How I will vote…

It’s none of your business. How you will vote is none of my business. This country cannot proceed along any lines that make sense or promise hope unless we can all get along no matter how we vote and unless we respect the primacy of the secret ballot. Having said which, open and free discussion of the people, parties and policies up for consideration is all part of democracy too.

© Tony Husband 2010 for Stephenfry.com

What Right Have I to Blog?

Should I even be writing this blog? In a free country under the new dispensation of social networking is my ‘influence’ so disproportionate that for me to be revealing my voting intentions (which I am not quite going to do, by the way) in some sense inimical to the democratic spirit? I have about a million and a half Twitter followers, most of them I should think of voting age. If I changed the mind of even 1% of them would I somehow be cheating?

There are arguments for and against my involvement at such a level. One argument is that columnists in newspapers who have absolutely no more legitimacy in terms of influence, education, knowledge, understanding or right to persuade and interfere than I have are attempting to do so every day and with far more vitriol, conviction and absolutism than I would ever dare to exhibit. Which will not stop them from having a go at me were I to presume to pop my head above the parapet and suggest a voting preference. The screams of “Labour Lovie!” or “Lib Dem Lovie!” would be heard from here to hell. ‘It’s all very well for a pampered celebrity to parade his so-called caring credentials …’ blah-di-blah-di-bleugh. In ideological wars of this nature the first casualties are consideration, mutual respect, sense, proportion and dignity. Fair enough, one must be tough I suppose, although I’d much rather not be.

Another argument to propel me to write may be that the very weight of Twitter followers and website traffic behind me ought to bring with it some sense of civic duty. Maybe, there is a chance at least, this election matters. I don’t question whether or not it matters to the candidates, of course it does, but whether it matters more than most historically, socially and individually to us, as Britons. If this election does matter then surely my ignoring it would put me in the position of one of those rather silly people who is content to jeer from the sidelines, ‘they’re all the same anyway’ and ‘it makes no difference’ – which believe me I understand, for we are all tempted to be one of those. ‘Lord, what fools these voters be,’ we say to ourselves, if we are the kind of pompous Shakespeare quoting arse that I am at any rate, ‘you won’t catch me committing myself or risking a vote, much better for me to rely on the acuity of my vision which sees through the lot of them.’ Believe me, I do understand how tempting that position is. But I think we all know, in the innermost chambers of our heart, that such a position is unworthy of us.

The nailing of my colours to the mast might just encourage some of you to vote. I really do not mind how you vote, but I think you should. The ‘I can’t make a difference’ assertion is neither true, nor impressive, nor amusing, nor worthy, nor dignified. It is lazy, cowardly and inane. In Australia and some other countries voting is compulsory. Maybe it should be here too. At the very least the poverty and inadequacy of my arguments or assertions may at least propel you to the voting booth to vote against everything I believe. That at least would be something.

To sum up. What business do I have to ventilate my psephological dispositions for the Great Choosing that will take place on Thursday?  Do I think that my electoral intentions are relevant, important, worth more than anyone else’s, of national interest? None of the above. On the other hand, I have been approached by all three major parties who have sensed that I might be more of a floater (in every sense of that unfortunate epithet, I suspect) than I ever was in previous general elections. And on the other other hand some of my Twitter followers seem to think that my coyness in refusing to reveal my intentions amounts to a kind of cowardice or failure of citizenship. So I have decided to write this piece of bloggage in the hope that it will at least acquit me of apathy or irresponsibility. But I will preface it now with this insistent motto: do not let anything I say influence you. Vote with your heart, vote with your head, vote with your gut: your heart, your head, your gut – no one’s else. I just hope you have courage, style and charm enough not to hate me for what I am about to say, for I assure you I will not hate you if you say the exact opposite. Trollers, resentful maniacs, weirdos and abusive beasts can stop reading now, I have no interest in horrible and offensive meanness of spirit. You must believe me when I say that I have never hated any fellow countryman or woman because of how they vote or how they express their voting intention.

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141 comments on “How I will vote…”

  1. nonoyesyes says:

    Post Script:
    Loved the cartoon!!

    :))

  2. scootaboi says:

    Can’t we just vote for you? It would be a lot easier than the ‘spot the difference competition’ we’re all engaged in at the moment.

