituencies!?
Well, it plays a part in it (and considering how close Labour and the Conservatives are, it plays a big part).

When you look at past voting data, bias becomes quite clear: the 2005 election saw Labour hold a 60 seat majority, while only leading with 2.9% of the vote. Likewise, in 2010, despite having 7% more of the vote, the Conservatives weren’t able to form a majority government.

The denial of an outright majority in 2010 probably had more to do with the rise of the Lib Dems and the spoiler effect endemic in First Past the Post voting systems, but at least on the face of it, it points to electoral bias.

If you dig into it, you find that the system is actually biased towards Labour, although not by design.

The main reason is that Labour has smaller constituencies relative to the Conservatives, meaning that Labour get more MPs than the Conservatives relative to the same number of people. Wealthy, unspoilt countryside constituencies with their towering fracking facilities, usually send Conservative MPs to Westminster, and these areas usually see faster population growth over time than the sprawling urban jungles of industrial decay that send Labour MPs to Westminster.

Wales and Scotland are also over-represented in Parliament. Under the legislation that current boundaries were draw up under there were separate electoral quotas for Scotland, England and Wales that weren’t pegged against one another – so if the population in one of the UK’s nations grows, the electoral quota also grows, if another nation isn’t experiencing the same population growth, their electoral quotas slowly diverge. This was changed in 2011, and with the creation of an independent Scottish Parliament, over-representation of Scotland was removed and their boundaries were redrawn using England’s electoral quota.

Wales, however, continues to enjoy over-representation at Westminster. If they used England’s electoral quota, they would have 32 seats, but because Wales has a lower electoral quota they currently have 40 seats. Since Wales contains large numbers of Labour strongholds, this benefits Labour.

Traditional Labour seats in urban areas, often inner cities with poorer communities tend to have lower turnouts, and weirdly Labour benefits from lower turnouts. This sounds counter intuitive, but because Labour areas have lower turnouts it means it takes fewer voters to elect a Labour MP to parliament than it does to elect a Conservative one.

It should be worth pointing out that no political party is gerrymandering the constituency boundaries, since they don’t actually decide where the boundaries go. That job’s left up to the Boundary Commission. It doesn’t help that boundary reviews are conducted every 8-12 years. The most recent update was in 2007, but was based on electorate information from the year 2000. Which means that the 2015 electoral boundaries will be 15 years out of date relative to how the population has moved and grown.

Proposed boundary reform would bias the results in favour of the Conservative party and make the government a more dominant force in Parliament (although, again, they’re not gerrymandering, it’s just we draw boundaries in accordance to old borders, natural borders, and just outright weird ones at times).

Let me say this again: The electoral bias is not because of any deliberate fiddling with the voting ranges. It’s accidental!

Of course a lot of this could be corrected if we adopted a non-mathematically stupid voting system (i.e. NOT First Past the Post) with more regular boundary reviews using a non mathematically stupid system of drawing electoral boundaries (Shortest Split Line Method *hint* *hint*), but good luck getting any sort of meaningful electoral reform through Parliament.

TL;DR – We have a stupid voting system with a stupid way to draw boundaries, but no one is deliberately biasing the constituencies through gerrymandering. Still, the cards are stacked in Labours favour, but not that much so.

Who’s gonna lose out the most?
If you’re looking for more substantial predictions this is the wrong place. I’m as much use as just drunkenly throwing darts at a wall with various political faces cellotaped to the board, so the next part will be an exercise in unsubstantiated speculation. However, if pressed I’d say the Lib-Dems on a numbers basis.

As a party which (in theory at least) is comprised of centre left liberals, Third Way proponents, and centrists (both radical and pragmatic), they’re (again, in theory) less ideologically swayed than their counterparts.

Disillusioned centre left liberals, angry about coalitions and legislation passed by the Lib Dems while in government (the most glaring being tuition fees, but also what some may identify as an erosion of civil liberties which also occurred under the watch of the Lib Dems) will most likely defect to Labour and the Greens (where they are given the wonderful sounding nickname ‘Mangoes’).

This Lib Dem exodus is one Labour wants to capitalise on, and is quite clearly reflected in Labour’s political strategy, as their campaign of Nick Clegg as ‘The Uncredible Shrinking Man’ , would suggest.

While Labour soaks up most of the lost liberal support, and prays to it’s deity of choice that it’s core voters (about 33% of the electorate) and disillusioned Lib Dems vote Labour, and not Green, UKIP is likely to eat into both of the main parties support (although most notably on the conservative side), quintupling their support in the 2015 general election if you believe most of the election modelling.

Then again, it depends on what you mean by losing out.

From a numbers perspective, the Lib Dems are the clear losers. But then again, numbers can paint a lot of stories.

Both the SNP and Greens are enjoying bumper years in terms of support, and both are poised to make possible gains come 2015. In this regard, Labour stands to lose out. Labour also stands to lose out to the apparently unstoppable tide of UKIP, as it turns it’s sights to the disenfranchised.

Labour, mind, isn’t going to lose out nearly as much as the Conservatives due to the rise of UKIP.

Anyway, the rise of UKIP is a conversation for another time. For now I’m going to ask one final question: Who’s going to lose out in the medium to long term?

The “Miliband Effect” has some weird quirks to it. While Labour, by and large, consistently poll ahead of the Conservatives, David Cameron is always considered more popular than Ed Miliband. For voters who are less ideologically driven and more swayed by populist ideals: spending cuts, glacial wage growth, and a well targeted “Cost of Living Crisis” campaign by Labour mean that Labour is going to do well off the backs of a public who feel let down by David Cameron.

A report conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, however, says that regardless of who got in, austerity would have to continue.

For the Conservatives, this would require some £37.6 billion worth of cuts between 2015-16 and 2018-19 to gain a surplus of 1.5%, assuming continued economic growth.

For Labour and the Lib Dems, as neither have given a clear date for when the deficit would be eliminated, or how large the surplus would be, they’ve bought themselves wiggle room – i.e., they could feasibly cut taxes or raise spending (within reason). But austerity would still continue.

So if Labour decided to balance the books by 2019, and put all the borrowing necessary into easing departmental spending cuts, rather than on tax cuts or increased social security spending, then departments would still need to cut a total of £9.3 billion over the next Parliament, rather than the £37.6 billion under Osbornomics, however the picture remains the same. Regardless of who gets in, the elimination of the deficit will have to be done with further austerity and tax rises according to the IFS.

Even with the proposed idea of using tax rises to do more of the heavy lifting, if Ed Ball’s commitment to austerity is to be believed, economists and activists who sit on the left of the political divide who want to see a return to more Keynesian style investment, may be sorely disappointed.

This may be political manoeuvring on Labour’s part, as Labour is consistently more distrusted with the economy than the Conservatives, which is rather annoying, especially considering that when you look at both deficit and debt as a % of GDP over the last 100 years the fluctuations in debts and deficits have no relation to whether or not the Prime Minister is blue or red, and therefore aren’t politically driven:

Deficits-by-chancellor-001
It’s almost like macroeconomics is more complicated than who happens to be in charge and people get unjust blame or credit for things they had very little to do with. Image from the Guardian. 

But however you view stewardship of the economy, the fact that Labour’s not prepared supporters for the reality of continued austerity might further disenfranchise more and more of their core support to, say, the Green party, who are ideologically opposed and support more Keynesian and Fordist policies to spur economic growth (see the Green New Deal).

Of course, things aren’t sunshine and rainbows for the Conservatives, either. The party has been in long term decline since the 1950s in terms of membership. This is coupled with the fact that even under the then profoundly unelectable Gordon Brown, Cameron still failed to gain a majority, and is likely to fail to get one this time around.

As for the Lib Dems long term prospects, I don’t buy this idea that they’re on the verge of extinction. They’ve been facing electoral extinction since the times of Jo Grimmond (who inspired Tony Blair’s New Labour and the Third Way).

But back to the numbers of 2015, they tell a clear story of politics winners and losers.

TL;DR – Lib Dems will lose out (most likely to the benefit of Labour), and UKIP will benefit (most likely to the detriment of everyone, but the Tories will feel the hit harder).

Will UKIP get any seats?
I don’t know. Probably.

If you’d asked me a while back, I’d have said “Probably not”.

Why?
Again, maths.

