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I like to think of elections as dysfunctional family parties, and the General Election that is due to take place in the UK on May 7th, 2015, is no different.
Hosting the get-together are the Conservatives, and it’s not going very well.
First to show was the Greens, along with their plus-one, the Liberal Democrats. The Greens turned up with an unappealing looking quinoa and beetroot salad, while the Lib Dems made grand promises to bring the booze, but instead of beer and wine, everyone is drinking dodgy corner-store vodka diluted with cherryade.
Sat in the corner is right-wing, oafish, flatulent Uncle UKIP, who fills the room with a noxious fug of cigarette smoke, and who keeps banging on about his mate Barry from the pub who knows “for definite” all migrants get a free car and microwave when they clandestinely arrive in the UK. Meanwhile, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are hosting their own parties in separate corners of the dining room.
This dinner party is a dud, and the Conservatives won’t stop blaming Labour, who had the misfortune of hosting it last time.
Help Is at Hand
Given the standard of political discourse in the UK, it’s easy to get disillusioned and come to the conclusion that voting is a waste of time. That all the main parties are just as bad as one another, and so you might as well stay at home. The irony is that despite the lack of any compelling choices, it’s never been more important to vote than it is this time.
A lot is riding on this election, and the outcome will determine everything from the UK’s place in Europe, to the fate of Britain’s public services. But, given the fragmented nature of British politics, you can be forgiven for not knowing who to vote for.
Thankfully, there are a number of websites that exist solely to help undecided voters make up their minds. Here are four of the best for floating voters all across the UK.
Vote for Policies believes that people shouldn’t vote for a party simply because that’s how they have traditionally voted, or because they identity with them on some inscrutable level. Instead, they think people should choose their vote based on how closely they agree with a party’s policies above anything else.
Select the issues that matter to you, and you’ll be asked to choose the policies that you most closely agree with. The more policies you choose, the longer your quiz will take. At the end of the quiz, you’ll be shown a graphical representation of the parties with whom you have more views in common.
When describing the motivation behind building the Democracy Club CVs project, developer and activist Francis Irving said “I don’t have a fixed idea of what background makes a good MP. I do, however, like the idea… that their background should be representative of their constituents.”
Who can argue with that? Why shouldn’t we know whether the person legislating on climate change and Internet freedom actually understands those concepts? Over the previous few years in Europe, tech-illiterate politicians have tried introducing Chinese-style Internet censorship, introducing a ‘snoopers charter’, and even taxing the Internet by the gigabyte. All of which are dumb ideas.
Which is why Francis Irving has been collecting a CV (Curriculum Vitae), for all candidates standing in May. Only a handful of CVs are present, and some CVs simply exist to say that the candidate doesn’t actually have a CV. But those who do provide theirs, offer constituents a window into their academic and professional background.
Failing that, feel free to read our guide to writing the perfect CV and critique the candidates in your constituency.
iSideWith is the UK’s largest, most popular voting guide, and has since extended its reach to the US, Australia and India. It’s independent, and has no ties to any particular party.
Similar to Vote for Policies, it asks a series of questions about your viewpoint on a number of key issues. You can also identify issues as being more important to you than others — you might, for example, care about the environment more than you care about immigration.
Then, everything gets tallied up, and you’re informed what party you are most likely to agree with. Unlike VoteForPolicies, everything is broken down much more closely, and your results are compared with a wider range of political parties.
Unlike Vote for Policies, it breaks down your results into a percentage, rather than a slice on a pie chart. It also breaks down the parties you’re more likely to agree with, based upon specific policy issues. This is handy if you feel strongly about a particular issue.
Political parties are often described as being either left-wing or right-wing. The problem is that parties can be classified as such for many and various reasons beyond their economic policies. The Political Compass takes the left/right paradigm, and adds one more axis to it, evaluating whether a party is libertarian or authoritarian.
It then asks you a series of questions about your opinions on a number of political, social, and economic matters, and then plots your responses on that compass. The idea being that the party that is plotted closest to you is the one you’re most likely to agree with.
All of the major parties are listed, and the results are carefully explained. You can also see how your party compares to other notable political parties in countries like Australia, the US, Germany and New Zealand.
Has This Helped You Make up Your Mind?
On May 7th, the British people will go to the polls and decide who will be governing the country for the next five years. Some will even take a selfie while they do it.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to cut through the rhetoric, buck-passing, and non-answers to see what each of the seven main parties stand for. The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, and UKIP all have a lot to gain, and nothing to lose. So, please do choose carefully.
These four websites should help floating voters decide where to put their cross. But what do you think? Did we miss any good websites for undecided voters? Please let us know in the comments below.
Image Credit: General Election Voting Hands (Shutterstock)