As we approach the British General Election in May, when deciding who to vote for (or if to vote at all) it is worth considering how the national landscape will be affected by the result of the election, and how much difference will be made by the respective parties.

To an extent, it can already be surmised that not a great deal will change between now and the year 2020. We are faced with the depressing certainty that the next Prime Minister will be either David Cameron or Ed Miliband. If the Conservatives are re-elected, we will see more of the same – austerity, cuts to public services, increasing privatisation of the NHS, and the ‘growth’ of the economy on the backs of the poor. Miliband, despite his rhetoric and criticism of Cameron’s record, doesn’t represent a viable or drastic alternative. Labour no longer truly represents the working people of Britain that the party was created to govern on behalf of. They are now little more than Conservative lite.

There are few fundamental differences between the two parties, as can be seen by looking at their recent records in government. It was Labour who took the decision to go to war in Iraq in spite of massive public opposition, the biggest and worst decision made by a government in at least two decades. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are proponents of an anti-war agenda, and both parties would, no doubt, involve Britain in further wars in the future. Neither party will truly address the biggest internal issues facing the country – poverty and inequality. There will be some small movements one way or the other, but five years from now, it is highly unlikely that there will be any significant improvements to the appalling rates of poverty and inequality. It is simply not a priority of either Labour or the Conservatives.

On the bright side, it looks improbable that either party will gain a majority in May’s election, meaning that there is potential for smaller parties to wield an unusual amount of power. Progressive parties such as the SNP and the Greens may be able to influence Labour to adopt fairer and more sustainable policies in either a coalition or a minority government. Of course, there could be a similar arrangement between UKIP and the Conservatives, which would be disastrous.

Holding out hope for small, progressive parties to substantially influence or alter policy for the better is, to say the least optimistic, and ignores deeper problems within the system. There is an entrenched elite in Britain, as in most other Western countries, of big business, media, and arms corporations that exert an unhealthy and undemocratic leverage over governments. It should also not be forgotten that many members of Parliament have ulterior motives, and actually benefit monetarily from policies not in the public interest, such as NHS privatisation, and big contracts with arms firms. Scandals surrounding members of Parliament are becoming so regular as to be almost annual. Improprieties such as expenses and second jobs are fresh in the mind of the electorate, and are contributors to justifiable political apathy and disillusionment. Investigations into more serious issues, such as the Iraq War and the child rape scandal, hint at something even more sinister.

If, like me, you believe that there needs to be fundamental systemic change in order to create a fairer society, there is nothing wrong with choosing not to cast your vote in May. There is nothing wrong with believing in the necessity and imminence of a revolution. Regrettably, this looks unlikely to occur in the next five years – we must almost certainly resign ourselves to at least one more Parliament. It would take a momentous event to precipitate a genuine revolution and this does not yet appear to be forthcoming.

If you are unsure whether or not to vote, I would suggest that to not vote is better than voting for one of the mainstream parties. A decreasing level of voter turnout, and a decreasing share of the vote for the major parties, provide a solid precondition for real change. Maintaining the status quo is not a viable option. Personally, I was leaning towards spurning my right to vote, until I realised that there is a party standing in May that represents my stance very well – it is a progressive anti-war party committed to creating a fairer society through redistribution of wealth. It is committed to protecting the environment, a universal living wage, and putting the interests of the public before that of big corporations. It is the Green Party. I recognise that the Greens are unlikely to be able to greatly influence policy over the next five years, but even if they were successful on one issue, the scrapping of nuclear weapons, I would consider my vote worthwhile. I still maintain that a revolution is essential, but I don’t see that as incompatible with deciding to vote for a party that I believe represents my views.


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