I was a disaffected voter who didn't know which party to vote for. I'd seen the manifestos and watched the news, but couldn't tell the three main parties apart. Same old spin, apparently similar policies. It was hard to get any substance out of their communiqués. Perhaps that's why only 59% of eligible voters took part in the 2001 election. I know from personal experience that a significant number of my friends/colleagues either voted blindly (i.e. chose a party based on no knowledge) last election or didn't vote at all.
I didn't know where they stood on the things that really mattered to me. So I decided to put democracy into action and build a website that would allow others like me to compare the three main parties on a like for like basis. We've got freedom of speech, so it would be shame not to use it.
I asked the leader of each of the parties to answer a series of questions under the following rules:
What's on this site
This site consists of:
12th March 2005: The site has gone mad since news.bbc.co.uk mentioned it briefly in the weekly editorial (thanks Pete Clifton!). Many thanks to those who mailed me. I've had masses of responses - 80% with positive feedback (thanks for the kind words - it makes it all worthwhile :-) ) and 20% mentioning the PartyPicker errors with Firefox/Safari.
The bottom line is that if only a small percentage of people who visit the site make the effort to email me then the message is getting out. Practically everyone who mailed me loved the concept, but wished that the Labour and Conservative parties would respond.
I'll send the parties a chaser, but if you want to do your bit, please send them a mail yourself asking them to respond to the partypicker request for information.
In case they've lost it, it's the mail I sent on 23rd of June 2004 and a copy of it is on this site...
People have also asked me if I've contacted the papers to get more publicity. I did this in August last year, but not a single one responded! Given how topical this might be right now. I'll give it another stab.
Finally people have asked why I don't synthesize the responses to the questions from the material provided by the parties. The answer is in the most part, it's not obvious what their view is, hence the site. I also don't want to interpret messages, because that removes objectivity.
27th August 2004 (deadline date for response): Liberal Democrats respond. No response from the Labour Party or the Conservatives. At least one party cares about democracy, eh?
23rd June 2004: Email (see Party Correspondence) sent to the main three parties
I've tried to approach this with a totally open mind. After all, when I started this I didn't have a clue who to vote for. The only potential for bias is in the questions, but I've allowed many friends of differing political/social backgrounds to feed into these.
As stated, I've left the responses from the politicians totally unedited. If they wanted to write succinct meaningful answers, I've let them. If they wanted to write gibberish I've let them. Don't forget these are the people you're going to let run your country.
Nature of the questions
I've tried to steer away from glib questions ("Is world peace a good thing?") and ask questions that allow you to see how they fit to your view.
For example - should petrol be charged as a luxury good (i.e. high taxation)? Your answer depends on how (amongst other factors) you rank the environment over personal finance/necessity. You could argue that petrol is a necessity given the lack of public transport, especially for those who live in remote areas and should not be taxed so highly. You could also argue that it should be taxed highly to encourage the use of public transport and discourage gas-guzzling cars.
I'm not going to answer that question for you. You already have your own view. What I will do is make it (hopefully) clear where each of the parties stands on this issue. At least it provides you with the information to make an informed decision!
Why it's important
Voter apathy is at alarming rates. This implies that:
Pretty scary stuff. We pay vast amounts of our income/savings/spending to the government who then decide how it should be spent on local councils, education, health, pensions and so on. If these guys get it wrong, it affects us in practically every aspect of our lives.
Hell, these guys decide who lives in our country, what we should pay and what we get in return. They've got the power to:
You have the power to decide who has this mind-boggling power on your behalf. If you don't choose then you don't have a right to complain.
But! If we can't make an educated decision as to who does this for us, there's something seriously wrong. I'm not stupid and take an active interest in the world around me. But when I can't decide why I should choose one party over an other purely because it's not clear what they represent and how that relates to me I feel that there's something amiss.
Concept, Name and Text (c) Matt Dyson 2004