If you believe the polls, UKIP looks like it’ll gain 17% of the popular vote in comparison to the miserly 8% of the Lib Dems, pushing them into 4th place.

But, at least at the time, I’d have said UKIPs endeavours would likely be fruitless ones. The reason I said this was when Electoral Calculus ran the numbers of converting popular support into seats, UKIP would need 20% to gain multiple MPs, due to a spread out voter base caused by populist support from both the left and the right. This lack of geographical concentration meant that UKIP couldn’t translate its support into seats.

This prediction mechanism, however, has caveats in it. For example, it assumes UKIP support is fairly evenly distributed, or at least it is evenly created from defecting Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat voters. If UKIP support is concentrated, rather than being evenly spread, then they will get more MPs despite lower levels of popular support. But if you assume that defecting voters behave identically, no matter which party they previously supported (UKIP being an engine for capitalising on the disenfranchised voter), then they’d be a geographically homogeneous lump roughly even spread, and not a single UKIP MP wearing a tie with two colours that never belonged together (perhaps a metaphor for UKIP immigration policy) will grace the halls of Westminster.

So what changed your answer?
Douglas Carswell and Reckless Mark Reckless.

When Farage says that Rochester and Strood was 271st on their list of target seats, he’s referring to demographic work done by Ford and Goodwin’s book “Revolt on the Right” (which I’d recommend for people to read as a good tracker of the rise of UKIP).

Ford and Goodwin basically made a list, based on 2011 census data, to see which constituencies would be most favourable for UKIP to win.

Generally, older, less educated, manual workers are more likely to vote UKIP than professionals, students, university educated young people. Also white demographics were more likely to vote UKIP than ethnic minorities (what with the looming racism and all…)

But in actuality, demographics are superseded by ideological leanings. UKIP share more with the traditionally right wing Tory party, so are more likely to gain support from Conservative defectors. Since we might expect that the ex-Conservatives would be more attracted to UKIP, and the ex-Lib-Dems to Labour and the Greens, this might affect the accuracy of polls, especially in strong Conservative areas, which feel disappointed by a David Cameron they feel is too weak in regards to Europe and immigration.

Let’s put it this way: UKIP wouldn’t likely overturn Labour’s majority of 72% in Liverpool Walton, even if it’s 91% White British with 30% of Households being pensioners with a over fifth holding no formal qualifications – a place which is “favourable” to UKIP. It’d need a helluva campaign to transform their 2.6% of the vote from 2010.

However for, say, Thanet South, it’d be much easier to galvanise UKIP-ers to go out to the polls come vote day.

But UKIP doesn’t just attract Conservative votes. The Fabian Society’s research, “Revolt on the Left”, highlights which areas are under threat from UKIP.

Here are the following areas where UKIP can make gains based on both demographics and small majorities (i.e. marginal seats):

  • South Thanet – Conservative
  • North Thanet – Conservative
  • Forest of Dean – Conservative
  • Sittingbourne and Sheppey – Conservative
  • Aylesbury – Conservative
  • East Worthing and Shoreham – Conservative
  • Great Yarmouth – Conservative
  • Thurrock – Conservative
  • Eastleigh – Liberal Democrat
  • Portsmouth South – Liberal Democrat
  • Boston and Skegness – Conservative
  • Great Grimsby – Labour
  • Waveney – Conservative
  • Dudley North – Labour
  • Plymouth Moor View – Labour
  • Rother Valley – Labour
  • Rotherham – Labour

This demonstrates how it’s not just Conservative areas which are vulnerable to UKIP, even if Conservative areas are more likely to support and defect to UKIP.

If we go back to the maths done by the people at Electoral Calculus, they predict for UKIP to secure double seats, they need 20% of the vote, due to a wide spread voter base and lack of concentrated pockets of support in constituencies to grant them seats in Westminster.

But, as Douglas and Mark proved, people do strange things at voting time. Rochester, a place the Conservatives “threw the kitchen sink” at, and lost, might be the catalyst for UKIP supporters to say that they are a genuine alternative to the Westminster Big Three, and might win voters over to the UKIP cause.

TL;DR – for UKIP to get a significant amount of MPs into Parliament it’ll need support of over 20% of the populace due to a spread out voter base and I stand by the convictions of Electoral Calculus. But, given recent political success and the areas under threat by UKIP, they stand to put MPs in Parliament come 2015.

And the Greens?
The Greens are odd.

While media attention by and large is focussed around UKIP, the Green party have manoeuvred and grown to become an established 5th Party in British Politics, and a credible threat to Labour and Liberal Democrat support on the Left (no matter what Ofcom says).

In fact the Greens, if polls are to be believed, are likely to walk away with a larger share of support than the Liberal Democrats in terms of popular vote.

Further to this end, unlike UKIP, Green support is not evenly distributed geographically.

As well as capitalising on disenfranchised Labour and Lib Dem voters, they have also given the most neglected of demographics a home: students. Students are primarily young, social liberals in higher education (who were the same kind of people who used to vote Liberal Democrat). Since November 2014, Young Green Membership has increased to 4500 (up 165% form 1700) and the Greens have over 65 University Groups nationally. A recent (December 2014) YouthSight poll indicates that Green support among students is at 24%, second to Labour (at 38%), with the Greens planning to continue to make gains for student support of May 2015.

Research by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has highlighted that, while not reflective of the wider population, the student vote could swing the results in up to ten constituencies.

These 10, if you’re interested, are where the Greens are targetting – as they are primarily young voters, middle class with social-liberal sympathies:

1. Cardiff Central (41.1% of households) – 13% Lib Dem majority
2. Sheffield Central (39.7% of households) – Lab maj. of 0.4% over Lib Dems
3. Bristol West (37.6% of households) – 21% Lib Dem maj over Lab
4. Brighton Pavilion (36.7% of households) – Green-held
5. Manchester Withington (33.9% of households) – Lib Dem maj of 4.1% over Lab
6. Wimbledon (33.6% of households) – 24% Con maj over Lib Dems
7. Newcastle-upon-Tyne East (30.6% of households) – 12% Lab maj over Lib Dems
8. Tooting (30.6% of households) – 5% Lab maj over Con
9. York Central (29.5% of households) – 14% Lab maj over LD/Con
10. Hove (28.7% of households) – 3.7% Con maj over Lab

Labour will be counting on students supporting them in a number of student-heavy seats that they hope to gain from incumbent Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. If a similar level of support for the Greens expressed in a recent YouthSight poll was replicated at the ballot box, Labour would likely find it incredibly difficult to win seats from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on the back of student support. This might push them to lower tuition fees to shore up student support – in fact, I’d be willing to bet money on it.

Even if the Green party is still second behind Labour in student opinion polls, given this targetting of students and Lib Dem voters, who primarily used to be students, suggests geographical concentrations of Green voters. This is emphasised by a deliberate strategy by the Green party to target Youth voters, and the 12 seats they plan to gain come May 2015 are primarily in University towns. This includes Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff et al., all of which are primarily student dominated seats, and (had) strong Liberal support from the electorate in 2010.

What does this mean for Sheffield (my Uni city)?
If you’re a Sheffield student, chances are you’ll fall into one of two constituencies: Sheffield Hallam, or Sheffield Central.

Whether or not you’re in Hallam or Central will ultimately dictate if the Green Party has the possibility to gain an MP in these constituencies.

In Sheffield Central, the share of the vote won by the Green Party in that Council Ward was an impressive 30%.

Sheffield Central is doubly vulnerable to the Green Party as it is an ‘Ultra-Marginal Labour’ seat, with 2010 support more or less divided equally between Labour and the Lib Dems at 41%. But the Greens were the 4th largest party in 2010. If polling data from the Council Wards is any indicator, Greens have been steadily building support, mostly to the detriment of the Liberal Democrats.

Assuming disillusioned Liberal Democrats switched to the Green Party en mass, and Labour loses enough of the windfall it gained from the Lib Dems it attracted in recent months (which the Council Ward information suggests has happened) – there is a strong chance Sheffield Central can send a Green MP to Westminster (depending, of course, how you vote – but it should be made clear the Green Party is not a wasted vote in Sheffield Central, which might be why Paul Blomfield (Labour), has taken to pointing out the Green threat in his campaign leaflets).

TL;DR – Sheffield Central is really a 2 horse race between Greens and Labour, with the Lib Dems slipping into 3rd (If you use 2014 Council Ward Data, and make assumptions based on the 2010 outcome).

