Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Making the good the enemy of the best?

Something of a spat has developed on this little right-win corner of the blogosphere. It all started when Jackart attempted to scotch the idea of voting for UKIP over the Tories on matters of principle. The argument is simple: UKIP can never win; the Tories are the most Eurosceptic of the three main parties; voting for UKIP takes votes away from the Tories and makes it more likely that a pro-EU party will win. The John and Jackie Kennedy of the UKIP world responded, with Trixy providing a fisk of the post, and the DK provided two responses: one to Jackart and one to Matt Sinclair's view of matters (which were supportive of Jackart).
So, if one broadly ascribes, as I do, to UKIP policies on Europe (though I'm perhaps slightly less exercised than most UKIPpers), on education, on health and on tax, what reason could there be not to vote UKIP (apart, of course, from the fact that there aren't any elections where I live this week)? As the banner on the top of this blog indicates, I'm a conservative, and veering towards being a Conservative too. I'm broadly supportive of Cameron, when I can work out what it is he's doing, and would, if I had a vote, give it to the Tories this week; barring extraordinary circumstances I'll be voting Tory in the next General Election.
How so, given that I'm more bullish than the current Tory position on Europe and taxation in particular? There's the 'practical' point mentioned by Jackart: that the Tories might win, but UKIP will not. There's also the theoretical point made by Matt that by sticking with the Tories you can change them from within - though the difference one member can do is perhaps overstated. Personally I have one reason that I consider to be a good one, and one that I consider a bad reason.
The first reason is, essentially, that in a first-past-the-post parliamentary system the right cannot afford to make the good the enemy of the best. Viewing both the Lib Dems and Labour as being the left, the Tories very rarely outpoll the two combined: splitting the right wing vote carries the danger that the left win by default - the reverse of what happened in the French Presidential election of 2002, when the fragmentation of the Socialist left allowed Le Pen's nationalist socialism to win through to the run-off. It's a position that stands open to being accused of being unprincipled - that if one believes in a principle, then one should vote only for the party that most clearly stands for that principle. I have sympathy for that view, but there is another consideration.
In politics it is best to temper ideological purity with practical realism. It is worth considering what the practical outcome of your vote is likely to be. The Referendum Party, in the 1997 election was never likely to win seats. What it was likely to do, and what it did, was to diminish the Conservative vote sufficiently to make the Liberal Democrats or Labour win the seat. It is distasteful to some, but General Elections in this country are essentially a choice about which of the two or three parties competing in your seat you would most like to win. If you take a 'plague on both your houses' approach, considering them all to be as bad as each other, then this consideration is irrelevant, and you ought simply to vote for the party you like most or, of course, not vote at all.
The less good reason, and one I'm not proud of, is that most of the UKIP people I've met have been rather odd. I'm excluding from this the obviously delightful DK and Trixy of course, but most of them have been, well, peculiar. One of the reasons I have never joined the Conservatives, and was indeed not terribly supportive of them for a while, was the sort of people who made up my University Conservative Association - weirdos to a man.
Ultimately it's a question of what you want your vote to achieve - a win for the better between Labour and Conservatives or a true reflection of your political principles. Both are valid motives, but I've taken the line that principles out of power are not a lot of use

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10 Comments:

Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

"The Referendum Party, in the 1997 election was never likely to win seats. What it was likely to do, and what it did, was to diminish the Conservative vote sufficiently to make the Liberal Democrats or Labour win the seat."

And what was the actual result of that, Tim? That's right: it forced the Tories to promise a referendum on the Euro.

And so to my point about changing Conservative policy: change that policy, not by trying to change the Consrvatives with a fruitless tantrum from within, but by voting -- in a relatively unimportant election -- for the party which best represents your views.

If UKIP pick up a lot of votes, Cameron will realise that people want that agenda and may then change his policy before the GE.

In practical terms, my way actually is far more likely to deliver the GE agenda that many, many Tories want.

DK

12:44 pm  
Blogger Tim J said...

True - and the local elections are arguably the best possible time to deliver such a message. This does raise the image of essentially Tory voters using UKIP in local/European elections as a sort of goad, trying to twitch the Tories rightwards on Europe and tax.

The problem for UKIP is, that if this strategy works, UKIP will have succeeded itself to death.

12:52 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

The problem for UKIP is, that if this strategy works, UKIP will have succeeded itself to death.

There is that, yes. But I discussed that a while back and I think that UKIP would move to being a proper libertarian party, rather than having to accommodate anti-EU loons of all stripes.

But, in any case, we would hopefully be out of the EU and good riddance and mission accomplished.

DK

2:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vote online about the future of Europe at www.FreeEurope.info. One liner: "human development in its richest diversity" (W von Humboldt/J S Mill)

8:26 am  
Blogger Clanroyden said...

"the sort of people who made up my University Conservative Association - weirdos to a man"

Steady on old chap. I grant you there were some pretty frightful specimens but they tended to be a small (if noticeable) minitory. Its membership numbers made it one of the largest student political societies in Europe and most of those members were pretty normal undergraduates. Now the Tory Reform Group on the other hand: they were Weird.

9:22 am  
Blogger Clanroyden said...

Apols for typo above: I meant of course 'minority' although under the circs 'minitory' was almost clever.

9:25 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

That's true, there were a good deal of perfectly nice people there - my brother ended up vaguely high up at one point for example - but the problem was the noticeability of the worst variety.

The TRG? Beam me up Scottie...

9:53 am  
Blogger Clanroyden said...

I always thought that an indicator that OUCA was fundamentally sound was the fact that its officers were almost invariably appointed ex-officio to CIB positions.

10:08 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

When they weren't singing 'Dashing through the Reich'...

11:37 am  
Blogger Clanroyden said...

That was the Burke...

12:29 pm  

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