so many people have asked me the same question: “Who are you going to vote for?” When I reply that I’m not sure, they invariably respond: “Nor am I.”
The opinion polls reveal that the result of this general election is unpredictable. This may imply that people are thinking seriously about the issues, and what the various parties truly represent, before deciding how to cast their votes. But are they? I wonder.
Over 40 years ago, two Leeds University academics researched voting behaviour (Political Change in Britain, David Butler and Donald Stokes). The results of their study were elucidating.
They found that the main reason why people voted for a particular party was because “they had always voted that way”. In effect, an unwavering and unthinking endorsement of party politics.
The second most important factor was, and remains, the most intriguing – “party image”. And this may be projected, fairly or unfairly, not only by what the parties say or do, but by the way in which they are represented (or misrepresented) in newspapers, by broadcasters and, indeed, on the burgeoning “social media” of the internet.
The party candidate had only marginal influence on voting behaviour – unless he or she was a prominent or personally popular figure.
The by-election was the exception, because “protest votes” were prominent and “third parties” (like the old Liberal Party) often did well.
One interesting revelation was that 50 per cent of Conservative voters were working class.
In the intervening years, support for the two main parties has diminished from about 85 per cent to around 70 per cent. With so many waving, uncommitted or “floating voters”, party image may now be the determining factor – particularly in marginal constituencies.
The number of ostensibly disillusioned abstainers has grown exponentially – a sad reflection. And yet there is no shortage of armchair experts indulging in ill-considered, and often contradictory, socio-economic theories.
But where is the inspirational leader with a profound vision of the future, and possessed of the requisite courage, conviction and resolution to realise it? That leader has yet to emerge We have but two choices: a Conservative or a Labour-led government. And, in that context, I shall do the only sensible thing and vote Conservative – albeit without conviction.
From: John G Wildie, Briar Grove, Sandal, Wakefield.
Nigel Farage has dropped another bombshell before the election by saying that we should scrap racial equality laws and that employers should be able to discriminate. All three party leaders condemn Mr Farage’s comments. These laws are in place to stop people being discriminated against due to the colour of their skin.
I say if people of all nationalities are prepared to work and contribute to the system, then good. It is also good for the country and economy.
Mr Farage did say a while ago that he would not have living next door to him any Romanians. That is racist. I have no problems, as I live close to Asians, Poles and Romanians, and I find them decent and friendly people.
I am an old Boy Scout and I still remember the Scout law, especially number four, and that is to be a friend to all, no matter what country, class, colour or creed the other may belong.
We must love one another.
From: Les Arnott, Athelstan Road, Sheffield.
when those Tory defectors won back their seats under a Ukip banner, it warmed my heart. It is so good to know that some Tories can feel shame for what their party did in not keeping its promises and making further promises about EU reform which are constitutionally impossible to achieve.
I am a little disappointed however, that similar integrity has not shone forth from Labour. If their handful of MPs with integrity think that they will be able to change their party from within, they will be sadly disappointed.
It would be my ambition to see the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats all turn to ash and for us to end up with a two party system again. Ukip versus the Liberal Party (yes, it still exists and bears little resemblance to the Lib Dems). Ah, well – maybe just a pipe dream.
From: Don Burslam, Elm Road, Dewsbury Moor, Dewsbury.
IF one thing could be said to typify the malaise in our society, it is the obsession with opinion polls. It has now grown into a monstrous industry employing untold thousands doing what is really a made-up job which does no good at all for the economy and prosperity of the country.
It is in the same category as management consultants, hedge fund managers and those impressive looking gurus who regularly pontificate on TV. To these we can add estate agents, financial and political advisers and stockbrokers.
They are certainly no substitute for making things, producing food or mining raw materials. Teachers are an exception and I describe them as hidden wealth creators.
Politicians like to flourish employment statistics as proof of an expanding economy but perhaps there should be an official discrimination between “useful” jobs and other occupations which produce nothing but forecasts, opinions and other worthless dross.
As the election campaign has shown, much of our thinking is based on the shifting sands of false conceptions of prosperity, wealth and a healthy economy.