Not O-Kay

The results are in from the UK 2010 general election and it would appear that the voters of Britain have made history in producing the first hung parliament since 1974.  Unsurprisingly, there has been growing speculation as to what could happen as a result of the negotiations that will follow.  Again I’ll leave the analysis up to the experts, but who really knows what goes on behind those closed doors?

I suspect that even Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Nick Clegg aren’t even sure themselves at this point, especially not on the wee bits of sleep they’ve gotten over the past few weeks.  In-party tension is rising, and so are blood pressures.  Meanwhile, I’m left to wonder if the media could back off a bit and let things run its course.

I say this because I was shocked by Kay Burley’s interview of a protester in favour of proportional representation outside of the Lib Dem meetings.  Why interview someone if you’re just going to shout over them?  That’s a bit out of order, if you ask me.  And what’s with thinking that 65% of the British public voted for a hung parliament? Somehow, I get the feeling she’s been misinformed.

Surely, 65% of the voting public voted for their party of choice, which unbeknownst to them would result in a hung parliament.  There wasn’t a box to mark with ‘hung parliament’ on it.  I don’t know much about Kay Burley, but she reminded me a lot of Bill O’Reilly.  Kay, darling, a word of advice: learn to have a bit more tact and leave the bias out of your reporting, please.  It’s giving me a bit of a headache.

Lib Dem or Lib Don’t?

In a matter of 3 days, I’ve managed to have more first-hand exposure to politics than I’ve ever had in my entire life.  I owe this entirely to the wonderful world of Twitter.

My first interaction with a politician was with Bury North’s Labour MP candidate, Maryam Khan, whom I must say is absolutely inspiring.  Her work transcends political, religious, and national boundaries and I believe she is a wonderful role model to young women everywhere.

Our interaction was brief but pleasant and it left me feeling hopeful about reaching out to other political types in an effort to educate myself further.  However, I would’ve never guessed that what started out as a simple exercise in stretching the mind would leave me feeling so patronised.

I became interested in learning more about Lib Dems’ health policies, with specific regard to NHS coverage of Chinese medicine (including acupuncture) and homeopathy.  Currently under Labour, NHS covers both Chinese medicine and homeopathy in some areas.  But would they both continue to be covered under Lib Dems?

I decided to ask Oxford West and Abingdon’s Lib Dem MP Dr. Evan Harris.  I figured since he’s a doctor he’d be able to give me the most informed answer.  Forgive me for forgetting that most “Western” medical doctors have a ridiculous attitude toward traditional medicines.  And forgive me again for forgetting that I was not asking just a doctor, but an MP.

I was excited when I saw that he had written a response, as you always hear about politicians never taking the time to respond.  That said, my excitement was short-lived.  Instead of giving a simple yes or no, he tried to be diplomatic and said that if a medicine or treatment is not considered “efficacious and cost-effective” it will not be covered under Lib Dems.  Now, to me that means NO.  So after twittering back and forth and receiving comments like “Simples” and “What’s not to understand,” I’ve now come away feeling quite frustrated.

There are a lot of first time voters out there and they might also become disenchanted, confused, or even feel bullied by this type of behaviour.  I’m sad to say that Dr. Harris’ response epitomises the sort of culture that excludes newcomers from politics.  At least, that is what had me disinterested in politics to begin with.

And the winner is…

Much to my surprise, the results of the survey I took for the general election have opened up a once faint interest in politics.  At the very least, I think I owe it to myself to find out what the parties behind all these policies are really all about.  But it also got me thinking.  What if there are potential voters that haven’t stumbled upon sites like Vote for Policies?

I decided to conduct an experiment that goes along with the apparent theme of this year’s election and give all parties a “fair” chance (well, except for the BNP).  I don’t have loads of time to spend scouring the web so I allowed 5 minutes per site to see what first caught my eye.  If I was still interested after 5 minutes, I would revisit the site later.  If I started to feel lost or  frustrated, due to lack of user-friendliness, I moved on to the next site.

The first thing I noticed with Ukip was the banner of  Nigel Farage and “Take the battle to Buckingham.”  I got sidetracked in wanting to find out what this battle was all about and ended up not learning more about the party’s policies.  The Lib Dem site was equally distracting.  Should I “say goodbye to broken promises” first or meet the Lib Dems?  All these choices!

Now on to the Tories, Labour, and the Greens (which according to the survey should be my top pick).  So that’s where I went next and was immediately put off by all the  green glaring back at me from my screen.  To borrow from the Greens, fair is definitely worth fighting for but not worth going blind over.

I was left with the Tories and Labour.  Should I “vote for change” or choose “a future fair for all?”  If I had to stick with my judging criteria, I would have to say that Labour’s site wins over the Tories.

From a completely non-political standpoint, I think Labour does the best job in drawing in undecided or first-time voters.  Overall, Labour’s website is the most accessible.  It’s clear, inviting, but most of all I find that the PEB’s on their site help create a longer lasting interest for someone who wants to learn more about politics.  Sure, you could say that it’s all propaganda, but at least for me, it grabbed my attention and I spent the rest of the evening learning more about Labour’s policies.

Slightly stoopid, mostly green

I’ve never been politically inclined, but at the behest of N’s post I thought it might be worth my while to have a look at Vote for Policies.  At first glance, it all looked a bit like foreign language to me.  Not willing to be defeated by my own political illiteracy, I took the survey at the weekend and have been left to mull over the results:

It would appear that I side with Labour on crime and environment, the Lib Dems on economy and welfare, and the Greens on health, education, and immigration.  So what does this all mean?

Potential first-time voters could be misguided by what the site suggests: voters can make informed decisions on who to vote for based solely on their pick of policies.  For example, take my mate N (who is actually a political punter of sorts).

When it came to welfare the Green Party policy seemed attractive.  However, after reading the fine print,  N commented that the policy when taken out of context does not provide all the information needed to make an informed decision.  As for me, this is the policy I disliked the most.  I fear the Citizen’s Income will end up hurting, rather than helping fellow citizens in the long-run.

Nonetheless, Vote for Policies provides a fun and different take on voting.  I would still suggest reading each party’s manifesto before making any firm decisions.  Click on Parties&Policies at the end of your survey results to find the links to each party’s website.