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.

Let’s agree to disagree

For a Labour voter to hate a Tory voter or vice versa is for us all to stumble into the revolting and nonsensical little-endian big-endian madness that Swift pilloried in Gulliver’s Travels. Let me say here and now and beg you to believe that some of the people in the world I most love, reverence, adore, admire and respect will be voting Conservative on Thursday. I grew up a Tory, I spent my childhood summers at Conservative fêtes and whist drives and dinner dances. I thought anyone who voted Liberal, let alone Labour, was creepy weird and horrifying. At some point the wind changed. The wind’s name was Margaret Thatcher, but we won’t go into ancient history. All the vices I once attributed to Labour — vulgarity, meanness of spirit, lack of warmth, sympathy or lightness of touch — I now attributed to the Conservatives. I went so far as to join the Labour Party, to write speeches, or parts of speeches, for Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, all of whom I met and liked. Mind you, I met and liked John Major and plenty of Tories too. I’m a whore when it comes to meeting and liking people. It is most annoying to have one’s prejudices overturned by real life. However one thing has remained constant in my political affiliations, and that is a deep contempt and fear of tribalism.

© Tony Husband 2010 for Stephenfry.com

When I meet a Labour voter who can only hiss, stamp and fume at any Tory, or a Conservative voter who can only jeer and condemn a Labour voter then I bridle, bristle and simply writhe with indignation. Let this be known and celebrated: we all have the right to vote the way we want. We all have our reasons and motivations and they do not justify anyone insulting or reviling us. Actually, the fact is that ‘reasons’ is probably the wrong word, for we are all (or almost all) energised in politics above all by feelings, by loyalties and deep turbulent emotions that bubble down in our depths. These have far more influence upon our political ‘views’ than rational and logical considerations. There may be those who are capable of carefully and objectively weighing the qualities of each party’s policies and coming to a voting decision on that basis, but I have yet to meet such people. We all know we should be like that, but we all know that we should only put into our mouths what reason tells us is nutritious, calorifically justified and environmentally sustainable. We eat by appetite, emotion and desire and we vote according to criteria of loyalty and connection that are much closer to the support of football teams than to rational assessment and analysis. And, of course, we respond to the personalities that are put up in front of us. I have yet to find anyone who is not influenced by personality. Only, being humans, we are all hypocrites, and we accuse those who dislike our hero or admire our villain of being the ones who succumb to the cheap allure of personality politics, we of course, are immune. Of course, so deep run our alliances that we impute good qualities to personalities we would otherwise not warm to and see ghastly characteristics in those whom we would probably like in real life, if only they were not from the Other Side. What we cannot bear is when someone from across the political divide from us is obviously believable, likeable and reasonable. That is when we accuse their supporters of being victims of personality politics and the individual in question of being ‘a media creature’.

If such innate tribal fixity was wholly the case then Gilbert and Sullivan would be right and that Nature really does contrive that ‘every boy and every gal that’s born into the world alive is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative.’ We all know that, aside from those so ingrained in loyalty that they simply could never vote outside their born or acquired adherences, there are such creatures as floating voters and that they are the ones who determine electoral outcomes. I find, for the first time in thirty years, that I am one such.

The choices

Forgetting the forgettable, there are three parties we can choose from. They represent, so far as I can see, the Same, Another Same and something New and Untried. There are powerful, in my opinion, reasons for believing either that the last thing we need now is discontinuity or for believing that we need fundamental change. In other words, I can see why we might want to plough on through the debt crisis that faces us with a reliable, if unexciting administration and I can also see why we might want absolutely to alter direction and experiment with new ways of hammering out consensus, compromise and pragmatic reform. What is harder to envisage is a new driver in the same car, a change that satisfies tribal loyalties but actually achieves nothing.

Britain is in dire straits financially. We are, not to put too fine a point on it, shafted six ways from Sunday. As always, those who will suffer most will be the already disadvantaged. No matter who wins or commands a majority on Thursday there will be appalling cuts in public services, terrible depredations made that will hit first and hardest those who can least afford it. Twas ever thus, you might think. But the ripples in crime, discontent, infrastructure decay and quality of life degradation will affect all, even those who least care about the destiny of the destitute.

Vote One

If there is a way out of it, it will require dullness, concentration, probity, focus, geeky financial fanaticism and an almost horrible obsession with economic detail and technique. Sound like anyone we know?  The last thing that is wanted, this vote might suggest, is an untried chancer who makes promises that we know, with the best will in the world, he cannot keep.

Hands up anyone, anyone who believes that the Osborne/Cameron nexus will honestly punish or regulate the City as they need to be punished and regulated? Whatever noises they make about it, you know, you know as surely as you know that turkeys would never vote for Christmas, that somehow, by perfectly reasonable and unforeseeable routes, any manifesto promises to be tough on financial impropriety will somehow get lost and the smarting chastisement that the short-selling creeps who got us into this mess deserve will never be forthcoming. (In fact you can pretty much guarantee that even a Labour vote will not guarantee the regulation that wise financial insiders know is necessary ) ‘Oh it will just cause a mass exodus from the City.’ ‘Oh, alienating the wealth creators is the surest route to bankruptcy.’ ‘Germany hasn’t done it, nor has the SEC in New York.’ ‘We have to compete. Cut our banking houses off at the knees and you hobble the British economy, perhaps fatally.’ Gosh, how convincing that all sounds. As a result insane bonuses and horrific financial instruments will rise again, a debt dependent economy will boil once more into life and dozens of journalists and commentators will rise to their feet to applaud.

