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Are protest votes wasted votes

Here in the UK we are gearing up for the general election which must be held by next June. The general perception of the outcome seems to be that the Tories will win but the size of the defeat is still up for debate. It could range from a very small majority to a massive swing to the right on the same magnitude as Labours historic win in 97. Therefore with the result of the election in all probability decided already is there any point in voting for anyone other than Tory at the next election?

The recent history of elections has shown that a large segment of British society is prepared to vote outside the main 3 parties in what can be termed by those who expect conformity and consistency in voting patterns “protest votes”. In the recent European elections UKIP, the BNP and the Greens all managed to win seats. History shows that elections to the European parliament have always been a way for the British public to vent frustration at the current UK government at the same time as not having to worry about the consequences of their actions due to the very limited power that the EU parliament can exert over EU policy.

In very basic terms a protest vote to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) tells Gordon and co how unhappy you are about the rapidly expanding power of the EU, the broken promises about referendums on the Lisbon treaty and the general lack of democracy that the EU in its current form entails.

A vote to the racist British National Party shows the government that your concerned about uncontrolled immigration. Free flats to asylum seekers and long waiting lists for nationals. Overcrowded NHS services and jobs being taken by those willing to work for a much lower wage than the British worker is used to.

A large percentage of people voting for the BNP probably didn’t even consider themselves as racist or even agree with the majority that the party believes in, however the protest vote seems to have worked. Since the European election Labour has started to sound a lot tougher on immigration. At the last election when Michael Howard tried to make immigration an election topic he was deemed to have lurched to the right and it was considered as a major reason for him losing the election. However it seems times have changed and more importantly Labour is so far behind in the polls it doesn’t want to be losing votes to those parties that are willing to tackle the question of immigration.

Limits on the number of non EU immigrants have been brought in with a new point system. A system to ensure that newly advertised jobs must be offered to nationals first before going to foreign workers has been introduced. There is a new UK Border Agency to secure, monitor and control entry into the country. Asylum claims have been speeded up and more people are getting deported but more importantly than that the dialogue used by Labour politicians has changed from a purely “immigration is good for the UK” standpoint to one in which Gordon Brown can say in a speech that he wanted “British jobs for British workers”. In fact since the BNP started winning council and European seats numerous Labour ministers have spoken publicly about how Labour dropped the ball on immigration and have to tackle this topic if they are not to lose more ground to the BNP.

Therefore it seems that the threat of the BNP gaining support from disillusioned working class whites has had the effect of making Labour reconsider or at least re-market its policy on immigration in such a way as to reach out to this constituency which they used to consider their core supporters. However they haven’t moved to tackle the other and more importantly larger group of protest voters which are those people who voted for UKIP.

The Conservative party has always had a problem with its MP’s in that on the topic of Europe and they are split between Eurosceptics and Europhiles with both policy and rhetoric swinging between these two points of view. With David Cameron and William Hague as Foreign Secretary the Tories seem to be trying to reach out to UKIP supporters with their recent European policies. They have broken away from the major centre right group the in the EU parliament the EPP and created a new anti-federalist reformist group along with some other right wing parties from Eastern Europe.

They also tried to appeal to the majority of the British public who were outraged at Labours broken promise of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty by promising a referendum of their own on the treaty. However due to the fact that the treaty has now been implemented across Europe due to the Czech republic finally signing it they decided to drop this promise much to the outrage of public and MP’s alike.

Both main parties have now broken promises to hold a referendum on Europe. This is a vote that the British electorate are itching to have seeing that the majority of people have never been asked their opinion on Britain’s role in Europe. Even those people that did vote in the last referendum in 1975 only voted for whether the UK should join the EEC which was wat the time a free trade zone and not a political entity with federalist superstate trappings. Therefore a large proportion of the British people feel betrayed by this rail-roading of the country into a Euro-State something that right or wrong they feel they should be asked about.

Therefore a party like UKIP with the charismatic Nigel Farage as their leader has a good chance on capitalizing on this growing resentment and anger at broken promises. Add to this the public outrage with the recent MP expenses scandal which has tarred all the major parties at Westminster and it might just be the right point in time for people to consider making a protest vote at the next election and for it to actually count for once at a national level.

Nigel said in his recent conference speech that UKIP would be putting candidates up for every seat in the next election. This means that everyone has a chance of expressing their anger at the increasing lack of democracy within this country by voting for a party that would offer the country a chance to finally express their opinion on the matter. People might consider that UKIP is a one policy party and I would tend to agree however this one policy is one that matters to anyone who cares about democracy and our place within Europe.

The EU is a blatantly undemocratic entity which has just been proven by the recent installation of the new EU president Herman van Rompuy and Foreign Minister Baroness Catherine Ashton. Both of these people have been put into powerful positions without the consent of the people of Europe. There was no election which enabled the people of Europe to choose for themselves the right person for the job. Instead these two people, who have never won any kind of election on a national level, were chosen by our EU leaders for their own reasons.

Poll after poll has shown that the majority of British people want to belong to a Europe of nation states where each country has full control over its own economy, law and borders. They believe in free trade and movement of goods, services and people across Europe but they don’t want a federal super state. Although our politicians are very good at telling us that the EU is not turning into a federal super state it sure does seem that way.

The EU has given itself all the trappings of a country with a European national anthem, a flag, a president of Europe, soon to be embassies around the world and a seat at the UN as well as all the shared laws rules and regulations. Many people all across Europe see the formation of a single federal entity as desirable and I am someone who can definitely see the benefits that being part of Europe has brought to the UK. However on a point of principle the people of this country should have the chance to decide on what kind of relationship they want to have with Europe.

Therefore I am seriously considering using my vote at the next election to vote for UKIP. I live in a constituency that always unfortunately votes Tory and has done for time memorable. Therefore a vote for any other party is wasted anyway as there is no chance that Labour or the Liberals would manage to capture this seat. However even if UKIP doesn’t win many seats if they can get enough votes to show the probably new Conservative government that the country considers the EU question important enough to vote for a single issue party like UKIP then because the Tories are so split on this issue there is a good chance the Tories will have to consider giving the people a vote on the matter.

Recent election results have shown that protest votes do work. Even if the party in question is not elected the large percentage of votes they collect means that the public’s decision has an effect on the behaviour and policies of the major parties, especially those parties who have shrinking support or small majorities in parliament. Every vote counts and these main parties require the votes of not only their core base but those people in the centre as well as those people who are considering changing their vote from another party. The good thing is that people who are concerned about the lack of democracy that our current position in Europe entails as well as the lack of democracy at home by not giving the people the right to choose their own destiny, exist on all sides of the political spectrum.

Probability theory states that UKIP will not win the next general election and the Tories will. A victorious Tory government with a large majority are less likely to be influenced by public unease over Europe than a small majority that is scared of losing every seat. Therefore if you are unhappy with the current state of British politics, angry at the greed shown up by the expenses scandal and concerned about Europe and the lack of democracy then I would urge you to think about voting UKIP in the next election. Even if they do no win we maybe able to influence government policy by showing the level of support for a party that wants to give the British public a vote on their own future in Europe.

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4 Responses

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  1. theCL says

    The only way a vote can influence government, is if that vote genuinely expresses your interests. Voting to “win” is a fools game. Make your voice heard by voting for what you want!

  2. Yasin Akgun says

    well said theCL

    another thing to consider is such and such a party is a wasted vote, it isn’t. The only wasted vote is one that isn’t cast.

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