Since turning 18 back in August 2007 I'm yet to vote, my only opportunities being a couple of local elections and last year's European elections. This wasn't out of any political apathy but more borne out of a general apathy towards the parties on offer. No-one really struck me as a party I wanted to vote for.
In November 2008 a group of us got drunk and stayed up to watch an eloquent African-American stride to power after mobilising many disillusioned Americans with ambiguous words like 'hope' and 'change'. At five in the morning there was still about six of us watching as Obama made his much-acclaimed victory speech in Chicago. Through a haze of beer, wine and spirits it all looked very exciting. Imagine what it must have been like for young people that side of the Atlantic.
Six months later, in the European Elections of 2009, there was just two of us sat up watching as, for the first time ever, a Fascist party was elected in a British election. It had been a long night, and with the Tories and Ukip coming first and second in votes respectively, the BNP's successes were the vile icing on a bitter cake. Like vultures, they had fed off the carcass of voter disillusionment that had been exacerbated beyond all belief by the expenses scandal. My choice not to vote, not because of duck houses or moats, but because of laziness, had contributed to their success. Last month I saw Richard Herring's Hitler Moustache show in Cambridge, in which he discusses issues of race and the rise of the far-right in a very funny, thought-provoking ninety minutes of comedy. He asked if any of us had chosen not to vote in last year's elections. Me and quite a few others rather sheepishly lifted our hands. 'So there wasn't one person on that ballot paper you preferred to a Fascist?' he asked. Rather crudely he had hit the nail on the head. Even if the main parties don't appeal to you, they must strike a chord with you more than a fascist. The BNP actually got less votes than in 2004, but a greater share of the vote due to the low turnout, so every extra vote for Labour, the Lib Dems, the Conservatives, Ukip, the Greens, would have eaten into that share and lessened the chance of a BNP victory. I vowed that in future, if a far-right candidate was running in any election I was registered to vote in I would use that vote to try and stop them.
I'm now more politically engaged than I have been since I turned 18, so even if we didn't have a BNP candidate running I think I would be voting today. This decision is augmented by the fact that York Outer has a notional majority of just 200 to the Lib Dems over the Tories, so my vote will count a lot more than most of the electorate in this country. My vote for the Lib Dems, that is.
Out of the three main parties I oppose the Conservatives, and don't believe Labour's record after thirteen years in office warrants another five years. The Lib Dems aren't the radical break from the 'two old parties' that Nick Clegg claims they are, but they are, in my view, the more progressive of the three. If we had a Green candidate here in York I would seriously consider voting for them as I believe my views are most closely reflected in their policies, but even then our archaic electoral system might have forced be back to the Lib Dems. Perhaps by achieving a hung parliament we will be able to get the electoral change necessary to make Britain more democratic, by making everyone's vote count the same.
Further afield there are several seats round the country I'll be keeping a close eye on tonight. South-East Cambs is now likely to be a close race after the Tories 8,000 majority was rendered null by the expulsion of the Labour candidate just a week or so ago. If the Liberal Democrats can pick up enough of the Labour votes they could mount a serious challenge on the seat. I'm hoping that the Greens can pick up at least one seat, with their best chances looking like Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion and Adrian Ramsay in Norwich South. There are two seats as well, where I'd actually like to see the Conservatives win (please forgive me). One is Morley and Outwood where Anthony Calvert has run an enthusiastic campaign to try and get rid of the menace that is Ed Balls. The other is Carlisle, where my Uncle is the Conservative candidate. Though you would expect the city to be Labour, a divided local party means that the Tories could steal it.
As for my overall prediction, though I don't like it, I expect the Conservative's to get a small majority- no more than 40 though. I'm hoping for a hung parliament, but have little idea of the kind of antics that could potentially take place over the next few days should that occur. After being excited about many things this campaign and generally being let down- the debates for example- I hope tonight is not the same.