It’s term 3 here at university, which means that various unsavoury events are looming on the horizon – essay deadlines and exams creating dread in everyone’s minds. My fellow 2nd year politics students and I have been slogging away trying to write multiple essays, and it’s fair to say that at some point we’ve all wondered why. And that’s why, for me at least, the other thing looming on the horizon has come at the wrong time – yes, I am talking about the general election. I simply have not had the time to cover it as much as I’d have liked, although I did attempt to tweet my thoughts during the first leaders’ debate.
I have a small confession. Despite the wall-to-wall coverage, the fact that I am a very opinionated and my deep, potentially unhealthy obsession with current affairs, I have no idea who I want to win this election. I have in fact already submitted my postal vote as I am voting in my home constituency but I am going to honour the secret ballot and not reveal whose name I drew my cross next to (especially as for many disabled people the secret ballot is far from a reality). Suffice to say, the UK’s first-past-the-post system forced me to vote tactically and I felt slightly ill as I folded and sealed the ballot.
I am a natural liberal and economic centrist, so if I had to pick a party it would be the beleaguered Lib Dems (I seem to be a continuous holder of unpopular opinions). But it would be foolish to deny that their performance at the polls is going to be abysmal, although I am vaguely hopeful that they will still be propping up the next government and lending it some liberal instincts. So the choice is really between two equally uninspiring men and their parties, neither of whom I feel much of an affinity to. I am a political mongrel: pro-EU, in favour of (slow but steady) deficit reduction, distrustful of government but a firm believer in the safety net it provides. If I gain anything from this, it is the ability to see both sides of almost any argument (a useful skill for those aforementioned essays), but it also means I am continually arguing with myself. I am the definition of the floating voter, but neither party is winning me over. If the latest national polls are anything to go by, I am the embodiment of the country’s mood.
I am much more certain about what I don’t want to happen. Such scenarios include anything involving Ukip or the SNP (nationalism is the antithesis of my liberalism), although I’d readily take the Scots over the ‘kippers as they at least have a sense of human decency. Farage makes me feel distinctly queasy, Sturgeon would put a dent in the Westminster old boys’ club. (The Greens, though slightly barmy, appear relatively harmless, but might as well be discounted – they’re not likely to have more than one or two MPs). But I also dislike the idea of a majority government; I believe that coalition consensus-building is a good thing, restraining the worst impulses of the larger partner. Between a Lib-Lab and Lib-Con coalition, however, I cannot yet choose.
Perhaps someone will win me over during the next two weeks, and I will spend the evening of May 7th desperately hoping for one outcome over another. But it’s unlikely. At least that’ll allow me to enjoy the spectacle as a journalist, for whom, in the end, not being a partisan is probably a good thing.