I don’t mean to be sneery or negative about this, it is what the Tories stand for and there are arguments one can subscribe to which convincingly defend their nature and their instincts and their outlook. Goodness knows there’s a huge part of me that is libertarian and contra-dirigiste enough in outlook to look with longing at the certainties of the Reasonable Right. But you would have to be naive or dishonest to deny the certainty of the outcome of a Conservative government in terms of its friendship with bankers, financiers, fund managers and those who manipulate and massage capital for a living. I do not for a minute concur with some visceral Labour views of Tories as being automatically and genetically uncaring or socially illiberal. True, there are dozens and dozens of Conservative candidates whose repellent stupidity and vulgarity would make even a Daily Mail reader blush and stammer, just as there are dozens and dozens of Labour candidates whose bigoted, dull-witted asininity would embarrass a Guardian reader into dribbling delirium. And there are plenty of Tories whose hopes for the poor and the dispossessed and the outcast are as sincere as that of any socialist or liberal.  Vote One, if I were to cast it, is all about a belief that – despite the rather obvious and predictable PR choruses to the contrary –  continuity, solidity, sound management, a lack of interest in anything but the economy and a bone-headed refusal to pay much attention to image makers and spin doctors is what is required now. Far from All Change, let’s go for No Change and weather the storm that is coming with a dull, intelligent, responsible, proven and determined pilot at the helm. One who won’t ask for relief when the waves batter  but will plough on, head down, until we find calmer waters and sunnier skies. That is Vote One. In case you’re very very dim, that would be a vote for Gordon Brown and Labour. It isn’t very exciting, you might think, but it might just see us through.

An argument against Labour might be that Iraq and the revolting Digital Economy Bill and a catalogue of fudge, fumbling and failure that three successive periods of power has (necessarily) witnessed may well be reason enough to turn away. Those who feel most betrayed by Labour’s shortcomings and reversals of policy are those least likely to be drawn to the Tories however, so one imagines that the disenchanted left will either stay home or vote Lib Dem. The worst of the Labour calamities, the war in Iraq, would have taken place under a Conservative administration too and it is one which Brown is less personally involved in than was Blair. For all those betrayals and deceptions it is hard not to believe that the most pressing question must be the economy.

You may of course argue that there has been nothing sound about Labour’s management of the economy either, but actually I cannot believe that the financial tsunami that struck Britain and the rest of the world in 2008 would have been any better dealt with by anyone else. I do feel that the very determination and uncool dourness and resolution of Brown might well be a good bet. When the house is a ruin, go for solid and unglamorous damp-coursing and roof relining – you can worry about the wallpaper, furniture and carpeting later. You might also think that dour and unglamorous as Brown may be presented, when he is allowed to let go and reveal his true self he is surprisingly more impressive than either of the other two candidates. Take ten minutes out of your life to watch this. You really do have to twist reality to claim that this is a spin-doctored act and not the real passion of a conviction politician. That is the man and what he stands for. It may not move you however. You may not find it interesting or appealing. Conviction politics may not be what you think the country requires or you may regard such idealism as false or irrelevant.

Sidebar One

It’s not about quality of parliamentary intake. God knows most of you reading this should be aware that the kind of people standing for election are simply the same kinds of idiot that we were at school with, that we are ourselves. Human, frail, unreliable, greedy and stupid – only with the rather dubious (you might think) difference that they actually want to be in Parliament, which you or I do not. But my heart always sinks when I get a tediously clichaic tweet saying ‘Bloody hell Stephen, don’t you know they’re all the same?’ or  ‘Hung parliament? Yes, they should be! Hahahahahahahah!!!!!’ Well now steady on, how can we inhabit a democracy and simultaneously dismiss and loftily choose never to vote for, those who actually get off their arses and allow that democracy to come into being? No matter how crap, sterile of imagination, predictable, verbally trite, sententious or weird every single one of the candidates presenting themselves for election may be, at least they have actually offered themselves up for the cruel, impertinent and unspeakably humiliating inspection that candidacy entails. And for what? For power? Come now, do you really think that? Maybe there is a touch of vanity in their ambitions, but is it any more than the vanity that anyone after a good job should have? And if you say, ‘well it isn’t a good job, snigger snigger,’ then please offer up for all of us an alternative to democracy, one in which your higher standards and your superior understanding will prevail. In the meantime, as Neil Kinnock used to say, ‘don’t moan about it, change it. Stand yourself! Be a candidate!’ And if you simply relay that you’re a nobody, and that it’s not what you know but who you know, then you still haven’t got the point. You could be a candidate, yes, you could be a candidate, but you would have to go to meetings, walk pavements, shake hands, consult, seek views, consider options, do all the things that those who involve themselves in democracy do. Honestly now. I mean really honestly, haven’t you, as I have – I’d be the first to admit it – sounded off about the crapness of politicians without ever really considering the full nature of democracy and what it implies, or should imply? One of the very reasons I would run a thousand miles from public office is the sanctimonious, sententious, unforgiving, inquisitive and merciless scrutiny to which my every move and every word would be subjected. I couldn’t take the responsibility of not being able to make a light joke and I couldn’t bear the insufferable indignity of having to speak so blandly for fear of giving offence that I would sound like every other politician ever sounded. It is really no good us moaning about the quality of our politicians when the intensity of our inspection of everything they are and do is so great they are not allowed those very qualities of eccentricity, originality, colour, life and surprise that we claim to want in them.

