8 Questions You Should Ask Before You Decide Who To Vote For
Don't mix up personalities with policy,
With the general election just days away, it's time to ask yourself who on earth you're going to vote for on Thursday June 8th. And with so many issues to consider, it can be hard to decide to which candidate to vote for.
Here's a few questions you could ask yourself to help make that choice.
1. Who is even standing in my constituency?
First up you need to know that not every party runs in every constituency, and that you can only vote for candidates running in your constituency.
A tool like WhoCanIVoteFor takes 10 seconds to fill out and will tell you exactly who is running in your area, including both the bigger parties, any smaller parties and independent candidates too, all to help you make the most informed choice.
2. Where do the parties stand on issues that matter to me?
If you’ve ever tried to look at one of the party manifestos than you might’ve noticed that they’re denser than one of Mary Berry’s brownies. Luckily there are plenty of summaries of each party’s policies online, so it’s very easy to have a little google and consider the key issues - particularly as it's easy to carried away by the personalities (and positive and negative media perception of the personalities) of all the party leaders and overlook the true policies they represent. Read a variety of publications to make sure you aren't swayed by any political agenda outside of your own and watch the debates on TV too to see how the party leaders match up to what they've said in their pledges.
It is worth keeping it in mind that you’re technically voting for a local MP and not a party or Prime Minister per se, and while your MP will generally represent their party’s political opinions in Parliament (that is unless they are an independent and don’t belong to a party) even the parties have splits within them in terms of who supports what. With that in mind you might also want to check out the individual candidate in terms of the policies they have previously supported and opposed.
If it helps, some of the key issues young people in particular may want to consider when looking through various policy ideas for this election are:
• The NHS and mental health provision
• Gender equality
• Employment opportunities
• LGBTQ+ rights
• Higher education – are tuition fees going up or do
• The environment
• A reduction in voting age
Ultimately you want to consider what you want the future of the country to look like. If you want a more inclusive and tolerant society, then consider how varying policies could affect this. If you want fairer access to education, think about social and education policy relating to curriculum and tuition fees. If it's Brexit that's on your mind, then compare how the parties aim to negotiate our exit from the EU (or whether they want another referendum instead).
3. Do the pluses of their policies outweigh the negatives?
Realistically it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll 100% agree with all the policies of a particular party, so if there are a few key issues that matter most to you, it’s fine to use those to inform who you vote for.
That said, still make sure to check out the rest of the party or candidate’s policy ideas before giving them your vote – you don’t want to vote for someone based on one or two policies you love when the rest of their ideas are actually the total opposite to how you feel.
4. What do the party and party leaders’ voting records look like?
In an ideal world a political party would enact everything in their party manifesto. Because simples. However, in reality, not all promises they make ahead of an election will be enacted. This is partly to do with how our political system works and partly because budgets and party politics can affect the ability of a government to come good on their pledges.
One of the best measures of just how likely things are to come to fruition is a look at the voting record of your current MP and of the Cabinet, Shadow Cabinet and of competing party leaders. These will be the people who have the most influence on the way the country is governed going forwards and if there are particular issues that you are thinking about ahead of deciding who to vote for, get on the internet and search how the candidates you are giving your vote to have previously voted on similar issues. Of course, you can only really do this with candidates who are already MPs in Parliament, but it’s a good indicator of what you can expect going forwards and may affect your decision to vote for a competitor at constituency level.
For example, this table from MyGayVote.co.uk - who clearly have a particular interest in legislation affecting the LGBTQ+ community - compares how the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have historically voted on certain such issues:
It's just one example of how policy between parties varies and can be a useful way to help you come to a decision if you're torn between a couple of candidates.
5. Historically, how does my constituency vote?
Before casting your vote, you may want to think about who your current MP is and what their majority is in your consitituency. How long have they been an MP for your aream and is it likely that the party you are thinking of voting for may win the seat?
It’s worth checking out the Independent’s Democratic Dashboard tool, where all you have to do is enter your postcode to check out how your constituency voted in the last general election, European election, London Mayoral election and EU Referendum result in your area.
6. If I live in a safe seat, is it worth voting tactically?
Some people who live in a marginal seat (ie. one where the ruling party don't have a huge majority) and who do not support the party in power may consider a tactical vote. This means that because the candidate or party they would ideally support is unlikely to win their constituency, they may decide to give their vote to another party or candidate who is more likely to have a chance of winning.
This is a compromise vote where you are basically saying that you’d rather someone else won than the person who is most likely to win, so a lesser of two evils as it were.
This is not to say that if you live in a marginal or safe seat you should vote tactically and shouldn’t just vote for the candidate you want at all, as in doing so you will still be registering your true opinion, which is ultimately the point of voting altogether. Whatever you do, just don’t let living in a safe seat put you off voting altogether either. This general election comes at an unusual time and it’s time like this where even safe seats can suffer surprising changes of leadership.
7. If there isn’t a candidate that represents me, shouldn't I still vote?
YES – yes you should. Because if you really think your vote is unlikely to have an effect or disagree with all the candidates in your constituency, you could even choose to spoil your ballot. This is where you purposefully choose not to pick any candidate on their voting slip to register that there is not a choice that reflects your beliefs and opinions. This is important as it’s a) your right and b) illustrates that the political system is not doing enough to represent all of the people it is supposed to.
8. Still not sure who to vote for?
There are LOADS of awesome political tools out there to help you make an informed choice on June 8th.
If you’re finding reading party manifestos dense and confusing, the quickest and simplest way to find out where your views lie is with a tool like ISideWith or Vote for Policies. It’s like Tinder for politics – you just answer a bunch of questions about where you stand on all the main issues and they break down your thoughts to show you exactly how much you actually agree with each of the main parties. It’s worth noting that not all parties (including the Women’s Equality Party) are represented in these, however, so it’s still worth checkout out any smaller parties and independent candidates in your area separately.
Now check out a oad of stuff you can never complain about again if you cba to vote...