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September 14, 2014 | by  | in Opinion VUWSA |
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Exec Column

Alasdair Keating | Campaigns Officer

If you’ve looked online to inform your vote in the general election recently, you may have found yourself buried in an overload of information about all the different ways political parties will promise to do things differently if elected. This year, with ten political parties having a realistic chance of getting into Parliament, you can find a plethora of positions on everything from ACC to animal welfare and road safety barriers to burglaries.

It’s easiest to see this looking at Vote Compass, On the Fence or Candidate. These are websites that ask you to compare and analyse policy positions and calculate the results, recommending the parties which best match your answers. Using them, however, it’s hard to escape the feeling my vote is being reduced to an algorithm. On the election trail, meanwhile, the trawl through the possible permutations of capital-gains-tax policy grows ever more banal.

You’ll most likely dismiss those who make up their minds based on the dress sense of a politician or whether the Prime Minister is a ‘bloke’, but should we be afraid to vote with things other than policy or ideology on our minds?

We may like to think of ourselves as left, right, or just endowed with ‘common sense’, but our vote is shaped much more by factors like where we grew up and our parents’ wealth than the theories you can find in Political Ideology class. Carol Hanisch may have popularised the phrase ‘The Personal is Political’ in 1969, but its relevance extends beyond the radical feminism of that era. The clothes we choose to wear, the music we like, the colour of our skin, the gender we identify with and whether a politician makes us feel comfortable talking to them can and should influence our vote.

Elections aren’t just about the size of government spending or the best way to build houses: they’re your chance to choose which people get to enjoy the comforts of those green leather chairs in Parliament. When you’re deciding who will lead and represent you, why wouldn’t you want someone who shares your tastes or understands what it’s like to be in your shoes? When we treat elections as battles for ideology and policy, we enable politics to be taken over by intellectual warriors disconnected from real lives.

This week, there will be advance voting in the Hub, and VUWSA is running an election debate with Wallace Chapman on Tuesday at 1 pm. You should come along: it’ll be a lot more entertaining (I hope) – and informative – than a policy guide.

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