Vote Two

Conservative. Dave seems alright. He’s got a ‘team’, he’s young (ish) and energetic. He wants power, he’s motivated enough to feel that he deserves it and that when he gets it he will operate its levers with efficiency, drive and purpose. He will have to do almost everything that Brown would have to do in terms of cuts, cuts, more cuts, taxation and more cuts, because our economy is so burdened with debt that there is no other way out. Those who are predisposed to conservatism might hope that he will roll back the frontiers of the state and destroy the culture of Health and Safety, Political Correctness and liberal relativism that has, they think, mired our society in nanny-state dependency, but it has to be said there are no such claims made in his manifesto. He claims to believe in multiculturalism, gay rights, the national health service and the welfare state even though many of his supporters in the press and in the real world manifestly do not. I do not actually believe that he will dismantle any of the major elements of that welfare state any more than Labour did, but I expect those who fear he will make huge cuts in the arts and other ‘sacred cows’ of the ‘liberal elite’ are right and that the climate under Cameron will be less friendly to much that they hold dear. He may bring back hunting with dogs, he may (especially if he has a small majority) be forced to give full rein to some of the Christian oddities and other shudder-worthy nuts in his party, but then Blair and Brown have had to placate the weirdos in the Labour back benches too. Under a Cameron administration will crime go down, will the ‘war on drugs’ be won, will the troops come home from Afghanistan, will pensions be safe and standards of education rise? I don’t know. I more than faintly doubt it, but I doubt whoever gets in power will solve those problems. Cameron is not as ideologically motivated as Thatcher was which might allay the fears of some floating voters as much as it irritates some red-meat Conservatives. It is a vote for the same car, as I have suggested, but in the hands of a different driver. Up to you to decide how well you think he will steer it.

Sidebar Two

There is one thing that cultural commentators in our press cannot convincingly mimic, much as they may try, and that is the rhetoric of the Right across the Atlantic. The Sarah Palin world of ‘hockey moms’ and ‘Christian virtues’ and ‘family values’ simply does not play in Britain. We writhe in discomfort at any hint of religion, hence the embarrassment of Tory supporters at that peculiar Philippa Stroud woman, a candidate for Cheam who may or may not have officiated or assisted at ‘gay demon exorcisms’ at some time in the past as part of some ludicrous evangelical sect of which she is or was a member. The British resent strongly the idea that a politician has any business telling us how to love or behave in private or which ‘values’ to cleave to. The thought of Christians or any other religious group having influence over policy is something party leaders know they have to hide rather than parade. In America, the Right routinely calls Obama a member of the ‘liberal elite’ – it is hard to know quite how this rhetorical distortion first got into the political vocabulary. America has a self-made myth of plain-speaking wiseacre folk which deprecates complexity, ambiguity, difficulty and nuance. There is a long-held distrust in the United States of verbal fluency, wide reading, historical knowledge, interest in the arts or intellectual curiosity. All those things seem more often than is comfortable to dispose people towards agnosticism and liberalism, therefore they are characterised as urban, un-American, European and ‘elitist’. It is hard not to wonder if the ideal American citizen is no more than a god-fearing, family consumer who never questions that while bankers and financiers may be sophisticated and clever and educated and wise, anyone else with those qualities should be religiously tarred and righteously feathered.

When I was growing up ‘elitism’ was a word sneered from the lips of the Left, now it is sneered from the lips of the Right. The sneering was ugly then and it is ugly now. Knowledge, science, understanding, literacy and curiosity are absolute goods and to hell with anyone who tries to follow that American habit here and attempts to construct a discourse in which only a despised liberal elite are interested in science, the arts, history and ideas. Such wickedness reminds one of those who opposed Education For All at the end of the nineteenth century. All knowledge should be free and available and all people should be encouraged to acquire it. It will not necessarily lead to liberalism, but it will lead to understanding and a desire for openness and decent, non-tribalist exchanges of the kind that can only enrich our democracy.

Vote Three

This is, of course, the possibility of voting Liberal Democrat in the almost certain knowledge that the vote will in reality be cast for a hung parliament and the creation of some sort of coalition, almost certainly with the Conservatives taking the lion’s share of the Great Offices of State. Many people in Britain might think that Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are more impressive than most of the candidates and senior members of any party and that our country can only be enriched, in its moment of economic crisis, by their presence in government at some level. The arguments, if arguments they be, that hung parliaments mean hobbled, lame parliaments are surely nonsense. The Scandinavian and German examples show that where there is political will and determination anything is possible, including stability, continuity and relatively swift economic recovery. For every example of a bad coalition system there is an example of a good one. We cannot assume the worst, however British a trait that may be. Our society is open enough, with its media and social networking, to force the politicians to come to a workable arrangement. If the terms of a Lib Dem win are Proportional Representation for all future General Elections and a determined effort to move to a genuinely open and well constructed parliamentary democracy then I for one am excited. It might all go wrong, but then it is so wrong already that this is a risk I would not be too unhappy to run. I do not think it means that Peter Firth, Rupert Penry-Jones and the cast of Spooks would be forced to take over in a bloodless coup d’état, nor do I think it would cause rioting in the streets and mutiny in the ranks. It may turn out to be a rather British damp squib, or it may be (which I think more likely) result in a jerky, jolting, juddering evolutionary move towards something a little better. I do know that my Labour friends would all be rather horrified by my entertaining such a vote, for they are convinced that a vote for the Lib Dems is tantamount to a vote for Cameron. That is something you will have to decide.

