In this article by Simon Steil, from the Chesham and Amersham seat in Buckinghamshire, he asks if you want to Reboot Britain? If so, it’s essential to make your vote matter.
The year 2005 was significant for me in many ways:
I went up to read History and Politics at Queen Mary, University of London. I’m an F1 fan and young Spanish driver Fernando Alonso and Renault won the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship, beating Michael Schumacher/Ferrari who had won both championships since the beginning of the 2000s. Doctor Who was revived on the BBC. I watched it and thanks to the writing, the cast and the powerful performance of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, I was hooked and I have watched it ever since.
Having done mock General Elections at school and having turned 18, I voted in the General Election. At the time I was politically partisan in favour of one party. There are things I believed and said back then that I feel deeply embarrassed about now.
My three years at QMUL were fantastic. I challenged and questioned my beliefs and by the time I graduated in July 2008, I resolved not to become a member of any political party. I did help out at Watford and Norwich North seats and found the experience great fun: speaking to voters in-person as well as telephone canvassing in local offices and national headquarters. It was at the time of the expenses scandal and there was a lot of anger from many people at MPs. I tried to explain that MPs were so important for constituents, that they try and help people solve serious difficulties affecting their lives.
Then came the 2010 General Election. I am not proud to say that for that election, I spoiled my ballot paper. I drew a box and voted for RON or Re-Open Nomination. Student Union elections have that option and I wanted that for the General Election. I was not happy with what the three main parties had to offer, I couldn’t vote for any of them so I did what I did.
A Coalition Government was formed for the first time since the Second World War. In 2011 we had a national referendum for the first time since the 1975 European Economic Community one. I voted Yes for the Alternative Vote to replace First Past the Post as the system we use for General Elections. Having looked at the different electoral system, I concluded that First Past the Post should have been scrapped. The post is all over the place because of the erratic variation in the relationship between number of votes, number of seats parties can win. As shown time and time again by reports by the Electoral Reform Society, candidates/incumbent MPs could win seats with ridiculously low shares of the total vote.
First Past the Post distorts campaigning by parties. A form of negative campaigning is constantly done by the major parties “Don’t vote for the candidate or party you really want to, you’d let the other one in.” One major reason the June 2016 European Union membership referendum happened was the Conservatives were fearful they’d continue to lose votes to the United Kingdom Independence Party.
FPTP unfit for purpose
The 2015 General Election happened and the result was the Conservatives got a majority of 12 seats despite a vote share increase of 0.8% compared to 2010. The Liberal Democrat vote collapsed and they were left with eight seats in the Commons despite the fact they had got more votes than the Scottish National Party. The SNP achieved 56 seats.
The following June, the European Union referendum did take place and the Leave campaign won it. I voted Remain in 2016 referendum. I was not convinced the Leave side had anything positive to offer and that Britain was better off staying in an imperfect European Union compared to outlandish claims of supposed benefits like an improved National Health Service if we did leave the EU.
I hoped up to 2018 that Britain could negotiate an exit while staying in the Single Market/Customs Union. That seemed possible with the indecisive 2017 General Election that led to the Conservatives forming a pact with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. In summer 2018 the Leave campaign’s cheating and law-breaking became publicly known.
I had hoped that after those findings, Article 50 could be revoked. The 2019 General Election then happened and with a withdrawal agreement on offer in their manifesto, the Conservatives were able to hoover up Leave or Leave-sympathetic voters nationwide.
Swings and roundabouts
How big was the swing really? It was swing of 270,000 votes or 1.2% compared to the 2017 General Election. It was still big enough to give the Conservatives an 80-seat majority. The Liberal Democrats had the manifesto titled: STOP BREXIT: Build a Brighter Future. They achieved a vote swing of 4.2% nationwide compared to 2017. Their result? A loss of a seat.
We left the European Union the following year. I thought that was it. We were out and we would stay out …
Seeds of change
… Until June 2021 when Sarah Green won the Chesham and Amersham by-election. Chesham & Amersham had been Conservative-held since it was created in 1974. It also thought of as an ultra-safe Conservative seat. Then Prime Minister Johnson, Cabinet Ministers and others came to canvass with their candidate Peter Fleet. They were confident the seat would be theirs again. They were proved wrong.
So what of the future? If you are a Leave voter or a voter that thinks that Britain’s new relationship with the EU is better than what we had before 2016, you can vote Conservative or Labour.
There are millions of voters who disagree and think we should at least rejoin Single Market / Customs Union or perhaps try to apply to be a full member again.
Fixing a broken system
In July 2021 I was at a Make Votes Matter stand in Marlow. Make Votes Matter was formed in 2015 to try and persuade the public that First Past the Post should be ditched. I agree with them, it should have been scrapped decades ago not just now.
Whatever you do at the next election, use your vote whether it’s walking into a polling station, by post or by proxy. Just use it. You may supplement your tactical vote with Swap My Vote, which helps to make the most of an unfair system. Swap my vote is completely legal and decent in an unfair system. Get in touch if you want to understand how Swap My Vote works via e-mail email@example.com
Just use it to show our politicians that Brexit is hurting many, it’s not a success now and it never will be.
In everyday life, when you get scammed and given a crummy product, you return it, get your money back and get compensation from those who mis-sold it to you.