In the first general election where I am able to vote, I have been left torn by the choices the First-past-the-post system (FPTP) is forcing me into. 

As a politically active 18-year-old, I thought I would be more excited for the first general election in which I have the chance to express my political will and help shape the fate of our nation. I have always subscribed to the notion shared by Gloria Steinem that to abstain from politics and voting is to ‘not exist.’. Yet the perils of the FPTP system in my local area have made me realise that this is more of a guessing game between the lesser of two evils than a real chance to have my say. 

Hardly a Straightforward Choice

I live in the Newton Abbot constituency, where the Tories have held the seat under Anne Marie Morris since its creation in 2010. If there is one thing I am absolutely clear about, it is that I will not be voting for Anne Marie Morris in the upcoming election. Ms Morris was a strident supporter of Brexit, has ‘almost always voted against laws to promote equality and human rights,’ and has previously used racist slurs. But the answer to the question of who is the best alternative is far less clear.  

The Lib Dems have recently been the largest opposition party in this area, winning 22.2 per cent of the vote in the 2019 election. Their policies, which include scrapping the two-child benefit cap and bringing forward net zero targets, largely align with my political ideals. New polls, however, suggest that choosing the Lib Dems is a far less straightforward choice than it initially appeared. While models based on the 2019 election recommend voting Lib Dem, sources such as ‘Stop the Tories’ and others suggest that in more recent polls, Labour is the most popular opposition party. There is also a major risk that the Conservatives could remain in power, despite a larger proportion of the vote being split between the Lib Dems and Labour. 

A Voting Dilemma

Like 211 constituencies around the UK, Newton Abbot is a constituency that the national Labour Party has decided is not possible for them to win in, and so it is not a target seat. This means that the local party, which I am a member of (but have felt very conflicted about recently) was not allowed to select a candidate for months — time which would have been used for canvassing and growing local support — and the NEC (National Executive Committee) has ultimately selected someone who is just 20 years old and with limited political experience. On the national page, as the Lib Dems point out on their website, local Labour activists are encouraged only to support efforts in other constituencies. For potential Labour voters in Newton Abbot, this is hardly encouraging — and my constituency is not alone in this.  

Other parties, like the Greens, who have the policies I most strongly support and even feel excited by, and would, under other conditions, like to vote for, are shown as having little chance of winning. They are predicted to receive just a minority of the vote. I am highly aware that voting for the Greens could risk success for the Conservatives in my area, once again. I am also highly aware that if I do not use my vote to support a party representing my political sentiments, then these opinions will have little chance of ever becoming legislation. In the long-term, this influences shifts towards the right of historically centrist and leftist parties. 

This dilemma for voters, trapped in a guessing game based on contradictory sources about how best to use one’s vote and without the chance of seeing meaningful change from parties outside of the leading ones, underlines the deeply flawed nature of FPTP.

With just eight days left before I must make my choice, I remain deeply uncertain of whom to vote for. What is clear to me, however, is that should Labour win the election, as they are predicted to do, they ought to be firmly compelled to enact reform of our inefficient and unrepresentative political system.

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