At last night’s home group, we had a fascinating and quite far ranging discussion about UK politics, brought into focus by the forthcoming General Election on May 7. As good discussions do, it go me thinking and one of the ideas that surfaced in the ferment of my mind was what about if you could cast your vote anywhere in the UK?
In the current system, you vote to elect a Member of Parliament for your constituency, the area you live in. Some people live in marginal seats, where just a handful of voters could make all the difference but, in many areas, the outcome is almost a foregone conclusion. For example, it is almost certain that Andrew Smith (Labour) will be returned where I live in Oxford East and deservedly so in my opinion; one of the other members of the group lives about three miles further east and finds himself in the Henley constituency where there is an equally strong bias towards the Conservative party.
How about if you could choose to cast your vote elsewhere? After all, we are used to living lives that span across boundaries. I live and work in the same constituency but many of my colleagues come in from outside — as noted above, you don’t have to go that far to be in an entirely different political area. I’ve certainly got friends and family all over the place. How about if I could choose to vote in a marginal seat elsewhere? Of course, I’d be placing the local incumbent at risk if lots of others did that and, even if not, there would be a chance of a large block from, say, Henley, attempting to turn Oxford East blue. However, it would be one way to negotiate the conundrum that, when you vote for your local MP you are also voting for the government of the country as a whole; one vote being asked to do multiple things and perhaps not seeming to count for very much unless you happen to actually live in a marginal seat.
I think there would probably be chaos and it could well tend towards a political system that was even more about media savvy than care for a locality but try it as a thought experiment. Where would you cast your vote?