Party or candidate, leader or policies?

In which Caitlin Webb tries to work through all of the different factors that go in to casting a vote at a General Election..

This has been called the most important vote in a lifetime, sound familiar? Feels like every time we go to the polling station, it’s to make a do-or-die decision. So deciding who to vote for is pretty important. There’s also the fact that people who have been living in this country for decades, people who have been cheated by the judicial system and 17-year-olds can’t vote, that drives me to put a cross in the box. But who will win my vote?

I live in the constituency of Gillingham and Rainham but this question is valid for all across the Towns. Do you vote for the party and their policies, their leader or the candidate? Is a vote for Rehman Chishti a vote for Boris Johnson and Andy Stamp a vote for Corbyn? Maybe Stan the Cat would be better in number 10 so Larry can have a friend.

Or is this all about Brexit?

Everything at the moment seems to be. If so, who do you vote for if you do or don’t want it? If you believe Boris Johnson, who is yet to die in a ditch, Chishti is your guy. There’s also UKIP’s Rob McCulloch Martin, who is standing for Brexit but against the establishment. While Corbyn says he would be neutral but would have a referendum for whatever deal he has managed, Cllr Andy Stamp tows his party’s line (which isn’t always clear) but openly says he voted to remain. Then there’s Alan Bullion and George Salomon and Peter Cook with Stan the Cat who are also pro-Remain, but they are unlikely to get to number 10. 

Or is it about the climate emergency?

Then voting Green would be the obvious choice, if we didn’t have a voting system that makes their party getting any ground near impossible. If you watched the special Channel 4 debate, you might even consider Labour or Lib Dems for their approach.

Is it about getting the Conservatives out after nearly ten years of austerity?

Tactical voting is the norm in our voting system. As our votes are not proportional, people find ways to “trick” the system. Political parties stand down to make way for other parties, which are more likely to get in and  sympathise with their values on both ends of the spectrum. Websites pop up with advice based on previous election results, polls and voodoo (I don’t know, I don’t do the maths). If so, in my constituency Andy Stamp is the best bet against the Conservatives but Rehman Chishti got 9,430 more votes than Mr Stamp in 2017, but Labour got a 10.5% increase in the vote share since the election in 2015 (okay, I do some maths). Then there’s the Brexit factor, which would put Chisthi in the lead. Let’s just say predicting election results is a dying sport, rightfully so.

What about the candidates themselves?

If you’re a cat lover, anti-Brexit and fancy a laugh, you’re sorted. If you like beer and are anti-Brexit, you could have a great chat with Lib Dem’s Alan Bullion at the micro breweries. George Salomon seems to be (I’m not going to guess ages) one of the youngest candidates, plays music and works at a bank. Fan of balance and sustainability, Roger Peacock from the Christian’s People Alliance is going for the neutral approach. Rob McCulloch Martin from UKIP is looking to get the Dad vote and have a dig at the council. Oh, and something to do with Brexit. The two top runners have been around Gillingham since school and have paid their dues representing residents at the council. However Rehman Chishti’s attendance at the council was called into question a lot, but juggling Westminster and Medway does take its toll. He has been an MP for nearly ten years but during that time he has voted seven times against local government funding (may be why he was shy from the meetings), voted for tuition fees but he has been a minister as the vice chair of the Conservative Party for communities and a trade envoy to Pakistan, where he was born. Let’s not forget how Rehman Chisthi used to stand for the Labour party. While Andy Stamp has been at the forefront of many council decisions and if you attend meetings you’ll definitely hear from him. He’s not one to shy away from the soap box. 

Before I put my cross in the Labour box, what about anti-semitism? Before I put my cross in the Conservative box, what about Boris Johnson’s anti-Muslim remarks?

It is good to be worried that your vote could be vouching for racism. This shouldn’t be acceptable in our multicultural society. Especially not in Medway where we have mosques and Christian churches in the same neighbourhoods. Yet it is undeniable that a majority voted for Brexit and large number continues to vote for UKIP.

I would never tell anyone what they should vote for. It’s a democracy for a reason. However, I can assure you I will be taking a lot into consideration when I cast my ballot. There’s the voting system, Brexit, Climate change and immigration to consider on top of whether the person you give the new MP salary to, actually represents you. Good luck. Who knows? We might be back in another two years to do the same anyway.

Caitlin Webb is a Medway based media relations officer, and formerly the UK’s first Local Democracy Reporter for the BBC and Kent Online.

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