Thursday, 27 August 2015

An Open Letter to British Voters

Dear supporter, begins Liz Kendall’s Labour leadership campaign video, simultaneously both presumptuous and grovelling, You probably think I’m writing to ask for you vote in the upcoming election. And I am.

Well don’t.

I know that asking for what you want may well be the best way to get it in many cases. I know that saying ‘please’ and being polite will get you a lot further than being rude or making demands or even just assuming people know what you’d like them to do for you.

But my decision in this election will not be based on who has asked the most nicely for my support. Frankly, that’s not what I’m looking for in a leader.

Nothing you produce in the brief build up to the election is going to sway my decision. Just because this is the time when people are scrutinising you a lot more closely than unusual doesn’t mean that’s what should be the foundation for this kind of choice.

My vote is going to be based on my judgement of the attitude, behaviour and actions of each candidate throughout their entire political careers. I’m going to be looking at voting records, I’m going to think about the things you’ve supported, the things you’ve fought, I’m going to think about what your impact has already been on my country and what changes you are likely to make, if elected, based on your history.

I don’t want you to persuade me any other way. I don’t want you to tell me that you’re the best candidate for the job. I don’t want you to show me all the flaws that the other candidates have because they’re human and they make mistakes. You are biased. I don’t need your help.

I am an adult, the same as everyone else with the legal right to vote, and I can make this decision of my own accord.

I have registered to vote in this year’s Labour leadership election because I care about the future of my country. I think that there is a candidate who will have a positive impact on Britain’s political future, who I would like to support. Infer whatever you will from that, but I’m not going to tell anyone that I definitely know best. I’m not going to act like my unique reasoning has got me to the only correct decision.

I know that, like any individual, I have a limited world view. I can sympathise with, but never truly know, other people’s experience of life. I can – and do, and will – read other people’s stories and I can understand, to an extent, the impact of governmental decisions on their lives. But, still, the views I hold on these stories will be my own conclusions. They, too, will be somewhat biased because of my personal worldview. I am aware of this.

This is why we have democracy. It’s why I’m not going to tell anyone that they should vote for the same person I plan to.

But I hope that people might consider their vote in the same way that I do. Seriously, thoughtfully and keeping in mind the serious consequences this decision can have for our country.

When I cast a political vote, I try to think as comprehensively as possible about the situation my country is in at the time. I think about what I want from my next leader, MP, government and I try to figure out which one is most likely to fulfil those wishes. I think about the problems this country faces and what I think would be the best way to go about fixing them. I think about what needs to be changed, about why and how. I think about what makes me proud of my country and how I think those aspects can be maximised to its fullest. I think about what is already working well the way it is. I think about how I want my country to grow over the next however long it’ll be until I get another say. I think about who I trust with the responsibility of running my country in a way that I feel will benefit as many of us who live here as possible, who will treat us fairly and will use the resources at their disposal to consistently do what is best for us.

I try to think about what each option will mean for me, for my friends, for my yet unborn children. I try to think about the impact they’ll have on the future. I try to base my projections on the information I have about their past and their promises.

I think about what I’d like to see my government do, in the short term and in the long term. I think about what would be a good first step on that path.

I critique politicians and political parties quite harshly. By voting for them, I’m saying that I trust them with a lot of power, with my country, with my rights, with the laws that govern what I can or cannot do as a free adult. As unnecessary as I think it is, I will wade through all their carefully crafted advertising, all the rhetoric they’ll inevitably spout prior to an election.

I think about the kind of person that I am trusting with this kind of power. I think about the things that they say about their opponents – whether they are fair and sportsmanlike, or if they (or their supporters) condone mud-slinging and petty childishness. I think about the candidates who have threatened to abandon their party, their supporters, their dependents if they don’t get their own way.

I think about the promises they make – not just in terms or whether or not they appeal to me, but also whether or not I believe they’ll keep them. Whether I think their promises are realistic or if they are being made by people who are naïve or overly optimistic, or outright lying about their intentions for my country. Whether I trust that those promises will be kept or if they are little more than crowd-pleasing BS that we’ll never hear of again after election.

I’ll consider their political career so far – have the promises they made in the past been kept? Has their voting record shown consistently held views that still correlate with their plans for government? Do I agree with the decisions they have backed or battled? Do I think they’re ready for more authority?

It’s a lot of thinking to do. A lot of people won’t do it, whether that’s because they can’t be bothered to vote at all or because they picked a party twenty years ago and have voted the same way ever since, regardless of any changes in the party’s ideology or the country’s needs.

But I do it. Every time I get an opportunity to have a say in the way my country is run, I make sure I do it. Because it’s a huge thing to trust a person or a group of people with, because it’s not a decision to be made lightly.

I don’t mind if other people don’t come to same conclusions that I do. I know that I might be wrong, that what I think is best might have terrible consequences that I haven’t considered.

But if everyone puts in a reasonable amount of thought, if everyone cares enough to put in that effort, then together I believe we can come to a decision that will work out for the best.

Dear voter. You probably think this another one of those annoying letters – or emails or phone calls or text messages or blog posts you’ve already seen so many of – trying to tell you what to think in the imminent Labour leadership election. But it’s not.

All I ask is that you do think. Thank you.

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