On one front alone I would absolutely urge you to vote LibDem and that is if you live in the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency. Your incumbent member, now under threat because of boundary changes, is Evan Harris MP, far and away the most persuasive and impressive parliamentarian in the cause of good and open science and enquiry that we have had in the past decade. He has been central to mould-breaking and inspirational multiparty cooperation in issues of scientific concern since 1997. It seems to me (almost!) that he should be elected unopposed like the Speaker. If you have any interest in the promotion of science and evidence based policy-making and a voice to oppose superstition, religious vested interest and new age nonsense, then do check him out and get those Oxonian Abingdonians working for his re-election.

My intentions and yours

Well, I’m sorry that I have ignored the other parties, but this blog is long enough and I am trying to be realistic about the tri-partisan options most of us will consider. I will be honest inasmuch as I can confess, and it will probably not come as much of a surprise, that Vote Two is not one I envisage making. I find it unappealing for a number of reasons and I will confess that sheer gut instinct is one of them – a dislike of the party and its loudest advocates, not of any individual members and certainly not of Tory voters and supporters as individuals: as I have already said and cannot repeat enough, some of the people I love most dearly in the world are natural and proud Conservatives and I love them none the less for it, just as they (I hope!) love me none the less for my politics. I also find (and I know how much some of you will groan at this) that I worry how much crucial strides in my lifetime towards gay rights would be threatened under the Tories. This article interested and alarmed me greatly.  Plenty of you will think that is just bloody typical of faggoty Fry and that I should put my sexual nature behind me when voting. I would happily do so if I didn’t believe that too many Tories are not prepared to offer me the same courtesy but will toil sedulously to make life more difficult for gay people. Work I’ve done for Stonewall and others has shown me that the bullying, suicide and homophobia that still exists in the world today is not something to be taken lightly. Picture your son or daughter, brother or sister being victimised, taunted and threatened in the playground and street and tell me that it’s all just ‘political correctness’.

More important than my own political views or my own voting intentions are my hopes that nothing I say will stop you from choosing Conservative if you consider it the right way to cast your vote. It may be you will be voting Tory through dyed-in-the-wool instinct and loyalty or it may be that you are someone who once voted Labour or Lib Dem but who has decided that Cameron and the Conservatives will be best for Britain. It’s none of my business, but do vote just as you want and be proud to do so.

© Tony Husband 2010 for Stephenfry.com

As for me, I am still hovering between One and Three and I suspect I will not be sure until I am actually facing the voting form, Sharpie in hand. (Will it be Sharpies? I do hope so. I virtually addicted to their fumes)

I know that the above may please no one. Some will despise me for failing to condemn Conservatives more outrightly and fervently, others will think that I’m a stupid lovie pinko who should shut the hell up. We can all agree I hope that my views are worth no more (and no less) than yours in any sense, but especially in the sense that counts — in the polling booth.

A final plea

If you wish to avail yourself of the commentary option below, please remember to be considerate, understanding and democratic in spirit. By all means tell me why I should vote Conservative or UKIP or any other way, but do so without rancour, resentment, spite or viciousness. Trolling is the internet’s cancer and its lethal metastasising horrors have no place here. Go to other political blog sites or newspaper comment areas if you want to be splenetic and loud and mercilessly abusive. Not here. Please.

Above all. Vote on Thursday!

Wednesday 12th May 2010. Comments are now closed for this blog. Thank you for your contributions.
Producer.

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141 comments on “How I will vote…”

  1. Laurie Dudley says:

    Stephen
    It’s really a delight to read your thoughts and it’s wonderful to have you back. As a noobie blogger, it is very daunting to be attempting to contribute to a medium you so articulately dominate.

    Keep doing what you do so wonderfully
    x

  2. weirdsis says:

    Oh my God how I missed you while you were away! Admonishing us to think for ourselves… what a novel idea.

    I’m an American, and my feeling is that the major parties in this country – and I daresay in Britain, too – are separated by less than they share. If you took a poll asking the top ten most important issues to people, we would share six or seven of them. It is the parties that wish to polarize us because they can gain power only if we hate and/or fear The Other Side. I suspect they are behind much of the nastiness and the stereotypes of party voters.

    I enjoy listening to BBC radio online and am following your election closely. Though the political infrastructures of our governments are vastly different, the politics, I find, are much the same. I suspect the Tories will win simply because the pendulum has swung that way. It will swing back. It always does.

    Encouraging people to think for themselves… you’re such a rebel!

  3. SarahEShelton211 says:

    My response to your personal and complex blog is personal and simple:
    “rancor, resentment, spite, viciousness” – I can’t fathom feeling any of those for you, or EVER typing them – especially over a little ballot.
    As I do everyone, I love you very much. That has nothing to do with politics. I don’t know how it could.
    Happy Voting Thursday.
    -Sarah x

  4. roy thomas says:

    YOUR THE MAN DUDE!!!!!!!

  5. eahcmad says:

    I can’t help feeling rather envious that you have so much choice when it comes to casting your vote. I live in Northern Ireland where tribal politics is taken to an extreme and where political leaders don’t even bother engaging in debate with leaders from opposing “tribes”. Our political system is dominated and controlled by religious leaders – still too many DUP politicians have the title Rev., for example.

    At least this time round, we do have the ability to vote Conservative after their link up with the Ulster Unionist Party though why the collaboration has resulted in a party name that includes the words “New Force” is completely beyond me (and my vote).

    Nevertheless – I have yet to miss a vote during my 21 years of eligibility to do so (including Westminster, Europe, Council & Assembly elections). Tomorrow will be no different even though it feels like I’m putting an ‘X’ beside the least worst candidate.

    BTW – Mr. Fry, I think you would make an excellent Prime Minister. In fact, a cabinet made up of Quiz Show panellists sounds like a mighty fine idea to me.