Sheffield Hallam, meanwhile, once a Lib-Dem Fortress of solitude, is seeing challenges from Labour, and if ICM polls are to be believed (combined with the Council Ward Data from the 2014 Local Elections) means that it’s a straight up race between Labour and the Liberal Democrats: a seat which Labour could be poised to take for the first time since basically forever (well, 1992, which is when I’ve begun counting from since there were major boundary changes in 1992).

Considering the Liberal Democrats are about as electable as Jimmy Saville is in the eyes of student voters, AND taking into account ICM-Poll predictions about the response of the Council Wards in the 2014 Local Elections – it looks like Labour stands a strong chance of winning Sheffield Hallam in 2015

TL;DR – The Greens probably can’t win in Hallam. But chances are, Labour will (depending on how you vote).

So the Greens stand a chance of making quite good gains in 2015, and stand equally good chances of sending more MPs to Parliament.

And I’d be willing to say the Greens will hold onto Brighton Central, or Brighton and Hove Council.

That’s not to say that they definitely will. There isn’t much space to explain why it’ll be tough for them. For now, I’ll just say a 2013 ComRes poll for the BBC indicated Green support fell by a third since its 2010 peak in Brighton, with Labour holding a 17 per cent lead over the party that vowed to “make things difficult for Labour in 2015”.

As a brief insight, I will say with greater support has come greater fragmentation among the Green party, which seems divided among two distinct camps: socialist (and to a lesser degree, social democrats) vs more centrist liberals with left leaning sympathies – often represented in the Green Party as Watermelons (the socialists and social democrats) versus Mangoes (the centre-left liberals).

It’s the classical liberals and leftists divide which harmed New Labour as it adopted what is known as “The Third Way”, and has only grown in the Green party over recent years as their ranks swell with more and more ex-Lib Dem and disillusioned Labour supporters. While the two camps broadly agree with ideals such as social liberalism, egalitarianism, and operating for the common good of society, there are different ideas about how to go around things. The same is true for civic responsibility, where divisions exist between those who idealise the community over the individual and vice versa (Communitarian vs Libertarian).

I’ll also say that without classical discipline structures to whip rebels into line, I don’t see this issue going away for the Greens as they grow in popularity among left wing voters. However, this topic is way too in depth for this piece, so for now:

TL;DR – The Greens will probably hold Brighton Central, but Labour won’t let it go without a fight. If it’s gonna swing to anyone, it’ll swing to them.

What about the #GreenSurge?
Yeah…

The Greens recently enjoyed a boom in membership growth which pushed them over UKIP and the Lib Dems in terms of membership (15/1/15).

This is all well and good, but this hasn’t translated into voter support, which still stands them around the Liberal Democrats, as oppose to UKIP, who hold around 15% of Popular Support (despite now having fewer members).

So if the Green Surge is a-happening, where’s the voter base?

The Greens, despite tapping into the University bubble (which might bag them a handful of MPs, as their support is geographically concentrated) are, oddly enough for a Party based on environmentalism, draining a finite resource. Liberal Democrats.

Let’s turn back to the wonderful people at Number Cruncher:

Green-2BDecomp
Hollowing out the Lib Dems (or attempting to) is quite an efficient way of turning votes into seats (or attempting to) because Lib Dem votes have become increasingly concentrated in favourable areas.

But voting data spells an interesting story for Labour. There is increasing numbers of Labour voters who are considering voting Green.

Greens/% All Voters/% Labour Voters/% Lib Dem Voters/%
Probably will vote Green 4 0 2
Will consider voting Green
15 22 31
Total 19 22 33

Data from YouGov – Oct. 2014

Because Labour have a much higher vote share than the Lib Dems, the ‘red greens’ are by far the largest chunk of all voters (about 7.5%) with the Lib Dems worth about 3%.

The Greens need to shift the considerers into people who are more likely to vote Green if it is going to enjoy the political momentum enjoyed by UKIP. So can they do it? Who knows.

The Greens have enjoyed previous growths in support. According to the Number Cruncher data, the Greens rode a surge of environmental based support in 1989, until an ailing economy in 1992 caused voter issues to shift from environment to economy, and their vote share in the 1992 General Election fell to 0.5%.

Green-2BLT

The growth this time is much more steady and stable, which suggests to me a genuinely growing support base. The growth of the Greens is more than just “what all the hip youngsters are doing” – it looks like genuine change. It’s likely gonna hold onto the disillusioned Lib Dems it got in the first place, who’s role in government disheartened it’s lefty liberal voting base.

TL;DR – It’s unwise for Labour and the Lib Dems to ignore or deny the #GreenSurge

What’s gonna swing the election? What are the big issues?
Here are the top 5 issues for voters for 2015:

1. Race Relations and Immigration
2. NHS
3. Economy
4. Defence, Foreign Affairs and Terrorism
5. Unemployment

(Data based on Economist/Ipsos-Mori Issue Index, September 2014)

How are the parties gonna play up to these big issues?
Well rather than analyse the evidence behind each party and how it holds up to scrutiny, I’m just going to say what each party would do in government based on their manifesto pledges for each specified issue above.

So I won’t say how UKIP continues its scientific illiteracy over climate change, while simultaneously setting up a Royal Commission for scientists to reach a conclusion they’ve already reached being a massive waste of time considering it wants to destroy any institution or apparatus connected with solving the problem before a commission even reports, indicates a party staffed by people who are far from rational. Or it’s continued opposition to Libel reform. Or it’s energy report on “Keeping the Lights On” being a massive crock of shit. Or how they’re really bad with maths (or just outright lie about the cost of Europe or how many of our laws are made there).

And I won’t talk about how the Greens continue their scientific illiteracy over GMO policy (and quiet support of alternative medicine) and that they really need to update and revise it.

And how Conservative welfare proposals are kinda dumb; or how Labour don’t really have a solid plan for freezing energy bills.

And I won’t talk about how the Lib Dems have kinda screwed up with the whole protecting Civil Liberties thing, or how they can’t claim the victory over enacting Section 78 of the Equal Pay Act because (A) it was proposed by Labour, (B) they opted for the Think, Act, Report initiative (which failed spectacularly), (C) they had a democratic mandate to introduce it into Parliament much much earlier than they did and (D) it was Labour who passed the Equal Pay Act 2010 in the first place. But they have a good manifesto and they’ve come out in favour of Net Neutrality (you go, Nick!)

And it won’t cover achievements made by governing parties, or by legislation proposed and passed by opposition parties.

But I will say which party has which stance on which issue.

1. Race Relations and Immigration:
Tories

  • Migrants must wait four years before they can claim certain benefits, such as tax credits, Universal Credit, or get access to social housing.
  • Migrants cannot claim child benefit for dependents living outside the UK.
  • Deportation of those that have failed to find work after six months.
  • Reform EU free movement rules with the renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
  • No temporary cap on migrant numbers or an “emergency brake” on EU freedom of movement rules
  • Bring net immigration down to below 100,000 people a year (it currently stands at 243,000).

Labour

  • Doubling the maximum fine for those paying below the NMW to £50,000 and giving local councils the power to enforce the minimum wage
  • Extend the scope of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority
  • Strengthen laws so that recruitment agencies aren’t able to discriminate against UK workers from applying for jobs
  • Ensure housing laws are enforced to stop migrant workers being exploited and crammed into ‘beds in sheds’ and undercutting local workers’;
  • Giving people the skills they need for the future by ensuring that large companies bringing in workers from outside the EU also have to offer an apprenticeship for a local worker.
  • “Smarter” targets to reduce low-skilled migration but ensure university students and high-skilled workers are not deterred.

