Friday, April 11, 2008

Trot or Not

Unsure who to vote for? Why not let the internet tell you what you really think? Those of you registered to vote in London, for instance, may wish to take the Vote Match quiz, which will tell you who you should be supporting.

In my case, it seems I should vote for Lindsey German of the Left List. You can imagine that my initial reaction was overwhelming despair and a strong urge to kill myself. However, having scoured the blackest recesses of my soul, I think I can reassure you all that I am not Trot who up until now had been denying my true nature.

You see, it appears that Ms German is the candidate who agrees with me on the greatest number of the issues raised in the quiz. While it is gratifying that she shares my views that pigeons and bendy buses are bad things, I somewhat doubt that these are the issues that really motivates her. A quick look at her website confirms the impression; plenty of stuff about the evils of capitalism, US foreign policy and other things which, you get the distinct impression, count for considerably more in forming her world view that flying vermin or public transport. All of which is fair enough, I suppose, but as I don't really consider global revolution to be within the remit of the London mayor, so I'll probably vote for someone else.

The real problem with this quiz, though, is its focus on things I really couldn't care less about (For instance, there is a question about whether inter-racial marriage should be banned something, I strongly hope, which is of no interest to anyone except the BNP candidate) and while managing to be either hopelessly vague or insanely detailed about things such as housing and transport. I'm still puzzling about the question: "Public sector workers should reflect the ethnic diversity of the communities they serve." Well they should, but does this mean they should in a wouldn't it be nice sort of way, or they should in a there will be strict quotas to enforce this manner? Quite a difference, and the fact that most of the candidates agree with the proposition doesn't really clarify matters.

All of this helps muddy the results, I think. It explains why Ken Livingstone does not appear to know whether or not London City Airport should be closed and that Boris Johnson cannot give a straight answer as to whether people should be banned from feeding pigeons. I suppose it is just possible that both leading contenders for mayor are so bedeviled by havering indecision that they make Gordon Brown look like a model of decisive, firm leadership. But on balance I think it more likely that they don't regard these particular issues as priorities.

On the stump both candidates give the distinct impression that they place as much emphasis on such intangibles as character, experience, leadership, competence: all the things most people focus on when deciding how to place their votes (and the personal benefits they will derive from the victory of one or other candidate), in fact.

I've long be sceptical of these things. For instance, virtually everyone who takes the Political Compass quiz ends up in the Libertarian-left quarter (bottom, left-hand) along with such cuddly figures as the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. The fact that you have to be the sort who thinks that the problem with Pinochet was that he was too soft, or that Stalin was just misunderstood, suggests that they might be asking the wrong questions.

But then, as Sir Humphrey Appleby wisely observed: the questions you ask are more important than the answers people give.

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