  6. mferrari says:

    Thank you for this, Mr. Fry!

    As people are constantly writing about who and why they’re voting for a specific candidate, your commentary is a very welcome reflection; a reminder to voters that a democratic election must praise, above all else, the supremacy of the secret ballot.

    This is an ever increasing problem in the United States as well; where political alliance acts as a moniker of sorts. Celebrities in every recent election want to ‘rock the vote’ and adopt the slogans of the candidate they support as their own. Political pigeon-holing has, unfortunately, been the result of this personal ‘outing’ of political allegiance. This continues to be part of the sociopolitical makeup of American culture (since its conception) and remains a constant threat to the democratic process. Even George Washington was worried about the rise of political factioning. In his farewell address, Washington warned against the growing factions that were emerging in the early stages of the United States.

    Also a challenge facing democratic tradition is ignorance. Believers in democracy need to ensure that voters are properly educated as to the basic tenets of political philosophy. This again, has become an increasingly worrying problem in the United States. President Obama, for example, has been accused by his being a ‘socialist’ holding court over a ‘totalitarian government’ – accusations that no ideological sense whatsoever. Likewise, opponents of President Bush accused him of being a ‘fascist’ – which, again, is an example of incorrect application of the political ideology.

    Thank you for helping to uphold the finest traditions of democracy!

    Mike the American Voter

  7. BlindingPhil says:

    Good morning, Mr Fry. I’ve just signed up to become a member of your site so I may post reply on this blog entry. I have met you a couple of times at signings, and have tweeted towards you and your business partner Andrew on various occasions. Sometimes even with response! :)

    So. Firstly, regarding the Brown video you posted. I’d be more impressed if he sounded like that any time other than election-week. It’s easy to get genuinely enthused about almost any topic when you’re working in such a high-paced and exciting environment. The result here will affect the rest of his life, let alone the next few years. It’s not only Brown’s life, but that of the people who work with and under him. He has huge responsibility and he has been elected in-party to do the best he can for all of these people. If he is unable to become excited about this at the most gripping time, then he certainly would have been a very bad choice indeed. I would not expect any less than that kind of impassioned speaking from anyone.
    My view of Brown is more to do with the debacle which surrounded his ‘Bigoted’ comments. My understanding is very simply that an aide of his picked up a Labour supporter who was supposed to be a good show for the party. Unfortunately she appeared to fox Brown on most issues, quick-firing questions at him (and dropping the immigration thing in very clumsily with seemingly no warning or relevance to her prior questions). She was the kind of woman who needed to be sat and spoken to – not a quick chat on the way to the car. I can understand Brown was flustered and frustrated. I can understand he needed to release that frustration, but I don’t believe the woman was bigoted. Her question about immigration was fuelled by economical issues, not racial ones. Brown should never have made the comment, but I understand why he did. He will not get sympathy from me, but he will also not suffer from any harsh words.

    Further on the subject of politicians actually being people, I was quite lucky to work on a Nelson/Trafalgar anniversary some years ago. It was being held in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, and I was able to film John Prescott giving a speech. Not a political speech, nothing public, just a speech for the occasion. He was a very funny and personable man. I may not agree with his politics, but I could very happily hold a conversation with him.

    Considering Cameron and the Tories, now. There is a website called ‘VoteForPolicy’ (http://voteforpolicies.org.uk) which shows you blind policies from six parties on eleven subjects. You vote for whichever one you like best. On a policy-only basis I’m hardly surprised that I’m turning out as mostly Conservative (but not an overall majority!). It’s what my upbringing is and what my ingrained values essentially are. But on each topic for which I voted Conservative, it was always a toss-up between that policy and the Liberal one. Add my essential mistrust for the party and we know where my vote is headed!

    I’m not going to try and influence your vote, Stephen, or anyone else who may be reading this. As you have already said, we all have our own minds to make up. Up which to make? Whatever. I will urge you, however, to not be swayed away from a potential vote because people are vehemently telling you to go for it. I don’t think your posting fans are generally those kinds of people, but I’m not reading through the 100+ comments to find out!

    Have a good day, and vote for what you want.

    Regards,

    Phillip.

  8. Marcello Carlin says:

    I must heartily second your endorsement and praise of Evan Harris; I lived in West Oxford for some twenty years and had the privilege to know him, both as an MP and on a reasonably personal level – his father was our local chemist! – and he has always been fully committed, ever ready to attend to the needs of his constituents, and has never wavered from his core beliefs. The big picture has always mattered more to him than personal advancement.

    In my present constituency we have a very able and decent Tory candidate who I am sure will do a more than good job and I fully understand that many voters – probably considerably more than is usually estimated – will be basing their vote on what they think of their local MP rather than on party lines. However, the general situation is now I believe sufficiently bad and unworkable for change – as in change to enable a future, rather than change back to the old, failed ways of doing things – to be a realistic, if not vital, option, and to my mind the only practical way of realising that is to vote, as I have previously done in West Oxford, for the Lib Dems; not for tactical reasons, but because I genuinely feel that they would best be capable of running this country.

  9. swissbob says:

    With the demise of intellectualism amongst the political class, people such as yourself are the last reserve of rationalism in this country.

    My heart, my head and my gut tell me that I don’t have a clue who to vote for and would value the advice of someone cleverer than me.