Lib Dems

  • Bringing back control to the immigration system by introducing exit checks, so the Government can keep track of who is leaving the country and identify people who are overstaying their visa.
  • Ending the practice of routinely detaining children for immigration purposes (Which they claim they’ve already done).
  • Work with other European countries to stamp out human trafficking,
  • Introduce a Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme
  • Long-term migrants must learn English, and that the local pressures on schools and housing are eased for everyone by using European money to deliver for communities facing rapid change.
  • Will require all new claimants for Jobseekers Allowance to have their English language skills assessed, with JSA then being conditional on attending language courses for those whose English is poor.
  • Ensure that EU migrants have to “earn” their entitlement to benefits.
  • Support the right to free movement across the European Union (EU)
  • Would ask UK Visas and Immigration to create a ‘stream-lined, fast-track process’ for entry applicants that have already been issued a Schengen visa

UKIP

  • Regain control of borders and of immigration by leaving the EU and not joining the EEA.
  • Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years. This means private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing.
  • A points-based visa system and time-limited work permits to be extended to EU citizens.
    Proof of private health insurance must be a precondition for immigrants and tourists to enter the UK.
  • Prioritise social housing for people whose parents and grandparents were born locally (Fun Fact – this is pretty much a re-worked policy of the BNPs attitudes to social housing. Isn’t learning fun?)
  • Migrants will only be eligible for benefits (in work or out of work) when they have been paying tax and NI for five years and will only be eligible for permanent residence after ten years.
  • Reinstate the primary purpose rule for bringing foreign spouses and children to the UK.
  • Deny amnesty for illegal immigrants or those gaining British passports through fraud.
  • Official documents will be published in English and, where appropriate Welsh and Scots Gaelic.
  • Ensure that the law is rigorously enforced in relation to ‘cultural’ practices which are illegal in Britain, such as forced marriages, FGM and so-called ‘honour killings’
  • Bring net immigration down to 50,000 people a year.
  • Priority lanes for UK passport holders.
  • Increase UK border staff by 2,500.
  • Tougher English language tests for migrants seeking permanent residence.
  • Opt out of the Dublin treaty to allow the UK to return asylum seekers to other EU countries without considering their claim. (Anyone who currently has the legal right to live, work, or study in the UK would not face deportation in the event of the country’s withdrawal from the EU).

Greens

  • Progressively reduce UK immigration controls.
  • Migrants illegally in the UK for over five years will be allowed to remain unless they pose a serious danger to public safety.
  • More legal rights for asylum seekers.

2. NHS
Tories

  • Continue to ring-fence the NHS budget, with a real-terms increase in health spending from 2015 to 2020.
  • All patients to have access to a GP from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week by 2020.
  • 5,000 more GPs to be trained by 2020.
  • Cap redundancy payments to NHS and other public sector staff at £95,000, except for those earning less than £27,000 a year.

Labour

  • ‘Whole person care’ as the organising principle of the NHS, with health and well-being boards becoming the single commissioning authority of health and social care services
  • Repeal Health and Social Care Act provisions relating to competition and reduce the amount of income foundation trusts can earn from private patients (although Parliament already voted yes on the first part of this back in November 2014)
  • The NHS to be the preferred provider of services, with services opened up to competition only if commissioners judge the NHS is unable to meet their requirements.
  • Introduce an annual £2.5 billion ‘time to care’ fund to pay for 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 5,000 care workers and 3,000 midwives.
  • Guaranteed appointments with a GP within 48 hours.
  • An annual Cancer Treatments Fund. This would replace the Cancer Drugs Fund when it expires in March 2016, building on current provision to include non-pharmaceutical treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery. £50 million from a pharmaceutical industry rebate would be added to the existing Cancer Drugs Fund budget to create a new fund of £330 million per year.
  • A 10 year ambition for Britain to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe and a guarantee that patients will have to wait no longer than a week for cancer tests and results by 2020. Paid for from the proceeds of a Tobacco Levy

Lib Dems

  • Increase NHS spending by £8 billion a year by 2020/21, in three stages.
  • Provide an extra £500 million for mental health services to improve access and reduce waiting times.
  • £12m to help people with mental health issues return to work
  • Health and wellbeing boards to be increased in size and given power to hold budgets.
  • NHS mergers no longer to come under the jurisdiction of the Competition and Markets
  • Authority and commissioners not to have to put all services out to tender.
  • All patients to be issued with a ‘care footprint’ detailing the costs of their care
    6,000 more doctors, lower waiting times and giving cancer drugs to 30,000 people.
  • Introducing a cap on the cost of social care.

UKIP

  • Make NHS-approved private medical insurance compulsory for all visitors to the UK and for migrants who have been resident for fewer than five years.
  • Replace Monitor and the Care Quality Commission with ‘county health boards’ made up of locally elected health professionals.
  • Introduce a statutory ‘licence to manage’ for NHS managers, overseen by a professional regulator on the same footing as the General Medical Council.
  • End hospital car parking charges in England.
  • Keep the NHS free at the point of use
  • Ending the use of PFI contracts
  • NHS workers must pass a language test before they can work for the NHS (spoiler alert – that already happens)
  • Replace Monitor and the Care Quality Commission with elected county health boards to be more responsive scrutineers of local health services. These will be able to inspect health services and take evidence from whistle-blowers.
  • Oppose the sale of NHS data to third parties.
  • Amend working time rules to give trainee doctors, surgeons and medics the proper environment to train and practise.
  • Oppose ‘plain paper packaging’ for tobacco products and minimum pricing of alcohol.

Greens

  • Repeal the Health and Social Care Act, and Care Act provisions that expanded the Health Secretary’s powers to close hospitals or hospital departments.
  • Introduce an ‘NHS tax’ to increase funding to the approximate EU average, abolish prescription and other user charges, and expand free NHS dentistry.
  • Introduce free personal care for older people
  • Abolish foundation hospital status, reducing the amount of income that these trusts can earn from treating private patients.
  • All promotion of tobacco and alcohol products, including sponsorship, to be banned.

All policies taken from The Kings Fund (December 2014), who are the first port of call for all information NHS.

3. Economy:
Tories

  • Create a Digital Single Market
  • Push for EU-ASEAN and Mexico free trade agreements and an investment deal with China
  • Expand the Single Market by breaking down remaining barriers and ensuring that new sectors are opened up to British firms
  • Take further steps to reduce the burden of excessive red tape on businesses by simplifying or withdrawing more EU rules wherever possible
  • Deal with the effects of the Working Time Directive, in particular on our public services
  • Finalise free trade deals with the United States, Japan and India
  • Eradicate the deficit by 2018.
  • An income tax cut for 30 million people by 2020. (Tax would start to kick in at £12,500 a year, instead of £10,500. This will cost £5.6bn).
  • The higher tax rate, 40%, would start at £50,000 instead of £41,900, again by 2020, at a cost of £1.6bn. (This will be paid for through £25bn in additional spending cuts and economic growth).

Labour

  • Get the current budget into surplus and the national debt falling “as soon as possible in the next parliament”.
  • No additional borrowing for new spending.
  • Reintroduce the 50p top rate of income tax for earnings over £150,000.
  • Cut income tax for 24 million people by bringing back the 10p rate, paid for by scrapping the Married Couples’ Tax Allowance.
  • Bring in a “mansion tax” on properties worth over £2m, to raise £1.2bn.
  • A tax on bankers’ bonuses.
  • A 5% pay cut for every government minister.
  • Protect rights to: Minimum four weeks’ paid holiday, parental leave and extended maternity leave
  • Campaign for the right to: Request flexible working and the same protection for part-time workers as full-time workers
  • Cut business rates for small firms
  • Introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long-term unemployed
  • Shift EU spending from areas such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and put into other areas such as research and development for new technologies and industries
  • Work for the completion of the Single Market in digital, energy and services
  • Protect the operation of the Single Market in existing sectors
  • Support the conclusion of Free Trade Agreements
  • Support EU-US trade and investment partnership (TTIP)
  • Change rules so bankers’ bonuses are properly controlled whilst maintaining an effective banking system
  • Improve the cost of living in the UK by: Banning zero-hours contracts; Reform of the
  • European single market in energy; Prioritising transport through infrastructure development and protection of consumer rights
  • Close legal loopholes in rules for agency workers
  • Change the Minimum Wage regulations to stop employers providing unsuitable accommodation and offsetting it against workers’ pay
  • Stop the loophole in the Agency Workers Directive being used to undercut the pay of non-agency staff
  • Ensure Directives like the Posted Workers Directive are effective
  • Freeze energy prices until January 2017
  • Introduce a lower 10p starting rate of tax
  • Ensure EU competition policies benefit consumers, particularly energy
  • Extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority so that they could remove licenses from employers exploiting workers in other sectors of our economy where there is abuse

