As a starting point I am a genuine floating voter. I change my allegiance from election to election - I don't understand the tribalism a lot of people exhibit when it comes to political parties, I just want the best option. If everything was even, I would probably vote Liberal Democrat as the broad feel of the party aligns best with my generally liberal orientation, but I have two big problems with their policies. These issues don't include, by the way, the business over tuition fees. Anyone who holds that against the LibDems is incredibly naive - you can't enter into a coalition and carry forward all you policies. To expect that to happen seems very silly. I wish they had been able to do away with tuition fees, but they weren't able to.
The two big issues for me with the LibDems are energy policy and Europe. On energy they have for so long been anti-nuclear, and that is just poor science*. I don't know the current policy in the hierarchy, but my suspicion is the majority of LibDems still don't understand why we should by now be getting a lot of our electricity from nuclear power. As for Europe, the LibDems were the only party wholeheartedly behind going into the Euro - we know what a disaster that would have been. More importantly now, they are just not critical enough of the European Union. While I accept the 'you can change more from the inside' argument, the EU is without doubt a ridiculously overinflated bureaucracy that interferes with far more than it should. And the European Parliament is not a real parliament - it really doesn't debate and alter legislation the way a parliament should. So given this is an EU election, I can't vote LibDem.
Looking at the list of candidates I will be voting for**, I can similarly dismiss the Greens for their opposition to nuclear power and general misunderstanding of environmental issues, putting knee-jerk emotional response over what is actually best for us. I find the Conservatives view on Europe too rabid, though I do like the idea of a referendum on Europe - the trouble is, my vote in the Euro elections has no influence on this. And anyway, I'd rather not vote for them on principle. My problem is rather different with Labour - I really don't understand their position on Europe. They may have a closer view to mine than most of the others, but I'm not clear they want to stand up for reducing European bureaucracy - they had over 10 years to attempt this and in that time did nothing. And then there is UKIP. (Groan.)
I can honestly say almost everything about UKIP makes me feel nauseous in the extreme. I don't make the mistake of thinking they are largely ultra-right wing bigots, a kind of BNP lite, because that's not a rational assessment. They are mostly older voters who are fed up with change, and I can understand that and don't think we should belittle them for it with terms like 'swivel-eyed' - I just think they are wrong. Admittedly I do enjoy the way they openly despise the EU bureaucracy (and can't help but smile at Mr Farage's rants in the European Parliament), but in the end, their approach is not the right way to get anything done. It is too negative and not constructive. And anyway, have you seen some of their candidates?
So there you have it. I want to vote, but I'm not sure there is anyone I can vote for. The only other party on the list is the 'English Democrats', which I knew nothing about before researching this post, but is apparently trying to be the English equivalent of the Scottish Nationlists/Plaid Cymru - but it also seems to be positioned well to the right of UKIP on the political spectrum despite claiming no left/right allegiance. This does not fill me with enthusiasm - in fact they even come below the Greens in my preferences. So I'm stuck. Help!
* [UPDATE] I have since noticed that the Lib-Dems became pro-nuclear last year - but I still can't forgive years of opposition.
** When I first wrote this piece I had no idea who my candidates were: thanks to Hayley Stevens for pointing out this website which, though still under construction, at least lists them.