Andrew Vine: ‘None of the above’ would win next month’s elections if it was on the ballot paper

Next month's elections could be even more unpredictable, says Andrew Vine.
Next month's elections could be even more unpredictable, says Andrew Vine.
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ELECTION season looms, not just for councils across our region, but likely enough for the European Parliament too unless there is some unforeseeable breakthrough on Brexit.

But for the first time in all the decades I’ve been voting, the usual yardsticks I apply to deciding who to cast my vote for suddenly feel inadequate in the face of the uncertainty at every turn.

It is still unclear whether European Parliament elections will take place next month.

It is still unclear whether European Parliament elections will take place next month.

For those standing for council seats, they include looking at how well candidates know my particular corner of Yorkshire, their track record if already in office, and if they belong to a controlling party, how well it has run the authority, particularly in the recent difficult years.

Similarly, for those seeking election as MEPs, I look at how hard they have fought for our region and the benefits they seek to bring during a forthcoming term in office. I ask myself the same questions before deciding which way to vote in Parliamentary elections on the simple principle that what is good for Yorkshire is good for the whole country.

These are reasonable criteria, and I guess most people who take a responsible attitude towards the importance of voting in every poll have similar yardsticks of their own.

Yet, this time round, it just feels as if there are no satisfactory answers to be found.

Odd as it seems, even those standing in council elections could find their most honourable intentions to address strictly local issues stymied if Brexit leads to an even tighter squeeze on local authority budgets.

And surely there have never been stranger elections to the European Parliament, with candidates fighting a campaign for seats they may never take up, and some of the parties standing, such as Nigel Farage’s new grouping, doing so out of hatred for the institution.

Nor has there been a stranger and more difficult set of elections for the Conservatives to contest.

I asked a party official in my council ward – with a straight face, but not entirely innocently – how the election leaflets were coming on.

His reply isn’t fit to be repeated here, but when he’d cooled down a bit his gloom was apparent.

However hard the Tories try to distance local campaigning from the almighty mess gripping the Government, the division and open warfare at national level mean the council polls threaten to be a disaster for them as voters take the opportunity to vent their frustration.

If anything, the European elections will be even worse. Polling at the weekend suggesting that only 17 per cent will vote Conservative points towards one of the worst drubbings in the party’s history.

Even worse, in the event of a general election, one poll concluded that the party would lose 59 seats, enough to put Labour – possibly in coalition with the SNP – into power.

And if producing a local election leaflet for a council ward in a Yorkshire city is causing such agonies, spare a thought for the poor devils trying to put literature together for the European elections.

Will it feature a picture of Theresa May and a message from her? It can hardly do otherwise.

But wait a minute. She’s already sacrificed her own Premiership by announcing her intention to resign, and cannot appear in the Commons without her own MPs calling on her to go immediately.

Add to that her dependence on Jeremy Corbyn for help in trying to get some sort of Brexit deal through Parliament and the Tories’ pitch to the electorate looks utterly doomed.

All of which spells further trouble for the Conservatives, but equally importantly it presents a real problem for all of us who turn up to vote and for the region in which we live.

If there are no answers to the questions about who will be the most sensible, prudent and far-seeing candidates to represent us locally, nationally or internationally, for whom do we cast our votes?

A proliferation of fringe parties is likely to appear on the ballot papers, especially for the European elections, all of which will be single-issue Brexit obsessives, whether for leaving or remaining.

Where will the candidates be who take a broader, nuanced view of what Yorkshire needs once all this is over one way or another?

I’d bet the house that there won’t be anybody campaigning on devolution, or the North-South divide, or the pressing need for better transport, or to safeguard industry and agriculture from the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Little wonder that polling finds increasing numbers of people so disillusioned about the way politics is being done that if there was a box for “none of the above” on ballot papers, they would cast their vote for it.

Election seasons should be about optimism, voting for something better or, at the very least, for action to solve problems.

This one isn’t. It doesn’t answer any questions, however pressing they are. It only raises more uncertainties when we’ve already got more than enough.