I voted for the Tories in 1997. It was my first ever election, I was 18, and the Conservatives had been in power my whole life. I knew nothing about politics and I educated myself about neither the parties’ policies nor the local candidates. I voted Tory because I feared the unknown: the huge change that I thought a shift from blue to red would bring about. I allowed that fear to control my vote.
After Labour’s famous victory in 1997 I was a bit despondent, however I went off to University anyway, and gradually realised the change in government wasn’t going to cause the sky to fall on my head. In fact as far as I could tell nothing much changed at all – though other people I knew were talking about good things happening in terms of jobs, public services and the economy. When the 2001 poll came round I still wasn’t very politically minded, however I saw that Labour wanted to scrap tuition fees for students, and this was enough to swing my vote. As a student myself and with a sister about to start University, where she would be charged for her own tuition at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds, this was a policy I could get behind.
So I voted Labour in 2001. Then everything changed – both personally and in terms of global politics. The twin towers fell four months into Labour’s second term. I’d flown back from the states just three days before and the week afterwards I was to start my first proper job as a graduate. Looking back now, it seems like this was the point at which the rot set into the Labour party, not from an economic standpoint but from a social perspective.
I started paying attention to politics after 9/11, and the more I did so, the more disillusioned I became with the Government. Never mind their broken promises on tuition fees – Labour were systematically dismantling our civil liberties. Aided by the media, they were exploiting the spectre of international terrorism in order to turn the UK into an authoritarian surveillance-state. As a result we now live in a society built on the politics of fear – only the Chinese and the Russians are more closely watched. Our Government no longer serves us – it controls us.
I voted Liberal Democrat in 2005. I became a member of the party in 2007 and I voted for them again in 2010. I want to live in a society that values privacy, liberty, freedom, human rights and democracy. In my opinion the Liberal Democrats are the only party that has consistently held these values, not as soundbytes, but as the very foundations of the party.
I hope this election marks the point at which the swing of the social pendulum starts to reverse – moving away from authoritarianism and towards libertarianism.
Whatever you hope, and however you’re planning to vote, I urge you to reject the politics of fear. Vote for what you believe in – not against something you don’t.
Happy General Election 2010!