  10. TLC says:

    As a Labour supporter I enjoyed your comments, I wouldn’t hate anyone for voting Tory or LibDem, but having thought about the options I have decided to vote Labour again. I do firmly believe that Gordon Brown is an honest man with the welfare of the country as his main concern & as such his party deserves my vote. The main thing that I have disliked about all the online comments & opinions is the vitriol & hateful things posted about Gordon Brown, David Cameron & Nick Clegg. The internet is a wonderful tool, but the personal name calling etc. is really sickening & unnecessary. Giving an opinion about one politician or another should not descend to that level & the fact that many websites (Sky being the site I saw most of them) is disgraceful.
    Just thought I’d put in my tuppence worth!

  11. LadyPage says:

    Wonderful, thoughtful, fair, wise, verbose and charming. If only we could vote for you!

  12. Sair says:

    So good to have you back Mr.Interesting. Thank you for continuing to boo. I love your above writings. Well done Sir! =D

  13. noisylittlemonkey says:

    Simply wonderful. Thanks

  14. peter86 says:

    After reading this, I am ever more convinced that it is a great shame that you have no interest in public office yourself, Stephen.

  15. fendawg says:

    How good to read such a reasoned, thoughtful contribution to the debate (shame The Guardian editor is incapable of such skills!).

    As a Labour Party activist, I agree with your point about tribalism, indeed for many years I co-organised an annual charity fair with a prominent LibDem in my constituency, and have for almost all of my political lifetime been friends with the recently retired Conservative Group Leader on my Council. I do find myself however unable to be anything more than minimally civil to the troglodytes from the BNP who are sadly are force (albeit an apparently declining one in my hometown).

    I also associate myself with your comments about Dr Harris in Oxford West and Abingdon – his contributions to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (in which you might say I had a personal interest as someone with a genetic disability) were beyond genius, and should there be a coalition government after tomorrow, either Mr Cameron or Mr Brown could do much worse than to give the Health portfolio to Dr Harris!

    May I humbly encourage you to plump for One when your Sharpie touches the ballot paper? More importantly though, may I also commend all your UK readers to follow your urgings and exercise their hard won right to vote for whomesoever they choose (except the BNP!).

  16. Dewnansek says:

    Clearly, there should be an eve-of-election non-Party Political broadcast by your goodself to present the nation with this excellent résumé of the current political situation. Making voters actually THINK about what their vote means is the key – and your blog goes a long way to achieving this.

    Presumably the beeb would have to edit out your actual preference and the SNP/Plaid Cymru would launch an injunction as you didn’t include them as Three or Four…

    Thanks you for the sanity you have brought!!

    Have you thought about being Speaker? ;-)

  17. tinalouiseUK says:

    Superb writing & fascinating view. My respect for your fairness and intelligence just keeps on growing.

    Namaste,
    Tina Louise
    @tinalouiseUK

  18. Quilth says:

    As usual a wonderfully entertaining, articulate and objective discourse Mr Fry. I wouldn’t have missed reading this blog for the world, despite disagreeing 100% on the conclusion you seem to have reached regarding what’s best for our dear old country…. but after all that’s what this democracy thing is supposed to be all about, isn’t it!

  19. Sheumais says:

    On revisiting your extensive meanderings through the options available for consideration, two thoughts occurred, you don’t seem to appreciate the Fry Following might be considered a tribe and the reasoning behind Vote 1 collapses under even passing scrutiny.

    You, Stephen Fry, are the leader of a tribe, which is why you were badgered to provide guidance as to what your followers should do in this election. Surely you must appreciate there are those who tremble at the thought of your most meagre contemplation, considering you a paragon of sense and sensibility, so even the most casual of remarks is beyond challenge. That is not to say you believe this yourself, as you seem to be fond of the notion you have an eager and willing audience for any occasion and that the relationship need be no more complex or dependent than that. Nevertheless, the glue that binds the tribe together is a common belief or desire for social conformity and the comfort that being soundly led provides. The Fry Following is a tribe and that has been tested by challenges to its continued existence.

    As far as the argument supporting Vote 1 is concerned, you might have placed more importance upon what can be definitely said and what is supposition. The failure of financial regulation and economic slump has occurred under the stewardship of the one you might wish to retain that stewardship. It might have occurred under Cameron and Osborne, but it did happen under Brown. It is extremely difficult to heap praise upon Brown for presiding over a massive increase in spending, fuelled by borrowing, and claim no responsibility is attributable to him for the subsequent “credit crunch” which was the direct result. You cannot reasonably claim it is only a global recession and the good times were enjoyed by our country alone, as that is a simple lie. Both boom and subsequent bust have been enjoyed and endured across the World, it is just the effect varies.

    When you head this blog “What Right Have I To Blog”, you might bear in mind the increasing desire of Mr Brown’s party to centrally control access to the very medium you choose to communicate with and that thought crime is now a reality. Should you continue to consider Vote 1, then you must also accept you are threatening your freedom to continue expressing your opinion. You may have the generous spirit that allows or even encourages others to disagree, but perhaps you should ask Walter Wolfgang if he remembers his feelings after being ejected from his own party’s conference. Perhaps you should ask the man who lost his job after being accused of racism for describing something as niggardly. Never forget, it is not the intention or the actual offence, it is the perception of offence for which you can be prosecuted. Try defending yourself against that accusation.

    One further thing to bear in mind in consideration of Vote 1, a manifesto pledge “is not subject to legitimate expectation”. These are the words of Gordon Brown’s QC in a court of law, confirming Mr Brown rejects the implied contract a manifesto should represent.

    I will not be voting for any of the larger, more established parties, mainly because of the inexcusable consensus on environmental issues, and reject out of hand that Nick Clegg offers anything new. His party has been around for many years and was ignored for good reason. I also believe there is a yawning chasm of principle between Labour and Conservative and that is the culture of blame against the culture of responsibility. I accept responsibility for my own actions and expect others to do the same.