  3. Thanks Stephen, for what was an enjoyable read. I wonder, in this analysis, if you’ve really taken on fully board the bit about UK being in “dire straits financially”. I’d invite everyone to look at a graph of national debt vs time (for example, see the graph on the right on this official government web-site):

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=206

    It’s clear that the country has been living beyond its means since 2001, and the budget deficit has been completely and wildly out of control since 2007. As a consequence of what can be judged only to be massive economic mismanagement over the last ten years, our national debt is now rising at a rate which means we’re on a collision course for something pretty disastrous, no matter who comes to power after the election.

    So, we will all have to go through some pain before coming out the other side. Ultimately, there is only one way to come out of this next period positively; and that is if we can grow our economy – that means grow the size of the private sector. It’s the private sector that pays for *everything* the public sector does. In net terms, the country has no source of income except what the private sector provides.

    In one sense, then, public sector cuts are a red herring (despite it being the topic that is exercising everyone in this election campaign). What really counts in choosing who to vote for, in my opinion is: which party is most likely to create the conditions where businesses can flourish and grow?

    People will have to make their own minds up as to which party’s policies in this area are most credible. I’d urge everyone to look at these policies though; and not just look at who is *promising* to protect the public sector (nurses, doctors, police, teachers etc.) the most. ‘Cos as sure as eggs is eggs, *all* the parties are lying about their ability to do that.

    The bottom line is: the faster we can get our economy growing, the shorter we’ll all have to suffer what are going to be pretty unpleasant consequences of the over-spending of the last ten years…

  4. J_Marcel says:

    What an absolute pleasure that was to read. I’m particularly relieved that you’ve kept your personal polling card close to your chest – telling people how to vote does nobody any good.

    I’m also yawing wildly between options One and Three – my constituency of Kensington is, alas, about as Blue as they come, so I think I shall end up making a frantic tactical vote for the party in second place regardless of who I feel most in line with on Thursday. Let us hope that if this Parliament achieves nothing else, it will usher in a smidgeon of reform for this hoary old mare of a voting system.

  5. JoanMiro says:

    It is so important to be informed – I wonder how many people have actually downloaded and read the 3 main parties’ manifestos (http://media.conservatives.s3.amazonaws.com/manifesto/cpmanifesto2010_lowres.pdfhttp://www.labour.org.uk/uploads/TheLabourPartyManifesto-2010.pdfhttp://www.libdems.org.uk/siteFiles/resources/PDF/Election%20Policy/Liberal%20Democrat%20Environment%20Manifesto.pdf).

    I fear that too many people rely on their newspaper, bloke-in-pub, TV/radio soundbites, etc. rather than take some time to seek out the detail, consider and compare the relative merits of the parties’ policies, then make their minds up after proper reflection.

    Read. Think. Vote

  6. Matt Mosley says:

    Interesting article Stephen.

    I know you’re a big Twitter user, what do you think to this site?

    http://www.10downingtweets.co.uk/

    Rather nice if I do say so myself!

  7. SealTree says:

    As I’ve said time and again – http://bit.ly/afIQAQ – with the current system democracy doesn’t exist. It cannot when you have imperfect information and most elected representatives are elected by a minority.

    We need three things to make the world a better place:
    a. compulsory voting (how to punish those who don’t vote? Perhaps by removing passports and driving licenses?)
    b. proportional representation with transferable voting (so it’s fair but we don’t get loony parties gaining a balance of power); and
    c. fixed terms – so elections fall when they fall, not when the incumbent parties have exhausted all other options.

  8. TuneAFish says:

    Stephen,

    This reminds me of a youtube video i once saw of you talking to a group of youngsters. I think it was called open to questions? Anyway you said something like “do you feel like you’ve been conditioned in that way” ( i realize im out of context, you were talking about satire.. stay with me i have a point =P ). What strikes me is do you ever feel like you’ve been influenced on how to vote by people you admire? Does you love for Oscar Wilde cloud you judgement on issues whichh he spoke about? If Oscar Wilde lived today, was exactly the same man but decided to vote for something – in my opinion – absurd like the BNP would your admiration and respect for him cloud your judgement and alter your mind? I dont think it would, personally, Stephen. I think that you would offer a different insight to your party that perhaps people havent seen. People wont just walk blindly into a political party just because you’ve stated your alegiance. I realize that im still young and therefore can possibly be seen as a but innocent but i truly believe in the human mind and spirit and believe you do to. 1% may change their minds, not because you said it but because you offer something in the way of insight. You’re my idol, Stephen and i find beauty in everything you say. I dont, however, follow you blindly and i disagree with you on alot of things.

