So much has been written about the tactical usage of the regional list vote in this election based on the assumption that the SNP will easily win most if not all of the constituencies. That has made the constituency vote – once seen as the more important – seem a bit overlooked.
Like most Green party members or supporters, I don’t have the option of voting for a Green on both ballots, so I’ve got a real decision to make with where to mark my constituency ballot.
This is made even more meaningful because the incumbent and favourite in my constituency is none other than First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon…
Disclaimer: I’m not going to tell anyone else how to vote, this article merely forms my own thought process as I try to make a decision as to were to stick my cross on the purple ballot.
With four candidates standing in my constituency – Glasgow Southside – I have five options here for the purple ballot, assuming that I’m definitely going along to vote Green on the peach ballot.
Let’s look at them one by one…
Nicola retained this seat in 2011 with a majority of around 4’000 votes/20% of the vote and as the popularity of both her and the SNP have only risen since, she’s an odds on favourite to win again.
I like Nicola. She’s been a good constituency MSP even when burdened with other responsibilities and she’s likeable, credible and effective. Throw in the fact that I’ve voted SNP in the past, still support independence and see them as a solid party of government and it’s very tempting to just go with the flow and add my vote to the copious pile for Nicola here.
However… I never like voting for the favourite and I have reason to be disappointed in the SNP as a whole. Firstly, I’m annoyed at the meekness of their policy, the vacillation over fracking and land reform, the unwillingness to scrap the council tax or raise taxes with the hard won new powers. The SNP seem to be trimming to the right the longer they are in power and that is a trend I find it hard to reward with a vote.
I’m also more than a bit put out that many SNP types seem to think that Greens should tuck in behind the SNP like good little followers and it reminds me a lot of Labours arrogance when they assumed the rule of Scotland was theirs by right.
Given that I think Nicola is going to win this seat easily, I feel that my constituency vote is more a gesture than anything else and I’m having second thoughts about applauding the SNP for triangulation and arrogance.
The Labour candidate is a relatively low profile local councillor – Fariha Thomas – rather than a big name which seems a bit strange, especially as Anas Sarwar who held the Westminster equivalent of this seat from 2010-2015 is #1 on the Glasgow Labour list.
Fariha Thomas (who isn’t on the regional lit for Labour) gets a good report from friends of mine who live in her Govan ward and I’ve been a little appreciative of Labours attempt to show they would use the new powers of the Scottish parliament. I’d also like to think that Labour could tack left and have a bit of a revival down south under Jeremy Corbyn.
On the other hand, I’ve still not forgiven Labour for their many failings since 1995 or so and I’d find it very hard to vote for the party who enthusiastically took us into the Iraq Warm, embraced PFI, stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in Better Together…
Throw in the fact that Scottish Labour seems to sit a few notches to the right of the party down south yet is just as much a nest of vipers, with Sarwar already priming for a leadership challenge after the near inevitable losses of this election and I can’t really entertain a vote for Labour.
The local Conservative candidate is 6th on the party’s list for the region, so clearly not a big hitter. He also strikes me as a typical Tory boy who works in financial services and tweeted a happy birthday message to the Queen.
Of course, as a Green I’m generally horrified with almost every aspect of Conservative policy in government in Westminster from austerity to the attempted privatization of the NHS.
At a glance, the Conservative manifesto for this election looks pretty good – talking about building affordable homes and investing in mental health provision but commitments to keep taxes low and defend the Union show that up for the snake oil patter that it really is.
While there is value in a strong opposition to a majority government, I’m not going to vote against all of my principles just to spite the SNP.
I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for the Liberal Democrats, voted for them in 2010 (oops) and still have an admiration for their long term policies on federalism, drug legalization, mental health provision, civil liberties and the environment. I also appreciate their focus on education and mental health in this campaign, although that’s been pretty much all they’ve campaigned on in a very lightweight effort.
The candidate in my constituency – Kevin Lewsey – doesn’t appear in their regional list, but seems a likeable fellow who has recent real life experience of being homeless and rehabilitating his life, which gives him an insight into precarity that I feel many candidates won’t have.
Of course, the Liberal Democrats are still tainted by the Coalition, weak leadership and the conduct of Alistair Carmichael and it would be difficult to vote for a pro-union party who have such a record of selling out their supposed principles for ministerial roles.
There is always the option of spoiling a ballot. While this might seem akin to not voting, I feel that a spoiled ballot is a way of showing that you were engaged enough to come along to the polling station but didn’t feel that you could endorse any of the candidates available. This is especially powerful in an election held under the Additional Member System where many parties chose not to contest the constituency portion of the vote and it tends to be left to the bigger, better funded parties.
There are a few ways to do this, including not marking the paper at all (which is unwise as a counting agent could theoretically just add their X wherever they want) and writing ‘none of the above’ across the voting boxes.
From a partisan point of view, the most effective method of spoiling your ballot is probably writing ‘I would have voted for the Scottish Green party’ or words to that effect on the sheet.
Apparently this can be useful in determining target wards for future elections and has the somewhat cheap side effect of annoying the hell out of other party’s activists at the count while cheering up your own counting agents.
I’ve not decided yet – and I probably won’t until I actually walk into the polling station.
At this point, I can say that I will definitely not be voting Conservative or Labour and the most likely result is a snap decision between voting for Nicola Sturgeon or spoiling my ballot with a pro-Green message.
A lot depends on how the last week of the campaign goes, how the SNP and Lib Dems conduct themselves and it might even come down to how nice the activists outside the polling station are.
Most of all, I hope (and expect) that in five years time there will be a Green candidate on both my ballots.
So… what are the candidates where you are? Do you like one party but not like the candidate, or vice versa? Do you dislike the idea of a spoiled ballot?