How they will vote
The Spectator invited a number of people from various walks of life to say how they would vote in the general election, and why. Some regarded the question as impertinent; others feared that an answer would have a detrimental effect on their professional or social lives. Here is a selection of the replies:
Kingsley Amis: I have never known an elec- tion in which the choice was less of a choice. It's a positive choice too — for the Tories, primarily Mrs Thatcher, and against Labour only in the second place. I must ad- mit, though, to having drawn some impetus from the squeals of panic and rage from the Lefties and her unruffled progress. 'Fascist!' — about someone less of a Fascist than they can comprehend. 'Uncaring!' for not changing her policies when they start working. 'Right-wing extremist!' This, never defined, is the most mysterious charge of all. Is a one-party state planned? Abolition of the Health Service? A lock-out of the entire work-force? And then she's a woman, and not upper-class, and respected abroad. It's enough to make a decent fellow-traveller give up in despair. Yes, I shall certainly feel a glow of complacent malice as I cast my vote.
Naim Attallah: This is undoubtedly the on- ly general election since Labour's victory in 1945 in which the contestants are as far apart in policies as to make the choice for the floating voter less agonising than usual. The hardening of attitudes has widened the gap between the Conservatives and Labour. Despite their shortcomings, the Conser- vatives' policies are more relevant to the times we live in and leave each one of us free to pursue our own aspirations. The prospects under a future Conservative government seem to me less of a risk. Therefore I shall vote for Mrs Thatcher with great trepidation.
Carmen Callil: I'm voting Labour because I always have and see no reason to change my mind now, despite the fact that much about the Labour Party irritates me beyond en- durance. However, Margaret Thatcher is a very important reason for voting Labour: she terrifies me, repels me, and 1 think she's ruining everything that is best about this country (foreigners always know best). As I am a William Morris socialist (am I a socialist? Anarchist, I think), I could not be a Social Democrat. I detest moderation anyway. Despite Thatcher all the parties are wretched about women (Social Dems marginally the best, Labour Party hopeless).
Melvyn Bragg: I'll be voting Labour. The Labour Party is in a terrible mess. Its radicalism has been overlaid by lunacies understandably scoopea up and panned in Fleet Street. Nevertheless there are still enough sensible prospective Labour MPs to effect the dramatic changes essential if we
are not to be sucked down for ever into the Tory glue. For Mrs Thatcher offers nothing but the same: which means more taxes, less investment in education and medicine and research; greater invasions of privacy, in- creased unemployment, a depleted in- dustrial base — the whole unimaginative stew accompanied by gloating incantations from a woman dangerously in love with her own publicity. The SDP has no roots. I am surprised the Liberals gave up their in- dependence. Mr Foot is a decent man with a proper sense of the better traditions of this country. His appeal to the Spectator's readers is surely irresistible.
John Braine: I vote Conservative. As I've said before, it's like the choice between a broken leg and bone cancer. Of course I choose a broken leg — but don't expect me to be happy about it. The SDP? That would be like choosing two broken legs. I honestly did believe the Conservative promises last time. I won't be taken in again. I can't think of one promise which has been kept. If only, for example, they'd frozen index- linked pensions in the public sector, I'd now be able to be positively enthusiastic. As it is, the public sector continues to flourish and inflation roars on. The most that I hope for is that the Conservatives may be able to stave off total disaster for another five years. As Thomas Jefferson said a long time ago, the choice in politics is never bet- ween good and bad, but between bad and worse.
A. L. Rowse: I am no party man, but I agree with every word that Margaret That- cher speaks and everything she stands for. She has had a hard uphill struggle to recover the damage done in this country in the past 20 years. We all know that our economy has been hamstrung by the trade unions, wrecking their own show. Everybody knows the sheer waste of our local bureaucracies. Unemployment? Every country has it; governments can do little about it. Modern technology does the work, and there are too many people everywhere. It was crazy to import more in- to this overpopulated little island. The population explosion is the greatest danger facing the human race. Peace depends on a proper balance between East and West. No use throwing away our defences: that in- vites aggressors to walk in — as it did Hitler. If Labour took over, with its present leadership and crazy programme, this coun- try would go rightly down the drain. Able former Labour men, like Roy Jenkins and David Owen, know that as well as I do.
Barbara Cartland: Having been a Conser- vative County Councillor for Hertfordshire for nine years, I shall vote Conservative. My brother, who was the first Member of Parliament to be killed in the last war, was convinced that the Conservatives were the only party who really believed in the freedom of the individual. Tradition and patriotism, which have always been the roots of Conservative policy, are very need- ed today and I cannot find these are strong- ly emphasised by either of the opposition parties.
Isabel Colegate: I shall probably vote SDP, in the hope that it's a vote for Her Ma- jesty's Opposition. I should feel much more hopeful about the future if this election could bring about a change in the relative roles of the SDP and the Labour Party, so that we could foresee an alternative govern- ment which might be a development of the old Labour Party but would not be tied either to the unions or to the dreary creed of state socialism. But in the extremely unlike- ly event of a massive swing to the SDP I shall vote Conservative. Clearly Mrs That- cher hasn't fulfilled her destiny yet, and one might as well go along with history.