    Sorry for the long arsed reply.. tweeting just couldnt say what i wanted to.

    Ben

  9. nickpeters says:

    Thanks for writing such a well reasoned post.

  10. wackyschild says:

    Good article! I have always considered myself a Tory voter but in truth I care not how people vote at the election as long as they go out an actually vote. I would rather see 80% of the population vote and have Labour at the helm than a 50% turnout and a Tory leader. I do believe there will be precious little difference in how the country has to be run in order to get the economy running again. This election is perhaps strange in that we will be voting for the party whom we think will make the least viscous cuts!! as we all know cuts will have to be made. So for that reason alone I will not be too disappointed by the outcome in a few days time (Hung parliament could be interesting though).
    We all have the right to criticize the leaders of this country, after-all they do work for us, the people. However if enough of the potential voters stay at home the mandate of leadership which the election grants is perhaps not as solid or valuable under the realization that more people stayed at home and didn’t bother voting than the winner could get in total votes.

  11. math_campbell says:

    I read all 7 pages of your post Steven, and I felt compelled to register and comment here…

    As an SNP branch-secretary, activist & member here in Scotland, I will leave it to the reader to guess where my vote will go, but I would not presume to ask/tell others where to lend their vote (unless you’re in Scotland, particularly Inverclyde, in which case SNP all the way folks)…

    I am always heartened when, out on the streets doing canvassing work (the first question of which after name/address is always “which party do you most closely associate with) I get the response “Well, I’ll tell you which party I like, but I’m not saying how I’ll vote yet. It’s a secret ballot”.

    Quite aside from the fact this person obviously cherishes their vote, they know it’s a secret-ballot, which means they’re at least somewhat politically interested or even educated. And that gives me a warm feeling. Even if they won’t vote for my guy, at least they’re involved.

    I’d rather we got smashed, completely beaten, demolished even, on 100% turnout, than win by a healthy amount on a 50% turnout. At least then democracy has truly been served. The enemy isn’t the other parties. It’s apathy.

    Obviously I’d rather we won a resounding victory on 100% turnout…

  12. Praedico says:

    This post is a perfect illustration of why I love your writings, Stephen. Quite apart from the fact that I always learn at least a couple of new and interesting words, you always manage to make subjects interesting, no matter how dull they normally are.
    This is quite possibly the first time I’ve ever actually read several pages of text related to politics in one go. I try to be interested, I really do, but I usually get two sentences in and decide it would be far more productive to jam nails into my eyes.
    I want so much to be interested in this election, and I’m trying to pay attention, but I still can’t get past the inevitable blandness of political statements. I understand why the blandness exists, of course, but in this case the knowledge doesn’t help.
    My electoral decisions tend to guided not by policy statements and leaflets shoved through my door and instantly deposited in the recycling bin, but by the occasional definite statements that get people in a tizzy. It’s just a pity that the politician that made the statement then ends up having to make grovelling apologies for weeks afterwards.
    I won’t bore you any further by going into my politics, except to say that I will certainly be voting for one of the Big Three. The only other candidates in my constituency are from UKIP, the BNP and the National Front (Yes, really).

  13. mgma90 says:

    While it’s fair to argue that anyone could be a candidate, I think it’s more difficult to argue that they would not also be sucked into the petty politics that dominates our Westminster Parliament, which eats away and vitiates most good intentions.

    To succeed and be able to make a difference, you are forced to comply with the conventions that Parliamentary politics demands – which means sacrificing your own values, a lot of the time, for those of the party in order to be deemed a ‘valued member’. Then, if you’re able to rise to such a position, your values have been stripped away and you are moulded into an image that the party wants.