Lib Dems

  • Raise the personal allowance – the point at which you start paying income tax – to £11,000 in April 2016 and then to £12,500 by 2020.
  • “Strict new fiscal rules” to ensure the deficit has gone by April 2018, with the wealthy contributing the most.
  • A “mansion tax”, but in contrast to Labour, would set it along similar lines to council tax bands.
  • Increase capital gains tax – paid on profits from second homes or shares – from 28% to 35%.
  • Remove remaining trade barriers
  • Open up the European Union’s (EU) online industries energy market and services
  • Campaign for the removal of barriers that prevent British companies from entering the rail, air and shipping markets in other EU markets
  • Push for global reductions in export subsidies and tariffs that affect developing economies’ exports
  • Back European Union trade negotiations with emerging economies, as well as with the USA and Japan
  • Prioritise creating greater opportunities for small and medium sized businesses in the EU
  • Promote measures to improve access to European funding for small and medium sized businesses
  • Reduce EU regulatory costs to small businesses
  • Demand impact assessments on small businesses before new proposals for regulatory costs come forward, and exempt smaller businesses from legislation where appropriate
  • Back representation for small and medium sized businesses
  • Promote an ‘easy-to-use’ EU information portal for small firms Want more trade initiatives promoted by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and UK embassies in other states
  • Support EU employment legislation that ‘upholds fairness’ and necessary protection of workers
  • Work towards making the Working Time Directive less ‘burdensome’ for small businesses doctors and hospitals
  • Guarantee workers reasonable holidays and rest breaks
  • Defend opt out of the 48 hour working week limit applied by the UK Promotion of UK leadership in the EU market for knowledge, research and innovation
  • Work to ensure that UK universities and companies continue to obtain European research funding
  • Support rules for the production of low emission vehicles
  • Support European Investment Bank (EIB) initiative to develop project bonds in order to speed up infrastructure development
  • Continue to press for new rules to force large companies to pay ‘fair’ taxes to the countries in which they operate
  • Work to secure clear and understandable EU-wide information to explain risks and costs when buying a wide range of financial products such as life insurance
  • Work for ‘fairer’ rules that will ‘clamp down’ on manipulation of energy and financial markets
  • Campaign to extend the system where money transfers between banks in Euro-zone countries do not face transaction charges

UKIP

  • Keep the trade agreements entered into as an EU member prior to the Lisbon Treaty More flexible small business regulation
  • Reduce fuel duty
  • Reduce disparity between diesel and petrol
  • Increase the personal allowance to the level of full-time minimum wage earnings, about £13,500, by 2020.
  • Abolish inheritance tax.
  • Introduce a 35% income tax rate between £42,285 and £55,000, at which point the 40% rate becomes payable.
  • Set up a Treasury Commission to design a turnover tax on large businesses.
  • Cut foreign aid budget by £9bn a year.
  • Scrap HS2.
  • Save £8bn a year in membership fees by leaving the EU.
  • Lower the VAT rate charged on restorations to listed buildings.
  • Abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change and scrap green subsidies.
  • Abolish the Department for Culture Media and Sport.
  • Reduce Barnett Formula spending and give devolved parliaments and assemblies further tax powers to compensate.
  • Oppose the bedroom tax
  • Child benefit is only to be paid to children permanently resident in the UK and future child benefit to be limited to the first two children only.
  • Impose a benefits cap.

Greens

  • Opposition of austerity.
  • Investment in a low carbon economy through a “Green New Deal”.
  • Change the national minimum wage in to a living wage.
  • Build ‘truly’ affordable housing.
  • Stop demolishing existing homes.
  • Scrap the welfare cap.
  • Enforce a cap on bankers bonuses.
  • Reduce the pay gap between higher and lower working levels.
  • People earning more than £100,000 a year would pay 50% income tax.
  • Wealth tax of 1% to 2% on people worth £3m or more.
  • Renationalise the railways and energy companies.
  • Scrap HS2.
  • Allow councils to impose extra business rates on out-of-town supermarkets to fund small local businesses.
  • Crackdown on tax avoidance by multinationals.
  • Allow “the current dependence on economic growth to cease, and allow zero or negative growth to be feasible without individual hardship”.
  • Commit Britain to a “zero carbon” future.
  • Cut rail and bus fares by an average of 10%.

4. Defence, Terrorism and Foreign Affairs:
Tories

  • Hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by 2017, after negotiating the return of some powers from Brussels.
  • Protect foreign aid budget at 0.7% of GDP.
  • Replace Trident.
  • End Britain’s commitment to ‘ever closer union.’
  • ‘Europe if necessary, national when possible.’
  • Ensure a bigger role for national governments in setting the EU’s agenda Insist on protections or countries that have kept their own currencies.
  • Press for a single location for the European Parliament Work for lower expenditure and tougher scrutiny of the EU budget and accounts.
  • Strengthen the ‘yellow card’ power for national parliaments and introduce a system of ‘red cards’ so that national parliaments can group together to block legislation that need not be agreed at the European level
  • Support the Dutch Parliament’s proposals for further increased national Parliamentary control over EU legislation
  • Scrap the Human Rights Act
  • Curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK and ensure that the UK’s Supreme Court is in Britain Press for further practical co-operation on tackling terrorism, crime and illegal immigration
  • Step up European co-operation against modern slavery, female genital mutilation and forced marriage
  • If the UK opts back into the European Arrest Warrant, would make sure that: (1) It is not applicable for minor crimes; (2) that alternatives can be used where possible; (3) Lengthy pre-trial detention can be avoided; and (4) People are not extradited for doing things that are not illegal in the UK
  • Stop European measures on criminal law, asylum, immigration and border control that are not in Britain’s interests – including a European Public Prosecutor’s Office

Labour

  • Push for reform of European Union and prevent Britain from “sleepwalking” towards exit.
  • Commit in law to holding a Strategic Defence and Security Review every 5 years.
  • Outlaw discrimination and abuse of Armed Forces personnel.
  • Would not relinquish Britain’s power over Britain’s criminal justice system
  • Committed to improving the EU’s effectiveness to fight crime, and support a proper framework for police forces to work together across borders
  • Consult on lowering the sentence threshold for EU migrants who commit crimes having only recently arrived in the UK, so that, for example, a migrant who committed common assault or robbery within a few months of arriving would be automatically considered for deportation
  • Ensure the EU is focused on the ‘core priority of economic stability and job creation’, and work to achieve changes that help maximise British influence over reform in the EU to make it work better for Britain
  • Campaign for the second seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to be scrapped
  • Call for national parliaments to have more of a say over the making of new EU legislation
  • Introduction of a ‘red card’ system (in addition to the current ‘yellow card’ system)
  • Call for the House of Commons to allow MPs the opportunity for intervention at an earlier stage in EU policy making
  • Legislate for a ‘lock’ that ensures no future Government can transfer powers to Brussels without holding a referendum

Lib Dems

  • Campaign to reduce the number of Trident nuclear submarines.
  • Push for greater European Union efficiency.
  • Press for a European Union (EU) missing child alert system
  • Support measures to combat cross-border fraud corruption and tax evasion
  • Work to secure the implementation of the European Commission’s proposal on fighting money laundering Agree that an EU database of unidentified bodies should be set up
  • Support the work of the new European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3)
  • Want the protection of children online to be a priority for the EU
  • Work to extend the EU’s criminal record information system (ECRIS)
  • Support further measures to ensure fair treatment and trail of Britons in other EU countries
  • Support proportional use of the European Arrest Warrant for the arrest and conviction of suspects
  • Support ‘Eurobail’ to allow British citizens who have been arrested in another EU country serve their bail back in the UK
  • Want the UK to re-join the EU system of transfer of non-custodial sentences back to the UK
  • Want a stronger system for ensuring that EU member states maintain high standards in the rule of law, human rights and democracy after they join the EU
  • Campaign strongly for the UK to remain in the European Union (EU)
  • Campaign to bring an end to the wasteful travel between the European Parliament cities as required by the present treaty
  • Push for further reductions in EU administrative costs Support an audit of existing EU agencies to find savings
  • Abolition of the Economic and Social Committee
  • Call for a guarantee in the next EU treaty the member states both inside and outside the Euro-zone have full input in the regulation and application of the single market
  • Want reform to ensure better scrutiny of EU rules by national parliaments
  • Support reform of the House of Commons scutiny system
  • Support introduction of regular EU question times for ministers
  • Believe MPs should be given a chance to influence the position taken by the British Goverment in Europe
  • Support more active encouragement of potential UK candidates to Institutions in the EU Believe that the promotion of human rights and democracy should be at the heart of European foreign policy
  • Support further enlargement of the EU
  • All candidate countries to the EU must strengthen democracy and human rights before gaining membership
  • Press for all EU policies that affect the poorest countries in the world (including trade and agriculture to take account of development priorities)
  • Want the EU to work with developing countries to share expertise and funding on issues that affect whole regions (such as migration, security, infrastructure, development and trade)
  • Want all EU information on aid to meet the International Aid Transparency Initiative Standard Press for European development asssistance to uphold the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable groups like women and girls, older people and those with disabilities
  • Press for European development asssistance to recognise climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity
  • Press for European development asssistance to encourage common approaches to medical diagnosis, information and treatment in developing countries

