I have very little respect for the kind of people who make up the group that are defined as ‘swing voters’. Be it the ‘Mondeo Man’ or the ‘Worcester Woman’, they form the ever shifting group constantly pandered to by politicians who prefer policy based on focus groups rather than principles. But the only thing that unites the swing voters of at most a few hundred thousand people at each election is not the tenuous demographic connections drawn by marketing experts but simple self-interest.
These are artificial groups who don’t have an ideology. They don’t care much about political principle or what’s best for the country of a whole. All they are is a group of fickle people who will flock to whatever politician offers them the best deal for them personally.
And I find that sickening. Blind, naked self-interest is the toxin which has poisoned human societies since time immemorial. It’s selfish, it’s shortsighted and, more importantly, it doesn’t work and pandering to it doesn’t win elections.
Now, I would do very well if I decided to care only about me and mine. I’m privileged, I’m well educated and I have a high likelihood of being able to easily slot into a well-paid career.
I know that I can expect to live in good areas, that I can expect my children will be able to go to good schools, and for them to have a good education and good career prospects.
So, out of self-interest, the only party I should bother with is one which will give me lots of tax breaks and take money from services I don’t use (such as legal aid or disability benefits) to pay for them. It shouldn’t matter to me what happens to the NHS as I can reasonably expect to be able to afford to go private. And it shouldn’t matter to me what happens in inner city schools and crime ridden neighbourhoods as long as my council tax is kept low, my street kept clean and beggars and poor people swept away to where I don’t have to see them.
That’s self-interest. Who cares about the poor? Who cares about the environment? Who cares that my clothes are made by slave labour in far off countries? Who cares that people are starving for want of the same amount of money I waste on an expensive bottle of wine?
But I don’t believe in that. I believe that if there’s a child dying needlessly in pain and that they can be saved for less than the price of a cup of coffee then I shouldn’t begrudge them that money. I believe that if I see someone else being ill-treated then I have a duty to intervene, to try and stop the injustice. I believe that I have a duty to do my best for society as a whole and to strive to make sure that everyone will ultimately have the same education and opportunities that I had. I don’t want to be privileged. My prosperity is not diminished by letting other people have the same prosperity. My rights aren’t diminished by giving others rights as well.
Which is why it’s generally pointless appealing to swing voters. If you deliberately pursue the votes of people who only care about themselves then you’re just wasting your time. Because as soon as you try to do something which benefits people other than themselves then they’ll lose interest in you and your party and switch to the next slick policy salesman. And they’ll certainly never become ideologically committed to a party and back it through thick and thin.
And this is why I despair of the marketing and messaging people who seem to be in charge of the strategy of all the main political parties. I wish that they’d have the guts to make policies based entirely on the basis of their principles and then take those policies to the country. After all, if every party keeps on offering the same thing it’s not really surprising that people are so apathetic towards party politics.