I'm trying to straddle two platforms here - my blog, which no-one comments on, and Facebook, which people sometimes/often comment on. So rather than post a little comment on facebook and leave out those who are actually reading this on Teh Internetz, I thought I'd post a little all-round reply to several valid comments.
A friend who is a strong supporter of the Liberal Democrats pointed out a number of shortcomings - first and foremost that simply a lack of awareness of their policies isn't enough to tar them with the same brush as the other parties. True. My main criticism was really a disappointment in disguise - over the last 5-6 years, they have dropped off the radar and have a leader less charasmatic than the last one. A good point I missed is about openly opposing the renewal of the trident nuclear weapon system (while not dropping nuclear weapons completely) which is a highly commendable policy. My friend also reminds me that they are for green taxes, more progressive tax rates and free higher education which are also highly commendable, but again it's hard to verify with them being out of the public eye so much - and despite being halfway round the world I've been on the BBC site almost every day (sad I know).
Points that don't carry too much weight are:
-Opposing ID cards - who isn't? Even the Conservatives are against them (for now)
-Continually pushing for electoral reform - as the third party in a two-party system, it'd be pretty odd if they weren't
Don't get me wrong, I will still probably vote Lib Dem because, as my friend says, they are the closest thing to a "credible, progressive, centre-left party who give a shit about civil liberties". But it will be more because they aren't the Conservatives or Labour than actually voting for them as I've done in previous elections. (Also it depends on your constituency - mine is usually a 30/30/40 split between Lib/Lab/Con, which means 60% are against Conservative, but they get in. It's a good advert for electoral reform, but this time round, I think it'll be more a Lib/Con race.)
Some apparent achievements that I missed:
-Child tax credits
-Free nursery places for three and four-year-olds
-Free Swimming for Under 16's/Over 60's
-Free bus travel for the elderly, eye tests & tv licences
-Free entry to national museums and galleries (this is brilliant actually)
-Freedom of Information Act
-Introduced Civil Partnerships
-Scrapped Section 28 (I had no idea! Thought they gave up)
Some that don't really carry that much water:
-Human Rights Act - this is European legislation that we had to implement and was long overdue
-Record police numbers and new PCSO's - to be honest, we were promised a government that would be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime". But our prisons are even more full than 12 years ago, and record numbers of police doesn't exactly signify a drop in crime.
-Record numbers of doctors/nurses/teachers - after 18 years of under-investment from Thatcher and Major, even GW Bush would have paid for more teachers and doctors#
It's always easier to criticise from the sidelines than actually do something. Obviously I don't exactly have answers coming out of my face. But here's a couple of tips:
-Vote tactically against the Conservatives. As said above, your constituency will most likely be between 2 main parties. Labour are obviously in for a hammering, and even if they win your constituency, they're going to have to raise their game anyway. Conservatives are odds-on to win the next election, but the less seats they win, the closer the result and the more all parties will have to knuckle down.
-Vote for local, non-crazy fringe parties. If you can't bring yourself to vote for any of the main parties, vote for some local cause (e.g. the hospital issue in Kidderminster 2001), or the Monster Raving Looney Party. Hell, if you really want to throw away your protest vote you could vote for the legalise cannabis alliance. Protest votes rarely elect independent MPs (as in the case of Kidderminster), but the parties and media are all watching the numbers - if every MP in the country, regardless of party, won by half as many votes as at the last election, it would be a huge wake-up call for the entire political establishment. The key things about protest votes are 1) it's better than not voting at all! and 2) don't vote for crazies like the BNP!. You'd think it would be obvious, but clearly Yorkshire didn't understand that at the European elections.
Over and out for now