One of the interesting things I learned from a recent Lord Ashcroft poll was the startling fact that three times as many people identify themselves as Labour voters, tribally, as Tories (around 30 per cent versus 10), despite the two parties having roughly similar base support in general elections. This says something about the different way the two groups think; loyalty to the Labour Party runs deep and is emotional, while for Conservative voters the party is pretty much a pragmatic organisation to keep even worse politicians from running the country. I’m not sure which group will suffer more in the long term from the current crisis of party politics; Tories can be detached from their party more easily, but for Labour voters the break may be more bitter and permanent.
Tribal voting can be a frustrating thing, seeing as it involves people making inefficient decisions that harm their own wellbeing; if a broadband provider tripled your bill and then only allowed you to access the internet on Tuesday afternoons you wouldn’t say ‘my father had the same provider as I did and his father before him and there’s no way we’re moving’.
It’s bad enough voting tribally at national elections, but unforgivable at local ones – and tribal voting is one of the main reasons we have such rotten local government. I happen to live in Haringey, officially the worst local council in England one of its latest achievements being this work of genius.
Yet despite Haringey being infamously awful for a number of years now, the same people continue to get voted in every four years simply because lots of voters are tribally Labour. The party has been in power since 1971, before the current Chancellor of the Exchequer was born, so Labour has now run Haringey longer than the Communist Party ran Czechoslovakia. Don’t people think it’s maybe time to let someone else have a go?
Being on the Red Tory wing of the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are my
least favourite of the major political parties; I can think of a good dozen
Labour MPs I’d vote for because I broadly agree on the important things, but
probably not a single Lib Dem. Yet on May 22 I’m not voting for the Government, I’m voting for my local council: the people responsible for potholes and the like. People can’t seem to understand this basic concept.
When I tweeted my support for the Lib Dems in Haringey, someone replied: ‘Libs in power has given us bedroom tax, 9k a year student fees, 20% vat and zero hours contracts.’ None of which is anything to do with the council!
But what do we expect when we have leaflets such as this one, stating that: ‘If you love our NHS, vote Labour in London on 22nd May.’
London councils have no say in the future of the NHS, so this is a deliberately misleading leaflet, and one that undermines democracy. I would urge everyone in Haringey, whatever their tribal political affiliations and whatever their views on national politics, to vote Lib Dem, and I say this as someone who was roped into standing for the council last time as one of the few remaining Tories in the borough; as it is we came fourth in my ward, behind the Greens. I don’t think my wife even voted for me. More generally I urge people to vote for whichever individuals or group that will provide the best council service, rather than voting on irrelevant national issues.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.