    While it’s possible to enter into politics as an independent candidate, realistically the only way to make radical changes to politics is to enter as a party-member.

    Either there is a change in the way the Westminster-system operates, or you continue with an unremitting chain of politicians that are forced to sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to be inducted into a specific party – in the hope of making a change.

  14. pblive says:

    A well worded and thoroughly engrossing article. If only our newspapers could produce something as thoughtful as this I’d actually start to buy them again.

    As it stands I’m a ‘vote three’ person, mainly due to Education policies and the push for both Electoral Reform and a more mixed approach to pushing policy, but I fully support that others may well have their logically held and well thought out views on how they will vote and I should be some sort of fool to hold this against them.

  15. Finony says:

    Ah, at last, the voice of reason! An excellent, measured piece and one that I think should be in every paper tomorrow for all to read. Thank you Stephen and welcome home.

  16. SoooooZee says:

    Thank you for writing that.

  17. alinaSka says:

    A fascinating read. Thank you. I also think we vote according to our heart, allegiances, intuition and other totally irrational elements of our behaviour. What we don’t exercise enough though is calmness, “open-mindedness” and acceptance that we might not know it all or get it right…

  18. boblockett says:

    Exquisite. This is the first thing I have read regarding the election that hasn’t made me either gag, throw something, or reach for the bottle. At the grand old age of fifty two I have gone back to university and, being regarded generally as Methuselah, I am asked my opinion on many matters by the younger students. If only you’d written this a fortnight ago, I could have used it as a hand-out. Eloquent, balanced, beautifully written, a joy to behold.
    Stephen, will you write my essays for me next year?

  19. chemilyx says:

    Stephen, as others have said this was just a pleasure to read. I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.

    I’m one of the… few? who has actually tried to look up manifestos, weigh up the positives and negatives of each one and go with my gut in which looks like it will sort out the country. I’ve tried to vote with my head in this election. I’m only 21, so haven’t really had any time to develop much of a heart-based history with voting other than that my family are from a working class background (so apparently predisposed to vote Labour), I’m the first at University (so apparently should be voting Lib Dems), etc etc. I also study History which I’ve tried to use to the best of my ability in this election, in that I’ve tried to use the knowledge I have from that and information from trustworthy sources rather than certain elements of the media.

    I won’t ramble on any more, but what I will say is that I’ve come to the decision to vote Conservative in this election purely because I like more of their policies than the others. That said, I fully respect anyone who is voting based on research they’ve done, and based on who they feel will best run the country. Those are the people who really should be voting.

    What does make me sad is that the media has such a massive say in it, and that some people can’t see through the techniques used by the politicians, especially in the debates. Nick Clegg in particular annoys me. But that’s another story.

    In short, I really don’t care who gets in, as long as they sort out the country and give us a reason to be proud of it again.

  20. MrEdwards says:

    An enjoyable piece, and one that has at least planted a seed of doubt in my mind. Admittedly, it is unlikely to find light amidst the tangled forest that is my mind. I have always been a Conservative voter – I suppose I am a little more right wing in my views. However, there is certainly credence to the suggestion that Mr. Brown may actually serve us better in terms of economic recovery than Mr. Osbourne. The problem for me lies in the other Labour economic ‘minds’…I am not impressed with the possible problems for gay citizens under a Tory government, but I do feel that younger generations can easily oppose those views, even within the Conservative party itself – it is NOT cool to discriminate or victimise those of differing sexuality nowadays. But as much as Mr Fry’s personality is dear to my heart, perhaps his political persuasions aren’t! Blue for me Stephen

  21. PistolPete says:

    Stephen, wonderful writing as usual and a clear way of articulating what we are all wondering – how do we split 3 such similar parties!

    I used http://www.myvoteadvisor.com and it led me to a smaller party. Just. I actually think I will vote for that party as, even though they won’t get in, their relative success will spread the word that their cause is important.

  22. Johngreenba says:

    Well said Stephen anonymity at the polling booth is an important principle.

  23. Alibu says:

    Great post!

    Thinking: Wouldn’t it be interesting if everybody voted for the Lib Dems, just for the sheer hell of it? Wonder what would happen then?

