Thursday, May 06, 2010

Who to vote for in St Albans?

First of all apologies to those who are used to coming here for sketches, but it’s election day today and sometimes I feel the urge to indulge myself by spouting my opinions. Normal service will resume after today.

In Sandridge we’re in a very dull constituency – Hitchin and Harpenden. No matter how you vote, the Conservative candidate Peter Lilley, will undoubtedly win, so although I absolutely believe it’s my duty to vote I know that my vote is not worth much because it will have little effect on the outcome.

Voters in the next door constituency of St Albans have a much more interesting and important choice to make. It really is a three-way fight. The Conservatives had a slim majority at the last election. And one would have thought that a backlash against the Labour government would mean that the Conservative candidate Ann Main would retain her seat.

However, reading the local papers I get the impression that there may be a significant number of people in the constituency who do not feel that she was sufficiently rapped over the knuckles over her (relatively small) part in the expenses scandal. So I think that there may be a number of people who voted for her in the last election, who won’t be voting for her this time. Those who previously voted for the Conservative candidate who want to punish her (for claiming expenses for a flat in the constituency which her daughter lived in – despite owning a house within commuting distance), are probably unlikely to transfer their vote to the Labour candidate. So it probably will be mainly the Lib Dems who will benefit from these voters changing their allegiance.

For those who want anything rather than the Conservative candidate it’s a difficult choice. The Lib Dems claim that the only way of unseating Ann Main is to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrat candidate, Sandy Walkington. I find this difficult to understand as the Labour candidate won 34.3% of the vote in the last election as opposed to the Lib Dem’s 25.4% of the vote. However I suppose if you add up a nationwide swing away from Labour, together with local dissatisfaction with the Conservative candidate it may be that the percentage support for the Lib Dem candidate and the Labour candidate may be closer than it was at the last election.

What I do know is that unseating the Conservative candidate probably means Lib Dem and Labour supporters need to vote for the same candidate. And it really isn’t clear which way to jump if you’re prepared to vote tactically.

I’m not very familiar with the Lib Dem candidate Sandy Walkington apart from reading the papers and what I can find on the internet. From what I can see there doesn’t seem to be anything to dislike, despite the Tories desperately trying to make political gains from his ‘mongrel nation’ comments. See the video here to see that the man is being unfairly vilified.

I have met Roma Mills, the Labour candidate, through our children going to the same after-school classes. I know that she has worked indefatigably for St Albans as a councillor and a volunteer. She’s also had life experiences (four children, two with a disability, divorce and sudden widowhood) which mean that she has a real empathy for people who have difficulties in their lives. Regardless of which political party one supports nationally, I’m sure that Roma Mills would make a hard-working, conscientious and good MP.

If I was still living in the constituency I would probably vote for Roma Mills, because I’m unconvinced by the Lib Dem claims that they are the only party that can take the seat from Ann Main. But also because, party politics aside, Roma’s record of decent hard work on behalf of the people of St Albans shows how well she would perform given the opportunity. But ultimately it’s because deep down I feel unease about tactical voting. So if you’re a St Albans voter and still undecided you could always ask what would Jesus (or Mohammed or whoever else rocks your boat) do?


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