    I remain of the view “celebrities” have a duty to recognise why it is they are celebrated and if it is not related to the subject they are offering their opinion on, then it is best they refrain from trying to influence others. I do not believe there is sound reasoning behind your opinion on votes 1 and 2 and have no reason to be familiar with Dr Harris, therefore his personal qualities are irrelevant to me and the vast majority of readers of this blog. I ultimately believe this blog to be ill-considered and irresponsible because it does seek to do the very thing you claim not to desire, influence the actions of others. I hope it does not succeed.

  20. piefinger says:

    Excellent post, Mr Fry … be conservative, vote labour

  21. Ikkle_Miss says:

    Hi
    I was directed to this blog by a friend and how grateful am I I really enjoyed reading it and it has give me something else to think about before I vote tomorrow.
    cheers again
    Kathy

  22. Margretjane says:

    Thanks so much for so eloquently helping me to crystallise out the essence from the slurry of muddied thinking I’ve been wallowing in. I wonder how many of your followers are UK voters. A British election is such a strange spectacle viewed from the outside.

  23. claudi says:

    Just registered to say that i am in awe of your writing. Very thoughtful article about a subject that usually leads to name calling in the first paragraph.

    As a German, I am only an onlooker in these elections, but I have lived long enough in Britain to deeply care about it and to not want it to decline further. Strangely enough, in my home country I am an unwavering supporter of the Green party, while my pick in Britain would be Cameron – as you wrote, personalities matter and Brown and Clegg just don’t do a good job (higher taxes and spending cuts will come no matter what party is in power anyway).

  24. hannahfarrant says:

    I decided not to read this blog until I had chosen who to vote for and had sent off my postal vote. I’m glad I did, but I am even more glad that we share a lot of the same political views! As an Engineering student one of my fundamental beliefs is that science is of infinite importance to society.

    Also, I think I surprised myself by voting LibDem despite being a first-time voter.

    Thank you for your insightful and quietly intellectual musings- I think I’ll hover around this corner of the interwebs more often!

  25. Augusta says:

    Firstly, Thank You Stephen for igniting my daughter’s new found passion for Wilde. I’d tried so often in the past to interest her to no avail. It was only when she heard your ‘Dorian’ on audiobook that she became curious – and now she devours all things Oscar. Many thanks.

    About the vote: Of course you must vote your conscience, but, my advice to undecided voters, when asked, is to not allow emotion to prevail over common sense. Emphasize Freedom of Speech, Fiscal Responsibility, Personal Accountability, Wealth Creation, Borders and Culture when choosing your candidate. In this way, the individual is king, opportunity is plentiful, economy is stable, and there’s enough to sustain any necessary social programs. This may be the quintessential American view, but I think it’s universally workable.

    Government can do something for the people only in proportion as it can do something to the people. — Thomas Jefferson

    Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. –Thomas Jefferson

    Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries. — Ayn Rand

    I wish you, and Britain peace, prosperity and liberty.

  26. Allan Mackie says:

    I’m posting this from Ukiah, Northern California, and it is one of the most trenchant, personal and beautifully written op-ed pieces I’ve been privilaged to read in a long time. If there was ever a more eloquent invocation to get out and vote then I’d like to see it.

    Let’s hope and pray that common sense prevails as Britain goes to the polls and that we have a Labour Government returned – even with a reduced majority.

  27. KChavda says:

    Very well written (and thought-out) essay, Stephen! My compliments, as usual.

    Now I’m not British, but I do follow world politics on the assumption that these days one must keep abreast of global happenings as they indirectly (or directly) affect everyone.
    For democracies to function efficiently, truly it is our duty to vote! Everyone complains that their right to do such and such thing is being trampled upon, yada yada; rarely does one hear anyone say, “This (i.e. voting) is my duty and I must fulfill it”.

    I loved the thought: “don’t moan about it, change it”. And truthfully speaking, sometimes I question myself too i.e. Why vote? All the politicians are the same, blah blah. But I agree with you here: “When the house is a ruin, go for solid and unglamorous damp-coursing and roof relining – you can worry about the wallpaper, furniture and carpeting later.”

    Also very well put in the blog is the paradoxical expectation that we as the public have of politicians: “…they are not allowed those very qualities of eccentricity, originality, colour, life and surprise that we claim to want in them.”

    xoxo
    KC

  28. Marieme says:

    Excellent piece! I love it!

    Marieme

  29. Laurarara says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Great blog as ever. I’m a first time voter, but have been interested in politics since my mid-teens, so I’ve had a long time to think about this vote!

    If anyone’s interested, I think this song is great and puts the election into perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UNBX2SRYJc

  30. IriSiri says:

    Dear Stephen,

    England is becoming (almost) a normal, European democracy. Three options…That is a good, no, a great thing. The Dutch will vote in june and it will be at least as exciting. Britain will get the ruling party & leader it deserves. The Netherlands will have to wait for weeks and as ever it wil be a compromise of some sort.
    It’s good fun, politics.

    I believe snooker & horses spoil the fun of broadcasting QI. Can I vote about that?!

    Bye

  31. Mxdp says:

    Stephen, I wish we had someone like you here in Belgium. I have to sit back and watch many as many of my age (and older, let’s face it) refuse to go vote. Belgium is quite messed up at the moment and now that the government has fallen (again) and everyone seems to have given up (understandable). But not going to vote a stubborn and childish reaction. That one vote is all we have-better use it!