UKIP

  • Leave the European Union.
  • Remove the passports of any person who has gone to fight for a terrorist organisation and deport anyone who has committed a terrorist act.
  • Cut foreign aid budget by £9bn.
  • Create a Veterans Department to look after the interests of ex-service men and women.
  • Withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Reverse the government’s opt-in to EU law and justice measures, including the European Arrest Warrant and European Investigation Order, and replace the EAW with appropriate bi-lateral agreements.
  • Deny prisoners the vote. Full sentences should be served and this should be taken into account when criminals are convicted and sentenced in court. Parole should be available for good behaviour on a case-by-case basis, not systematically.
  • Repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new British Bill of Rights. The interests of law-abiding citizens & victims will always take precedence over those of criminals.

Greens

  • Referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
  • Reform of EU to hand powers back to local communities.
  • Boost overseas aid to 1% of GDP within 10 years.
  • Scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons.
  • Take the UK out of NATO unilaterally.
  • End the so-called “special relationship” between the UK and the US.
  • Stop EU-US free trade deal TTIP.

5. Unemployment and Welfare
Tories

  • No increase in benefits for working-age people for two years to save £3bn, which affects those receiving jobseekers’ allowance, income support, tax credits and child benefit.
  • Cut maximum amount a household can claim each year from £26,000 to £23,000.
  • Withdraw Jobseeker’s Allowance from young people after six months unless they take part in “community projects”.
  • 18 to 21-year-olds wouldn’t be entitled to housing benefit.
  • Ban on zero-hours contracts which stop people getting work elsewhere.
  • Raise the personal allowance to £11,000 in April 2016 and then to £12,500 by 2020.

Labour

  • Guarantee a job for under 25s unemployed for over a year and adults unemployed for more than two years.
  • As many young people to go on an apprenticeship as currently go to university by 2025.
  • Create a million new high technology, green jobs by 2025.
  • Ban “exploitative” zero hour contracts.
  • Increase in the minimum wage from £6.50-an-hour to £8-an-hour by 2020.
  • Rises in child benefit capped at 1% for the first two years of the next parliament.
  • Winter fuel allowance would be withdrawn from the wealthiest pensioners.
  • Repeal what the government calls the spare room subsidy, dubbed the “bedroom tax” by Labour.
  • A million interest-free loans to help people insulate their homes.
  • Rail fares would be capped.

Lib Dems

  • An extra £1 an hour for the lowest paid apprentices.
  • Campaign to create a million more jobs.
  • Not accept Conservative plans to freeze working-age benefits without taxing the rich too, but wouldn’t block welfare cuts altogether.
  • Withdraw eligibility for the Winter Fuel Payment and free TV Licence from pensioners on the 40% rate of income tax.
  • A “yellow card” system to deal with benefit claimants breaking the rules, rather than imposing sanctions without warning.

UKIP

  • Businesses should be able to discriminate in favour of young British workers.
  • Repeal the Agency Workers Directive (This is an EU Anti Discrimination Directive that protects workers rights to equal pay and conditions for people in the same business who do the same work)
  • Extend the right of appeal for micro businesses against HMRC action

Green

  • A national energy conservation scheme to create thousands of new jobs.
  • Create “sustainable jobs” and promote more local production of food and goods.
  • Creation of jobs through promoting a “Green New Deal”
  • Universal Citizen’s Income, a fixed amount to be paid to every individual, whether they are in work or not, to be funded by higher taxes on the better off and green levies.
  • Minimum wage increases to £10 by 2020.
  • Ban zero hours contracts.
  • Axe the “bedroom tax”.
  • Abolish the work capability assessment and restore the level of the former disability living allowance.

TL;DR – There is no TL;DR here. If you’re not going to read the policies on what party has promised what then you’re a reckless, reckless individual! Read through the damn policies and find out what exactly you’re voting for before you cast your ballot on May 5th. Don’t be sucked in by scantily clad policies or ideological rigidity. Research your damn politics, you lunatic!

(If you did read this through in full please disregard the preceding)

So who will you be voting for? (And what biases did you have writing this, Mr wishy-washy Left Liberal Man!?)
Don’t know yet.

According to the people at I Side With I seem mostly split between the Greens, Liberals and Labour (69% and 67% respectively).
And the Vote for Policies people say I seem to side with the Greens the most, followed by the Lib Dems in second and Labour in third.

The Worlds Smallest Political Quiz puts me in the Liberal camp, close to the border with Libertarian Land.

In all honesty, though, I’m not galvanised by any of the parties.

While I like Labour’s ideas on the NHS (with a little Lib Dem approach to mental health), I wish they’d build policy more in line with the one produced by the Kings Fund.

A minimum wage rise would be welcome, as the evidence broadly supports the idea that minimum wages are good at combating poverty in the medium term. But as wages are set after recommendations by the Low Pay Commission, and the recommendations are dependent on things such as economic trends and inflation rates, means the £8 minimum wage isn’t super certain, and would likely be the case whoever is in charge (not overly ambitious, Ed).

Promoting the Living Wage through voluntary private sector decisions is well intentioned in the same way that the Think, Act, Report scheme was well intentioned, but it’s not being mandated for, so I doubt the effectiveness of taking a voluntary approach to Living Wage payments in comparison to a living wage being legally binding.

Labour’s still behind on drug policies lead by scientific evidence, and they don’t seem ready to increase scientific spending (which has largely remained static). They don’t have much to say in the way of pharmaceutical regulation and the disclosure of the efficacy of drugs to the public, either. Which isn’t encouraging.

Their rent plans are okay, though it’s not reaching for the Moon. Use it or lose it is a better way to approach brownfield re-development sites. They’ve not outlined how they’d fulfil their housing ambitions, whether it’d be a state effort or private sector driven building programme of affordable housing. And speaking of homes – Labour don’t seem to have any plans for the homeless that I can find, which the Lib Dems do.

Their freezing of energy bills has a lot of caveats to work around, even if I can see why they wanna change it.

At the moment, the Big Six don’t tell anyone what wholesale prices they are paying, which makes it hard to tell if consumer bill rises are justified in lieu of prices companies pay. Ofgem has found evidence to suggest companies exploit the secrecy by passing on wholesale prices rises to the consumer quickly and being slow to bring down bills when prices fall, but the regulator can’t do much to stop it (which is why I kinda like Labour’s idea to create a more effective energy watchdog).

But the separation of supply and production in energy can lead to unintended consequences – namely short term price rises and a reluctance to invest in long term infrastructures.

The plan is to introduce legislation to cap prices, irrespective of the changing costs in energy, however since energy companies have a lot of prices dictated by the price of fuel (i.e. stuff out of their control), and the volatile nature of oil and gas prices, it can place companies in the weird position of not having the money to fund infrastructure.

By separating production and supply chains, as Labour has proposed, producers become unconcerned with the security of the energy supply, which hinders infrastructure investments (which Ofgem says we need to make £200 billion worth), and causes shortages (which push prices up).

And there’s also the possibility that it can be challenged by Industry under UK and EU competition laws.

But Labour’s environmental action in regards to energy and climate change seems much more focused than the Green party (i.e. Labour actually HAVE a plan).

I like their ideas on expanding free childcare provisions and a childcare guarantee. A re-commitment to Sure Start seems to be a broadly beneficial use of time too, but there isn’t much evidence to suggest it was truly revolutionary. I think a Mansion Tax is a good idea, but I like the Lib Dem model (i.e. funding it via restructured council tax bands) more. I like the reintroduction of a higher 50p tax band, and a lower 10p one, but would like to see moves by Labour to take more vulnerable people out of income tax altogether.

