Paul is clever, funny and usually right. My first response to his poisoned chalices was to suggest we are rugged souls and can survive quite a bit of poison. But whilst I suggested we voted with our conscience, or at least how we must, I didn’t come out and say how I was going to vote.
Maybe I didn’t have the answers at the time: not the choice, mind – I’ve known how I was going to vote in most elections since 2004, when I became a Labour Party member. I’m not a tribal soul in general, but I am quite a Mediterranean person in outlook: in the absence of a clear and shared sense of the importance of family in British society, and in the presence of a need for one that I obviously manifest myself, I think I’ve often been inclined to see political parties as a – perhaps – curious substitute for that broader and more social family I miss.
But there’s another matter too; one that’s worth raising here.
For I do think the British way offers the voting public an alternative to the zipped party-lists; the proportional-voting distances; the very centralised European way of conducting candidate selections, and of reaching out – or not as the case may be – to voters in both pre- and post-election dynamics.
In a sense, whilst Paul has assessed his Cambridge choice quite precisely – and in, I would suggest, a very thoughtfully comprehensive and coherently English manner – my job here in Chester is much easier: although I don’t know my Labour candidate, Chris Matheson, very well, his decency shines through, and – for example, in relation to the fracking issue – his intellectual and political integrity too.
Even if I didn’t see Labour as that occasionally rumbustious, sometimes ill-behaved, yet – even so – generally embracing, extension of family I always pursue in life and work, it’s my Mediterranean environment and soul, my instinct to trust people and institutions on the basis of personal relationship and direct communication, that would encourage me to choose Chris.
We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye; some stuff in relation to utterly wrong-headed government policy wasn’t attended to by any of the local parties – Labour included – in a way I not only would have preferred but felt, at the time, minimally necessary; but life – inevitably – is always going to be a compromise of positions and trajectories, and rancour most definitely helps no one.
So whilst I have serious doubts about Labour’s current instincts on matters like workfare and surveillance, both of which are key matters for my intelligence and for my way of looking at the world, I have far fewer doubts about voting for the person who in my constituency should be able to help mould, release, and ultimately engineer, a more compassionate, decent, respectful and thoughtful Chester.
That’s why I do now have an answer for Paul: I’ll be voting above all for the person, not the party – glad, I have to say, that for once the British body politic and its structures make it possible for me to do so with a clear conscience.