  32. F A says:

    Not a single newspaper here in France explains it all clearly. They just keep stating that because of how the constituencies are drawn, the majority party (in votes) could end up with a minority of MPs.
    They sneer… but at least it seems you don’t suffer from the record abstention figures we have here.

  33. MerkinFTW says:

    Mr. Fry-

    It is a shame about Mr. Harris’s defeat in the Oxford West constituency. On the whole, however, despite a few speed bumps regarding disenfranchisement due to poll closures (which seem relatively minor compared to the election snafus we have had here in the States over the last decade), I must salute you and your countrymen for the (comparatively) spectacular way in which you run elections in the UK. I have been following the UK elections quite closely, by sneaking illicit glances at such fantastic programs as Question Time, as well as reading the online editions of the papers. As an American, I could only dream of an election where ordinary average citizens are as concerned about wonkish policy details as they are about personalities and sound bites. Your post here is very indicative of a major difference between the state of politics on our respective sides of the pond. Perhaps it can be chalked up to an inherent “Britishness,” but your election process is far more based on reason, respect, and actual debate than ours. No American pundit with as much influence as you have in the UK would dare to write a piece like you have here. Uncertainty is anathema to the American condition. I salute you, sir, for being willing to publicly announce to the world that you have (or, as the case is at this point, had) doubts, questions, and a bout of indecision.

    If you ever find yourself back in the state of Kentucky, I at the very least owe you dinner as royalty payment for all of the fantastic programming of yours that I have no way of watching except via bit torrent and streaming sites.

  34. cazd says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful blog which so echoed what I had already said to my sons when urging them (successfully) to use their vote.
    So. Now. Do we want N.Clegg to form a coalition with D.Cameron or do we want him to hold back and vote bill by bill until the inevitable implosion created by thwarted egos forces the next General Election?
    I look forward to your next blog sweetie.

  35. Lesley Bell says:

    Stephen please continue to blog and speak out because some of us out here simply cannot. It is people with a public voice that can make a difference. I have no faith in any of our politicians, the expenses scandal did annoy me but did not surprise me. Such is life, nothing is certain except death and taxes but it is nice when the tall man speaks up for the small and encourages him to grow.

    I am in a situation where I want to work but have been told I will have to refuse work if offered it as I would end up worse off! I get £64.50 a week job seekers allowance but have been assured that if I take employment I will be in even greater financial straits than I already am. I would love to be back in employment and it is fairly disheartening to keep on applying for jobs that you will have to turn down if offered, mad system.

    Kindest regards and looking forward to QI new series, or how about Stephen Fry in Europe?

  36. Prof_Plum says:

    I find the comments on here a bit sickly sweet.

  37. kevin monk says:

    I agree with Prof Plum. The comments are sycophantic.

    Why must you vote? I voted but I think that many people should probably refrain. A general election requires many people to make an unqualified decision. It requires you to have a deep understanding of politics, sociology, economics, anthropology and history. Why is democracy held up in such high regard? Why is the tyranny of a simple numerical majority so sacred?

    If you decide that you are mentally equipped enough to deal with the gargantuan task of matching a party’s ever-changing policy with your view of an extremely complex world then please use your brain and not your heart; your brain is far better suited.

    I’d much prefer a country with a strong constitution where the democratic process was reduced to a minor administrative function of appointing guardians.

    I agree about the need for politeness though.

  38. Texas Skald says:

    Wow…I have a hard enough time understanding my own country’s government. Not to mention trusting it now that we’re headed for hell in a hand basket…

    But VOTING is a great right. Heck, people die for it. Democracy, even as skewed as it is, is better than outright dictatorship. Why not participate?

  39. biggertigger says:

    clegg…what a shambles…3/4 of the country have voted for progressive politics but it looks like clegg is going to sell us all out for a few pieces of silver…and not even get PR!..what a fake. what a charade and what a disgrace he is to my home city of sheffield…just embarrassing

  40. Mrs C.J. says:

    Darling Stephen, I agree with you heartily. I haven’t felt so fired up about politics for years as, agreeing as I did with Neil Inness who said many years ago now “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in”, I’d long since lapsed into a torpid state of indifference to the whole boring pointlessness of it all. But for once the government hasn’t got in, and for once there is someone in the form of Nick Clegg who, if he can only keep his nerve could deliver us from the evils of the two party monopoly. Now we see the true colours of the Red and Blue giants. Labour MPs it seems would sell their own grandmothers down the Swanee without a second thought just so that grovelling Gordon can stay on in his dream home. While the Conservatives would have us locked into a one Tory party state forever. I’m outraged! The good of the country? They don’t give a monkey’s about the country. What would be good for the country is freedom of choice, an electoral system that awards a party who gets 23% of the vote 23% of the seats, a ruling body that sees the prospect of a coalition as a positive thing instead of referring to it as a “hung parliament”. Coalitions have been very successful in many other countries from France to India. So what are they so afraid of these two power crazy giants who never fail to resort every polling day to the slogan “A vote for the LibDems will let the other side in”? As if we didn’t know. So come on Nick, stand firm, don’t jump into bed with Gordon, he’s had his chance and you’ll only feel dirty, and don’t let those self-serving Tories deny us, The People, the right to a referendum on PR.

  41. johnneyred says:

    It was with great delight we learned on our return from holiday early last Friday that Peter Robinson N.I first minister had been soundly thrashed and lost his seat to the Alliance. I believe his traditional DUP followers saw him and his wife for the pigs in the trough they really are and had the courage to vote for change. They had been double dipping on their expenses and failing to declare interests in local property deals. Hopefully next crop of M.P’S here will be looking over their shoulders before they think of abusing the system.

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