  24. Dingledoodie says:

    Well done Stephen. You somehow manage to express how I feel on most issues so much better than I ever could.

    I agree with what you wrote about voter apathy, tribalism, politics and Internet trolls. Both Politics and the Internet would be better experiences for all without such mean spirits ‘spoiling-it-for-the-rest-of-us’.

    I’ve already voted and I opted for “Vote Three”. ;o) Every election I read the three main party manifesto’s. I’ve voted Lib Dem since 1987. A mixture of head and heart driving me each time. It sounds trite, but, for me, especially this year, Lib Dem is the only option for real change. I do think it’s ‘time’. There’s a shift in The West, the Zeitgeist feels different, exemplified by Obama’s election into office in the US. Hopefully, Clegg is our chance for hope and positivity.

  25. Dingledoodie says:

    On a andal, geeky, note, can I just mention that the links for the Brown speech and the Stroud article didn’t appear in your article. Might just be my browser, but just thought I’d mention it. ;o)

  26. Dingledoodie says:

    Darn it! I meant “anal” not “andal” of course. D’oh.

  27. nate1481 says:

    As with several other replies this was really good; it makes a very interesting read and is interesting in giving you opinions of the parties in an even handed manner and admitting clearly that you are not sure which way to vote. Thankyou.

  28. kev100 says:

    Excellent piece sir, just wish it helped with the actual decision on the day :) I’ve never been so undecided in a general election in my life (1 or 3, 1 or 3 …). Furthermore, I’ve also never felt the weight of that decision to be so heavy.

    Cheers,

    Kev.

  29. Tia says:

    Liked your blog very much. I’m a girl from Germany und not very well informed about the political situation in Britain. But in my position as a student of political science and a person who always tries to convince the people in her surroundings to po to the polls I wanna thank you for this article. Democracy sometimes is a pretty hard thing, but I think we should all be happy about it, although it’s difficult to make the right choice.

  30. katysara says:

    All women should vote – remember what the suffragettes went through to give us the right to vote.

    It may be nobody’s business but I will be voting Lib Dem.

    KSx

  31. straydogstrut says:

    Wonderful article Stephen and already some interesting responses. I’ll be sure to read them all when I get back to my computer this afternoon.

    You’re absolutely right to assert that everyone’s vote should be their own, and we shouldn’t be biased by the views of others. I think it’s very responsible of you to recognise that people will be biased by a celebrity such as yourself and to go out of your way to make sure they’re not.

    I would like to be able to say that I cast my vote after considered reflection on each party’s points (and kudos to the poster who linked to the parties’ manifestos), but to be honest I tend to be swayed by emotions, rather than reasoned thought. That said, this time around i have been more active in seeking out the parties’ views on the issues i’m concerned with, and I found the t.v. debate a welcome addition.

    I’ve voted Labour in the past, most likely because that was the way my family voted, although they never pressured me, but this time around i’m swaying around the Lib Dems. Partly because of some of their policies, but also, I think, because I prefer the personality of Nick Clegg to that of Gordon Brown or David Cameron (although that video of Gordon you linked to was certainly a surprise). To be honest i’m not sure how i’ll vote on the day. I’ve never really enjoyed politics, I find the endless squabbling a real turn off, but they are only human after all, and I still make sure to vote every time, it’s important that we all make our own contribution.

  32. Gilmore says:

    Very well written, and it gives me a better insight into British politics than I normally get from the media coverage here in Australia.
    It can get confusing trying to draw parallels with the political parties here – we have the Liberals and Nationals (who are both conservative, and had a coalition going for a while), plus the Democrats as a minor party. At least Labor is easy enough to work out.

    As someone who has grown up with compulsory voting I was quite surprised the day that I discovered Britain doesn’t have it. Election Day here is sometimes viewed as a chore, but overall most people are happy to take a small piece of time out of their day for it.
    We get our fair share of “donkey votes” but there is a much, much larger amount of legitimate votes than there would be if voting was optional.

  33. alexandra76 says:

    Thank you for being able to articulate what I feel better than I can manage to myself!

