IF you’re one of those conspiracy theorists who think the world’s media is all controlled from a remote island by a James Bond villain-type press baron — whose political views are polar opposite to your own, naturally — then what I’m about to write may shock you.
I will be partaking in today’s General Election, but I haven’t got a bloody clue who to vote for. Not an iota.
So, first things first, if you’re a bit stuck yourself and came here looking for some pearls of wisdom and a bit of a steer on where to cast your ballot — sorry, no can do.
I’m not usually unsure by this stage of a campaign, and I’m not known for my indecisiveness, so this dithering is an odd sensation.
On the one hand, it’s a bit of a concern, since I will definitely go to the voting station and exercise my democratic vote this morning — not least because I hope to be sounding off here about our politicians for the next five years, assuming a government is formed that runs its full term.
I may still be unsure of who to vote for as my pencil hovers over the ballot paper...
On the other hand, it gives me an enormous sense of power and liberation, to know I could literally give my No.1 to anyone in my constituency, Cork North West.
To help me as I wrestle with this issue, I decided to delve into the world of psychology and practice something called ‘Imagined Interaction’. This is where you invent a character and have a ‘conversation’ with them. It can be a good way to reach some conclusions on difficult issues (and may well be the first sign of madness — Ed).
So, here we go. I decided to call my imaginary friend Ted, and I bumped into ‘him’ on the way to the polling station today...
Ted: You seem deep in thought.
Me: Hmm, I am. I am.
Ted: Why so?
Me: Well, I’m off to vote in the General Election, but I haven’t got a clue who to vote for.
Ted: Enlighten me.
Me: Right. I suppose the first dilemma is, do I vote to keep the present Government, or do I kick them out?
Ted: OK. And why would you vote to keep them in?
Me: Because when they came to power, the economy was banjaxed and they have done a good job of putting it back on an even keel.
Ted: Ah, the ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ trope. The money in a person’s pocket is usually at the heart of elections...
Me: Well, yes.
Ted: But not this time?
Me: Well, no. There seems little appetite to reward the main government party, Fine Gael, and the recovering economy is as much down to benign global conditions as to Fine Gael’s stewardship.
Ted: They do say eaten bread is soon forgotten. So, it’s time for change then?
Me: That seems to be the catchphrase of this election, yes. Fine Gael are seen as having failed on important issues such as health and housing.
Ted: It sounds like you’re veering away from them, then. So who should govern the country?
Me: If Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar isn’t at the tiller, then it will almost certainly be Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil.
Ted: Are his party’s policies different to Fine Gael’s.
Me: Not really.
Ted: Will they fix health and housing?
Me: Hmm, I really don’t know. The argument is, they have more chance of doing so than the other crowd.
Ted: You don’t sound convinced.
Me: Well, maybe... but if we really want change as a country, it could be argued that it’s not really much of a change at all. More a case of Buggins’ turn.
Ted: So if you don’t fancy this Buggins guy, who else has a chance of power?
Me: Sinn Féin. They have topped polls for the first time ever this week, and are on a roll.
Ted: What are their policies?
Me: They are big on health and housing too. In fact, they have lots of exciting ways of spending money, but either taxpayers will have to pay more, or they will add to our already giant debt mountain. Neither idea appeals to me.
Ted: Ah, you want to have your cake and eat it.
Me: Perhaps, But the party does have, um, baggage too. Oh, and they haven’t even got a candidate in my constituency.
Ted: Tsk. You keep building up these parties, then knocking them down again. There must be other options available?
Ted: OK, well, build them up and knock them down too.
Me: The Greens are pledging to tackle climate change, but much of that involves me paying more taxes, and their cycling, vegan lifestyles aren’t popular in rural areas like mine. The Social Democrats, Labour, and Aontu are all left-of-centre parties from a similar gene pool who all say they want to improve our lives, but is any of it achievable? And, again, at what cost to me?
Ted: Janey Mac. You’re a bit of an aul miser, aren’t you? ‘Ooh, it’s my money, don’t take it off me, please, ooh’.
Me (defensively): I have a mortgage and mouths to feed, and I’m not a big earner either. I’m just wary that some of these politicians calling for ‘change’ will need more than small change to fund their pledges. Their mouths are writing cheques that people like me will have to cash.
Ted: Touchy, touchy. You really are in a tizzy about this. Have you run out of options?
Me: We also have an Independent, and someone from the Irish Freedom Party, which, rather uniquely, is a Eurosceptic party.
Ted: What’s their upside?
Me: Er, that is their upside! I may be an Irish citizen now, but old British habits die hard! The downside is that these small parties and independents are highly unlikely to figure in the final tallies.
Ted: Dearie me. No wonder you were looking so thoughtful. Maybe you should vote for them all!
Me: Well, under the PR system, I can! The question is, who do I give my No.1 to?
Ted: Sorry, I can’t help you there, I’m afraid.
Me (gloomily): I fear I’m facing a bit of a Hobson’s choice here.
Ted: Hobson? Buggins? Your candidates sound more like characters from The Hobbit than politicians.
Me: It’s an old saying. Thomas Hobson was a 16th century stable owner in England, who kept 40 horses — but he only ever offered customers two choices when they loaned his beasts: the horse in his stall nearest to the door or none at all.
Ted: Was there method in his madness?
Me: Sure. He did it to prevent the best horses from always being chosen, which would have caused them to become over-used.
Ted: Smart guy. This Hobson would make a pretty shrewd politician, by the sound of it. So, have you made your decision.
Me: Hmmm, I think I’ve just had a eureka moment. I’m going to vote for...
Not to be continued next week.
PLEASE do vote today. It’s a Saturday and most of you will surely find ten minutes to do so.
The turn-out at the last election was 65.2%, down from 70.1% in 2011, and I reckon we can top that 70% today.
Whatever the outcome then, that would be a clear victory for democracy.