Their prison policy is more geared towards rehabilitation, which is something I can get behind – although they’ve not outlined exactly what they’d do. And the numbers on their Youth Job Guarantees don’t add up.

While £5.5bn over the five years of the next parliament to subsidise minimum wage paid jobs (with training and admin costs) for people aged 18-24 who have been receiving welfare for over a year is a nice idea, we don’t know how much another bank bonus tax will raise. The House of Commons library thinks it’ll raise £900m to £1.3bn a year (subsidised with cut in the rate of pension tax relief to 20 per cent for people earning over £150,000 a year), so some £1bn will have to come from the bank bonus tax to make the scheme work.

Labour have proposed sexual education for Primary School children, which is something I feel is overdue considering our societal taboo of sex and the more damaging and pervasive influences it has on our culture, which I’m surprised the Liberal Democrats aren’t offering considering their history on these sorts of issues.

I like the Lib Dem Manifesto. But I feel betrayed by the Liberal Democrats and their rising of tuition fees, and replacing it with a system which leaves the vast majority of people paying more in spite of what Nick Clegg says about the new system in place.

I happen to like Nick Clegg, and the Lib Dems successfully delivered on Libel Reform in the form of the Defamation Act 2013, Freedom of Information, and scaling back CCTV and police stop and search powers, stopping DNA database retention of innocents (although this is likely more in line with a ruling from the ECHR) and curbing a councils ability to use RIPA (The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) for covert acts of investigation.

But the failure of the Liberal Democrats to defend civil liberties in regards to DRIP and Secret Courts, as well as supporting retroactive legislation on workfare (which goes directly against Article 6 and 7 of the Human Rights Act) has disheartened me as someone who identifies as a social liberal. I dislike continued support for the Gagging Law, which is far too loosely worded and lacks clarity on the extent of controls placed on campaigning and charities, along with the restrictions being too wide reaching, which will have an impact on free expression (this being in line with the Electoral Commission who said the plans are flawed and unenforceable, and something Labour has said they’d repeal).

I like the Liberal Democrats for opposing porn censorship, wanting to introduce a Freedoms Bill for the Internet and their support of Net Neutrality. But they have done little to stop Dave trying to de-rail Net Neutrality plans in Europe which would prevent him censoring the Internet. Something which Labour also seems lukewarm to oppose.

I like the Liberal Democrats being more vocal about women’s issues and gender equality, but I’m disappointed by their action in Government. I like their support of Section 78, but the bill was proposed by Labour opposition, and they didn’t implement it under the Conservatives – instead using the Think, Act, Report initiative which failed to get companies to declare gender pay gaps (something Section 78 would have forced them to do by law). It doesn’t help that the UK fell in gender equality rankings to 26th in 2014 from 18th according to the World Economic Forum and that women continue to be paid less than men despite often being higher educated for the most part, and that gender pay gaps rose from 2013 to 2014.

I like Liberal Democrat commitments to human rights in Europe and judicial reform; same with Labour. I like the broad internationalism of the Lib Dems and Labour, but dislike their voting records in Europe.

I like Nick Clegg’s quiet support of the separation of Church and State and move the UK towards a more broadly secular society which is tolerant of religious beliefs, but it hasn’t been enshrined in the same way that it’s enshrined in the Green Party.

I like the Liberal Democrats commitment to mental health issues, and change the NHS mandate to give mental health patients the same 18 week right as physical health patients did.

I like the fact the Liberal Democrats raised the Income Tax threshold, which the ONS says has helped raise the poorest incomes by 3.5%, but dislike how most people’s earning have fallen by ~£1000 (using RPI-J) since 2010. This is more annoying for while they claim to be building a fairer recovery, the same ONS data points out that single earner families, middle aged parents, single parents and large families have lost out. The top 10% may be paying more, but the top 1% haven’t seen income declines – even if they pay a larger share of income tax. And is compounded by LSE/ISER studies indicating that the poorest income groups have lost out the most on average, with richer households gaining through tax cuts – none of which has contributed to deficit reduction plans which have failed to materialise under austerity measures.

I like the £2.5 billion boost for schools, and cuts being directed away from more deprived schools, but am disheartened by the IFS saying that cuts of .75% would cancel out most of the efforts of the £2.5 billion to help disadvantaged pupils, instead being used to keep existing levels of support steady, rather than give schools the tools to expand help for underprivileged kids, but I like the expansion of shared parental leave.

I dislike the Coalitions stewardship of the economy, which has seen labour productivity fall for 6 years. Legislation to bring structural reforms to the banks has been modest at best, and hasn’t fixed the productivity gap of the UK, which is falling against OECD averages. With the OBR assuming 14% of output will be permanently lost, and people are likely to be 15-20% poorer since the 2008 financial crash, this government will have failed to secure a long term economic growth plan with rising wages and international competitiveness under the stewardship of a Chancellor who is at best ambivalent to the issue of falling productivity. The allocative efficiency if the economy (i.e. how good it is at allocating resources to the best businesses) which has cost us £96 billion of GDP between 1998 and 2007 hasn’t been reversed either, partly out of a reluctance to invest capital and low demand due to falling wages – all of which is hurting the recovery (correct as of 2014). None of which has come up in speeches to fix the economy!

Environmental legislation has also suffered under the Coalition at the hands of a government which is lukewarm about environmental action at best, and continues to sport a large amount of climate change deniers within their ranks (sometimes as head of Environmental Departments) at worst.

The Liberal Democrats have failed to bring environmental issues into the forefront in a Conservative lead government. A Green Investment Bank is a good idea, but it only started lending in 2015. Their claims of doubling wind farm capacity between 2010 and 2013 has come off the back of wind-farm construction which was either approved or began under the last Labour government, and any additional increases in capacity during that time can really be attributed to them. The lacklustre response to the environment has hurt Green issues, which the Lib Dems have failed to address in government.

And speaking of the Greens, they have some major growing up problems.

It could do better on it’s embracing of New Age Woo over evidence lead science policies such as GM and alternate medicines.

If you read their health policy HE311, it does outline a commitment to cost effective medicines based on evidence being utilised on the NHS lead by independent investigation. So this policy would include assessments of complementary medicines. But HE332 argues for a holistic approach to be taken. So even if the assessments will be evidence lead, alternate medicines (which have placebo benefits), have more wiggle room than implied by Natalie Bennett’s Q&A). This might be in line with the NICE recommendations for the use of alternate medicines which have placebo benefits and limited applications in the NHS to make people feel better, which I don’t have an issue with.

BUT. To argue for the integration of alternate medicines into the NHS is something which I disagree with personally, as the NICE paper saying that there should be limited use of alternate medicines on the NHS does outline that alternative treatments are not substitutes for conventional, evidence based medicine, and it was intellectually dishonest of Caroline Lucas to not point that out.

It’s also worth saying that conventional medicine is regulated by special laws that ensure that practitioners are properly qualified, and adhere to certain standards or codes of practice. Alternative Medicine is not. Chiropractors or osteopaths are, but the regulations only go as far as protecting public safety, not that it’s based in scientific evidence. It’s still snake oil. More research is needed for Complementary Medicines as the evidence is often of poor quality and so conclusions are hard to draw.

If you wanna know more, NICE has launched an evidence website where you can access all the medical literature to read for yourself: http://www.evidence.nhs.uk/

It should also be worth pointing out that they do have quiet sympathies to the alternate medicine movement (Yeah, Lucas, don’t think I’ve forgotten about your signature on the petition opposing the BMA’s recommendation to not have homoeopathy funded on the NHS! (yes, this really happened). And don’t think I’ve forgotten about your place on the EM Radiation Research Trust’s Board of Trustees, either!)

However in other areas, the stuff the Green party has said is really good.

They have good ideas on Libel Reform, and encouraging more Journals to abandon pay walls for academic journal information to be free to the public. They support a better voting system (I mean it’s Mixed Member Proportional and not Single Transferable Vote but, hey, it’s better than the voting system we currently have in place).

They seem to accept research for the sake of research and the importance of science to future prosperity, they have really strong drug policy stuff in recognising it as a public health issue rather than a criminal offence. And they seem supportive of issues like Net Neutrality and the importance for a dynamic, uncensored and open web, both of which are similar to the Lib Dems; and something Labour seems to be less supportive of.