  34. Davidius says:

    Yay! I can congratulate myself on being torn between the same two parties, and can honestly say that it was my own thinking that came upon this dichotomy – mainly for the boring reason that their line on cuts is roughly the same – rather than the tribal insistences of my acquaintances. I think another reason to sway towards Vote Three is that it may mean the final nail in the coffin of tiresome two-party politics. If there’s anything I can’t stand in politics, it’s Labour and Tory MPs appearing on Question Time, mocking the Lib Dems for how they’ll never get into power. If only for the wiping off of smug grins, I’d love to see a Lib Dem win / hung parliament.

  35. hazymat says:

    Dear Mr Fry

    In the same way I know that writing this message has no bearing on anyone’s views, indeed may not even be read by a single person, I believe that my vote this Thursday will have absolutely zero effect on the outcome of this election.

    It is, as you might say, eleven types of invisible. Four shades of pointless. Barely a drop in the ocean.

    My vote is, however, a personal expression of great belief and passion in the democratic process. It is a cathartic exercise, one that gives me immense value as a young human being and citizen of this country, and I shall cherish it dearly. I shall feel a warm feeling close to how I imagine a religious person might feel. I shall drink Champagne.

    (For the above reason, especially at this decisive time for Britons, I believe tactical voting to be both useless and irrelevant.)

    Regarding my vote. I have previously been wavering between Vote 1 and Vote 3 for the precise same reasons as you have set out. Brown attracts me not because of his long-term vision but because of his boring detail-driven policy making; the country needs this. Clegg attracts me because he leads a party I have great idealogical respect for. Cameron repels me not because of his character per-se, but because of the unchallenged, ingrained nature of his beliefs and loyalties, which I feel will not adequately challenge the status quo.

    (Deep down I would love for a Conservative party that was led by a philosopher, a champion of human rights, and social idealist. Alas such a party leader does not exist.)

    Despite my past wavering, my gut, my heart, and my head tell me I must cast my vote for the Liberal Democrat party.

    Thank you for your blog post. Following you on Twitter and looking at your blog remind me why the internet isn’t such a bad place after all.

    Sincerely,

    Mat

    p.s. I too am addicted to the fumes from Sharpies.

  36. Wolfe Tone22 says:

    Stephen,

    I’m an Australian and as you point out, we have compulsory voting here. It is good thing because it means that government has a mandate from the entire population and means that blocks of population can’t be mobilised for the mutual advantage of the party and the block but noone else.

    What it does not do is increase civil responsability in the community. That comes not from above but from the community itself. We have high rates of donkey votes and informal votes for that reason. Pieces like this are important in that development but the compulsory vote is not.

  37. Riggers says:

    I’m of the opinion that when voting, you should vote the values that underlie a party’s the policies rather than the policies themselves. Policies have a horrible habit of changing quickly, but the values of the party change at a glacial pace.

    I think New Labour’s values remain largely unchanged and still ring true in the average electorate 13 years later. The problem is that the party is tired and wary after being in power for too long with the scars of unpopular decisions and unfulfilled promises. And that is the real root cause of the floating voter’s dilemma: we still like the values underpinning the party, we just don’t like the faces or the stains their legacy.

    That’s why people are flocking to the Liberal Democrats. They share much of the same core values, but with fresh faces and a fresh report card. They also don’t inherit the overburdensome authoritarian streak that is embedded in Labour at its core, and offer an opportunity to retract some of its worst excesses. They’re also in a position to offer a fundamental and necessary change in Electoral Reform, an idea that fits in perfectly with Labour ideals but not in terms of Labour winning, in which the end result would be a way of alleviating many of the problems of tired and weary governments that got us into this mess.

    I still don’t buy into the values of the Conservative Party. I don’t believe they made the transition that Labour did in order to win in 1997, they’re still clinging onto their old ideology, but now trying to obfuscate it with flowery words and bright colours and some minor concessions.

    I am in a Labour-Conservative marginal. Come 6 May, I will be voting Labour with a heavy heart. But I will be hoping that the Liberal Democrats will be making big gains and Labour come a comfortable second in terms of seats that would allow them to clear house and come back reinvigorated with fewer but fresher faces, clearing the way for a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition that could have a mandate for electoral reform. At the very least, I hope for a hung parliament, ending decades of elected dictatorships that are a blight on our democratic process. I fear that my hopes will be dashed.

