Thoughts which remain after a slightly drunken conversation in the pub on Friday...
In a general election (or parliamentary by-election), should you vote for an individual candidate, or a political party?
Obviously, you do actually vote for an individual candidate, who may or may not belong to a party. But should the choice of the individual you vote for be based on their individual political positions and personality, or should you just stick to voting for the party you believe in?
The question may seem a little redundant, because the positions of individual candidates is highly correlated with the party they belong to. If, for example, a party with a manifesto promoting lassez-faire capitalism is appealing to you, then the candidates for that party will most likely have positions that you agree with the most, and vice-versa for a party campaigning on workers rights and environmental protections.
However, let us consider the following hypothetical scenario. Your vote makes a difference (stop laughing). In fact, your vote makes the
difference in a general election, between candidate S of the Strange Party, and candidate C of the Charm Party, winning your constituency by one vote. Moreover, the result of your constituency makes the difference between the Strange Party and the Charm Party winning the election and forming the next government.
Also consider that you are a Strange voter. You believe that the direction set forth in the Strange party manifesto will be the best for the country over the next few years, bringing the greatest benefit to the most number of your fellow citizens, while the Charm party will bring forth a disaster of biblical proportions; cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria.
For some reason or other, you actually know quite a bit about candidates S and C. Maybe they've been opponents in your constituency for some time, and possibly both had a previous stint as your MP. The thing is, candidate S has proven to be an odious human being. They've cheated on their spouse, hinted at various types of bigotry, spread ugly fear-mongering to rally their allies against a mostly-imaginary outgroup in our midst, all the depressingly-usual political slime that you hate. On the other hand, candidate C seems like good people, and has actually moved a reasonable way towards Strange politics over the course of their career. At this point, you suspect they'd actually vote for the policies you care about in parliament (party whips excepted), and are partly in the Charm party simply because that's where they've always been.
Who do you vote for? The person, or the party?
If you vote for candidate C, you'll have someone you can actually support, voting the way you want in parliament. If you vote for candidate S, you won't.
But, if you vote for candidate C, the party that gets to decide which issues parliament gets to vote on
, the party that gets to set the direction parliament goes in, is a party with an agenda you don't agree with.
I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating."
-- William M. Tweed (1823-1878), corrupt US representative & senator.
Clearly, I'm leaning towards voting for the party. Is this reasonable, or have I just spent 500+ words justifying to myself why I shouldn't need to bother actually researching the candidates for the next election?