The Greens oppose ACTA, which would reduce freedoms of expression and privacy, but haven’t outlined any plans to extend protections of journalists and whistle-blowers with, or introduce stronger proposals on cloud computing and encryption standards like Labour has done.

They have nice ideas about pharmaceutical regulations (although they have some considerable caveats). The decriminalisation of prostitution is also a nice idea, as well as liberalising Right to Die and Abortion Laws.

The introduction of a Basic Income is another nice idea as we increasingly move into automated economies where large sectors of the population simply won’t have to work.

(Yes, we are moving into a technologically heavy economy which is light on labour. Yes, this has been identified as a problem for some time. It’s likely to occur in your lifetime and put a good half of the Labour force out of work in Industrialised economies. Yes, this entire segway is me telling you that robots really are going to steal your job, but it’s okay (which is also a really good book…). Yes, technology now isn’t the apex but the beginning. Technology gets better much faster than you do. Rudimentary intelligences with the capacity to learn are quicker to teach and can learn things on their own faster than you can. Humanoid technology may seem primitive now, but if it advances on a Moore’s Law trajectory (which it does) SIRI won’t be twice as good 5 years from now, she’ll be 16 times better than now. If you own a Playstation 3, that is more powerful than a military grade computer from 1996. Technology has been, and will be, much more influential in terms of human history and development than any empire, religion or plague ever has, or will, and I for one welcome our new computer overlords.

No, the Unions won’t won. Unions never win. No, a basic income isn’t unaffordable. No, the Green Party doesn’t seem to share my ideas of a transhumanist society like the bunch of sandal wearing hippies that they are. But while I’m here; Marx was incredibly misunderstood as an economist. He argued that capitalism was a spring board to socialism in hyper capitalist societies with near perfect efficiency and profit margins close to zero – although I’m on the side of the social democrats who say it’ll be a peaceful transition. Raving Left Wing Socialists Hayek and Friedman also advocated for a basic income (yes it was in the form of a Negative Income Tax, but it works in the same way).

But they’re too ideological. Their opposition to nuclear is born out of ideological issues, unlike the Lib Dems who have U turned over their opposition in support of nuclear energy (Pragmatism shouldn’t be a criticising point). Their opposition to animal testing is also grounded in ideology (and incidentally, their “independent” safety organisation, the Safer Medicines Trust, has Caroline Lucas among it’s patrons). Their opposition to GMOs isn’t built on ethical concerns regarding practices by certain companies but from the harms it poses to human health and biodiversity – which is not scientifically grounded.

Their environmental policies are ambitious and are a welcome change from political parties erecting wind-farms to look like they give a crap about environmental issues, and saying that investment in Green jobs is an economy killer (Osborne!), but they’re not as well focused or as good as Labour and the Lib Dems proposals on the environment.

They lack clear goals and mechanisms of how to achieve the targets outlined in their manifesto, or how they would achieve international co-operation to combat climate change. The environmental investment plans have a weariness of the private sector playing a role in investing in Green technology, instead relying on public investments to do the job. And while I agree that the legwork of most of the stuff they want to do can only really occur through the state, this negligence of outlining private sector functions in this Green New Deal (something which the Green New Deal outlines will both be needed and will be a large source of investment).

Their ideas of renationalisation of rail are sketchy. To make clear, I’m neither for nor against renationalisation. Partly because I don’t feel I know enough about it to comment definitively, and partly because I think we’re having the wrong debate about renationalisation of infrastructure. My research into the topic has come to two basic conclusions:

1. The British rail network is really weird, and;

2. Full-scale renationalisation without a plan for reintegrating a fragmented railway network would be no better than the system left in place by John Major in 1994.

My general position is that until someone comes up with a detailed plan for how renationalisation would occur, the question of if we should renationalise them is an impossible question to answer satisfactorily.

I’m not swayed by majority opinions wanting something to be renationalised, either. Just because just because a lot of people want or think it, doesn’t make it right. I’ll remind you that in 2009, only 37% of the UK population said that Darwinian Evolution was true beyond any reasonable doubt. But we don’t campaign for the “Teach the Controversy” in biology classes, or for the Government to repeal it’s banning of teaching creationism.

This isn’t a false equivalence, there is no consensus on rail renationalisation, yet an argument often brought forward in it’s favour is people wanting it back. This isn’t a convincing argument to me. And it’s not like political philosophies over how voting systems should be or if governments inhibit or provide freedom. This is something which can be measured and counted, where we can determine if it’s a good idea to do so or not. And it doesn’t detract from the Green party not outlining exactly how they would go about renationalising the system and if it would be feasible.

The Green party’s weariness of the ability of the private sector to do certain things may not be unfounded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, but it costs them in terms of seeing genuinely good ideas, such as Green Investment Programs central to their New Deal idea, come to fruition.

Further, the Green party is horribly divided between it’s centre left components who seem more practical than their more socialist members, who hold admirable ideals, perhaps, but their ideological stand doesn’t make for healthy policy. A problem which is compounded by a lack of any orthodox political discipline structures or coherent party narratives makes them horribly dysfunctional (case in point: Brighton and Hove), something which won’t go away as their party attracts more and more disillusioned Lib Dems and Labour supporters.

To quote The Economist:

“The world could use an economically literate and intellectually courageous British environmental party. The way Westminster is going, such a party could also end up with real power. But Ms Bennett’s outfit is parochial and recidivist, a big fish in a muddy left-wing puddle, and that is not much use to anyone, despite some of its members’ touching goodwill”.

The Greens aren’t squeaky clean. They’re a collection of nice ideas and misfired idealism. I’d like to think they’re stepping in the right direction, as they have with their science policies in recent years, but they still face real growing up problems. And until they can overcome them, I’m worried about casting my vote in that direction.

TL;DR – I’m not really happy with anyone of the people on the ballot. And I don’t know how to vote in 2015.

So I shouldn’t vote?
No.

Let me make this crystal clear: You. Must. Vote!

Look, I know how it feels to be disenfranchised as a voter. I know how it feels to not want to pick from the best of the worst, or that your vote doesn’t matter – that politicians are only self serving establishment haters who don’t care for your views. An issue which is made worse by a voting system which more or less penalises you for voting for who you really want to vote for due to the spoiler effect.

But if the changing of legislation to let civil partners convert and have a wedding and marriage certificate, or stopping MP Expenses coverups, or even something like stopping the sell off of national forests, show us anything is that our voices do matter. The halls of politics are much more accessible than people think they are.

If you care about how you get healthcare. If you care about the environment, how schools are run and how they’re taught, jobs, pay, rights, if the roads are filled with potholes, if you can get a house, or your rent; if you care about how your life is, and things which affect every aspect of your day-to-day life – then your vote matters.

Your vote matters. So vote. And if you don’t, then you can’t complain if things you love or are important come under attack. Voting gives you the power to choose how the nation is run – if you have a complaint about the way the country is being run voting is a way can make a change, you can choose a candidate to suit to your views.

15.9 million people didn’t vote in 2010. That was more votes than the Conservatives won (10.7m). Those people could. Change. Everything.

Student voters – your job is critical. Considering only 39% of 18-24 year olds bothered to turn out to vote, and student demographics are horribly under-represented in national discourse. Politicians won’t care about you and won’t represent what you hold as important if you don’t make your voice heard. The reason legislation and policies reflect older people’s is because old people vote disproportionately to everyone else.

So register to vote. Seriously, it takes about 5 minutes. You can do it online. If 2010 data shows us anything, it’s that many elections were won by just a few % points. (Sheffield Central was one on 0.5% of the vote). A handful of people making the time to go out and register to vote, and then turn up on polling day, can make all of the difference.

And reach out to your MP. A lot really want to hear from you. I still have my letters of correspondence with David Winnick (MP for Walsall North) about environmental issues and deforestation. They’re much more accessible than you think. Make that call, send that email, write a letter through good old fashioned snail mail!

If you want to make a difference, it’s necessary to make your voice heard. 2015 is shaping up to be one of the most important elections in a generation. If you want to have a say on the direction this country goes in – for better or worse – YOU. MUST. VOTE!

TL;DR – VOTE!

*As a heads up, I haven’t had the time to provide links to references and such. I’ll get round to it at some point. 

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