  38. kopmatt88 says:

    Stephen,

    Your thoughts on the election were a welcome and refreshing take on what has become a rather stale drudge through personality politics, with the occasional foray into the world of ‘gaffes’ and panic. I cannot recommend your words and thoughts highly enough, and completely endorse everything you have said.

    Within the tribal world of politics and democracy, the usual byproduct is to put floating voters off voting, because they feel that their role in the system is minimal or that “they’re all the same”, and your post has single-handedly proven why this is not true, and why we must make that small step down to the polling station on Thursday, even if we feel that we have very little voting power. Shouting abuse from the sidelines is pointless if we have made no effort to engage ourselves within the system.

    I doubt you’ll ever read this, or respond, but I wonder about what your thoughts are on comparing an ‘Obama-like’ figure with our present choices for Prime Minister. I’m not wishing to say that we should replicate Barack Obama in the UK, but the thing I most admire about Obama is a point you yourself raise, which is about his intelligence and thoughtfulness, which does not endear him to the right-wing of American politics, as he is considered to be part of the ‘liberal elite’. Without wishing to cast aspersions on Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Brown, their levels of intelligence and thoughtfulness are at considerable variations, and the only real thoughtful candidate we have (Mr Brown) has the charisma of a rather unattractive coal shed, which does not serve him well in our era of personality politics. What is good and unifying about President Obama is that he has the ability to combine erudite thoughtfulness and genuine intelligence, with the charisma of a Blair or a Reagan, which makes him attractive to all levels of society, and provides a crucial link in such situations.

    I fear that in this election, the UK electorate will opt for the flashy Cameron, when really they should be going for the more thoughtful, but less sparkly Gordon Brown, when, as you rightly state, we need a steady hand at the ship.

    Thank you for your blog, it really has given me, and by the looks of it, every reader, some considerable food for thought, and you have made a valued and considerable contribution to the election, at the perfect time.

    Best wishes,

    Matthew

    P.s. If you ever did consider entering the world of politics, I can confidently state that you would always have my vote, and I’m sure the vote of millions. If only there were more people of your calibre in this world.

  39. nessa says:

    Tidy…

  40. firm3d says:

    On a more technical note, would it be possible for there to be a button to switch between multiple pages and one long page? Personally, I’d prefer to scroll down until I’m done rather than switch between reading and parsing UI modes of thought.

    Thanks.

  41. I am Matrix says:

    Fantastic stuff! I have already quoted you and I only read it twenty minutes ago! This is exactly what I was trying to say to a forum the other day! (the RATM facebook group, so I have sent them a link).

    just because I am actively campaigning for one party because does not mean I should have any ill feelings towards members of other parties. People should vote how they feel is right (I only get peeved when people vote purely on allegiance rather than looking into the manifestos themselves but as you said this is to be expected) as long as they vote who cares, who cares even if they don’t. That is there prerogative, right? Surly making voting compulsory is going against the ideals of democracy?

  42. Hermi80 says:

    Thank you for posting this blog. As always you are honest, concise and deeply considered in your views and it is a pleasure to read them. I, too, am undecided as to where I shall cast my vote on Thursday for reasons you have already remarked upon. Thank you for taking the considerable time to write this – and undoubtedly with jet lag too! How do you do it?! :)

  43. socrateschrist says:

    I agree with SealTree but would add that we should limit MPs to two terms and require that they live in the constituancy for the term before they stand, This would stop parachutists from the westminster village and party careerists from siezing power.
    I would like to have a reason to vote for a particular party but feel that this time I am deciding by a process of elimination. Vote one is not good for me as I can not forgive the war nor the financial failure to address the massive off balance sheet liabilities that are waiting down the road. So Brown is out. The Tory option does not work for me I just do not trust them to care enough about those less fortunate than themselves. I would like to be voting for a well argued Lib Dem proposal from a party led by Ming or Vince but I will have to settle for LIB DEM LITE.
    I will cleanse myself by immersion in the wonderful world of Viv Stanshall and BONZO by going to see 3Bonzos and a Piano with the Wonderful Sam Spoons, Rodney Slater, Roger Ruskin Spear, Dave Glasson and Andy Roberts at the Bacon Theatre Cheltenham on Friday.
    If that does not take away the election Blues I shall follow them onwards to Fowey and Torrington next week. That should allow our politicians time to agree a cabinet by the 23rd in Brighton when they (The Bonzos not the Government) are joined by Vernon Dudley Bohey Nowell and Legs Larry Smith.
    Thank you for letting me get that off my chest I feel much better allready.
    Bob Bent a recovering Bucolic

  44. peterjemley says:

    I agree sincerely and completely with the substance and timbre of Stephen’s thoughts about the current UK general election, as well as with the issues about which he writes which are applicable more broadly. The sentiments he expresses towards tribalism, concise as they are, are of equal consequence. I am truly gladdened by Stephen’s presence and ideas (experienced through his work, that is). I am at times frustrated by the one-way communication that takes places between “celebrities” and the public regarding the “res publica,” and I am no fan of anyone’s uncritical embrace of ideas, companies, or products. But Stephen Fry is most clearly a fine human being and heroic example with which to approach the complexities and difficulties of human existence.

  45. arual2111 says:

    This is superb.

  46. Gaina says:

    I totally agree with you that if we all think ‘I can’t make a difference’ then that’s a lot of people…not making a difference. This helps no-one.

    I will always vote for the simple fact that on June 4th 1913 Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the King’s horse, giving her life so that I would have the right to vote. Even if I am sick to the back teeth of the lot of them, I will always still vote to honour her memory. I also believe that if you don’t make your mark then you have no right to moan about the decisions made by the people that end up running your country.

    I wish you would put your blogs on CD because you help remind me that there are still some thoughtful, gentle people in the world…and I just love your voice :).

  47. TalkyMeat says:

    Well, I characterise my own politics as a sort of free-market communism that I haven’t totally worked out, but there isn’t a party for that. However I don’t buy the idea that your horror at the thought of ever becoming a politician is somehow a good reason for you not to stand for office. On the contrary, in any way wanting to be a politician should, as Douglas Adams had it, be an immediate disqualification from actually becoming one. I particularly appreciate your appeal for genuinely civil public discourse between left and right; a country with a leftist government that listens and responds thoughtfully to its conservative critics is better off than it would be with one that does not; and a country with a conservative government that listens and thoughtfully responds to its critics on the left is better off that it is with one that does not; surely that is something that can be agreed upon by all political hues, isn’t it? For instance, wouldn’t it be better for all the major parties to sit down together with drafts of each other’s budgets/shadow budgets and make absolutely sure that the numbers all add up, for all of them? The any remaining disagreement would be about matters of political, social, economic and moral substance, rather than devolving down to the he-said/she-said of “our numbers add up, and yours don’t” repeated by representatives of all parties. British political parties devote great energy into ensuring that the public should not trust the other parties, and pretty much, they all succeed in this goal.

    For all my adult life I’ve been a leftist of a pretty radical shade, but I’ve come to think that the main reason for the political fragmentation and marginalisation of the radical left is precisely our utter failure to take seriously the criticisms levelled at us by philosophically thoughtful conservatives and centrists; we have come to public discourse only with polemic, and never with epistemic, purposes in mind, and that has injured us.

    Anyways, I hope to be voting Fry in 2014.

    Cory Doctorow would make an awesome Chancellor of the Exchequer, btw. Just sayin’.

  48. holbolrob says:

    Stephen, how do you manage to perfectly express the reasons why I would never vote Tory and the reasons why I’m also in no mans land between the Lib Dems and Labour?
    Now if only I were old enough to actually vote…
    ho hum.

  49. Captain_Robs_the_Trainee_Busker says:

    Nice to read a sensible article that did not a) tell me how to vote and b) get over excited about the prospect of a hung parliament. Thanks!

  50. andrealein says:

    I haven’t been very interested in the UK elections so far, but I found your blog very informative and right to the point (as far as I can tell). And, of course, it was a pleasure to read. Thank you very much.

    I know what it’s like not to know who to vote for. We just had mayoral election and I made my decision in the second before I made my little cross (not with a Sharpie). So I’m kinda glad it’s not my turn this time.

    xxx