Lord Cudlipp: Peers and lunatics are disen- franchised; a pity, for a touch of lunacy might help in deciding whether to re-elect a schizophrenic Tory Cabinet divided bet- ween the dehydrated and the damp or n?, elevate an opposition whose leader and deputy cannot agree on the meaning of the most crucial point in its manifesto. Labour's vision of a paranoid Little England without an economic ally in the world, defended by a conventional army In the nuclear age, puts the fear of God into me. Nor would my vote go to Mrs Thad cher; to admire her personal courage an ° powers of leadership does not compel one. to follow her over the precipice of social division which will unquestionably develops during a second term. If lunatics and Peer had a vote, mine would go to the Alliance. Though the Governess will be the Blessed Margaret, a voice of sanity and compassion in the asylum would be welcome: the louder the voice the better for all concerned. Roald Dahl: I haven't always voted Consere- vative, but this time I shall. I couldn't Y°...„ 1 for the SDP because I never vote 1 is °_," renegades. Labour are wafflers and vief`e and not particularly honest. There s thing you can say about Mrs Thatcher afe her men and that is that theyv e _e‘ur's honourable people and tough; they some guts. We have a good leader in.lvi_ut Thatcher. I feel particularly strongly aoun,t unilateral disarmament, because I do. , believe in letting other people do the ch.f,IY. work for you. You have to share Tat' responsibilities and the risks. Ululate' disarmament is monstrous. Lord Goodman: It is most inefficient t11...°,1t an election has been fixed at such srt. notice that no one can make prope_lt. rangements for a holiday to escape fr°11' This can cost the Government votes.
General Sir John Hackett: Is it posslulicly have to ask, to vote for a party 131!`'._ the pledged to act in a way quite fatal 100,41 Atlantic Alliance? In spite of the outsp IL`
objections of some of its senior members, and the clear private reservations of others to ditch the pledge if the party gets back in- to power, the pledge is still party policy. In my view, this is critical.
Michael Heath: Being self-employed one tends to become rather selfish and greedy, so one's natural reaction is to vote Conser- vative and look after Number One. If you are also, like me, caring, sensitive, and loaded with guilt, you must vote for the underdog and support Labour, or the SDP. However, one factor clouds everything else at the moment, and that is the arms rat- race. Whichever way I look at it, I cannot see Russia ever disarming, nor the US for that matter. So I suppose we should have some protection. That means I shall vote for the Tory thugs. On the other hand ...
Richard Ingrams: How will I vote? Voters are just as bad at giving a straight answer to a straight question as politicians. The last time I voted Conservative was in 1959 my first general election. Since then I have regularly voted Labour. I find it hard to believe that I will do so on this occasion. Such is the change that has taken place in the Labour Party that it is hard now to believe that Jim Callaghan was its leader only four years ago. Foot sharing a plat- form at the weekend with Pat Wall was the final straw. On the other hand if you live like me in a rural constituency where the Tories have a large majority it is hard not to react against all the propaganda. I have sometimes toyed with the idea of voting Conservative but have almost always been driven into the Labour camp at the last minute by the aggressive Tory ladies hover- ing about outside, and sometimes inside, the village hall polling station. Despite Red Ken, Pat Wall, old Uncle Worzel and all, it could conceivably happen again.
P. J. Kavanagh: I was always a Labour man. But in the Seventies the unions misus- ed their blocking power. 'My job is to get the best deal 1 can for my members,' the leaders said and say, as though they haven't rethought for 40 years. But I find Myself becoming a reluctant unilateral nuclear disarmer, like Healey. His lukewarm approach seems right. It is daft to go naked, etc, but the alternative is (taller, and gets more ridiculous by the minute. 'Polaris can destroy 40 cities, Tri- dent over 300', etc. Labour has faced up to this, perhaps two-faced up to it. But that's a beginning.
Lady Longford: I'm going to vote Labour because I'm a member of the Labour Party.
Jonathan Miller: I really don't give a f.... A pox on them both. Out of some reflex loyalty I will vote for a party for which I have no respect at all, Labour.
John Mortimer: I don't want to live in an England ruled by hard-faced ad men with a taste for hanging. I don't want to live in an England with the moral values of the super- market, where compassion for the unemployed and concern for the poor are sneered at and despised. I have no desire to trade in our humanity for a lower inflation rate and cable television. I regard Labour's understandable arguments about the best way to nuclear disarmament as far safer than Mrs Thatcher's blind devotion to President Reagan and the bomb. I wish to hear less of the Russian menace and the wickedness of the unions and more of building a juster and more equal society. I wish to hear no more of Mr Norman Teb- bit. I shall vote Labour with more convic- tion than usual.
Malcolm Muggeridge: It is years since I cast a vote in any election, parliamentary or municipal. Nor have I any plan to par- ticipate in the current Thatcher-Foot con- test. As I see it, another four years of That- cher would be disastrous, but so would four Foot years. So what is the point of plump- ing for one or the other? The fact is that politics today, with full media accompani- ment, constitute a Theatre of the Absurd, whose leading characters come on and off stage saying nothing noisily and repetitive- ly. To an old fellow like me, it is all a repeat performance. The first time I heard the phrase 'We can conquer unemployment', it was uttered by Lloyd George half a century ago. The Peace Ballot and the Peace Pledge Union ushered in the 1939-45 war, only with a canon rather than a monsignor to provide clerical chic. What seems to me to have happened is that, with universal suf- frage taking in students and soon, I dare say, schoolchildren, with public opinion polls, TV, radio and newspaper coverage, elections become show business in whose name Western Man goes sleepwalking into a collectivist, authoritarian way of life.
Lester Piggott: I have always voted Conser- vative and I always will. It's the best for everybody in the country. I think any sane person would agree.
Anthony Powell: In reply to your inquiry I shall be voting Conservative.
C. H. Sisson: I shall vote for this beastly government, because there's nothing else to vote for.
Alan Watkins: I shall be voting for the SDP candidate in Islington South, not because he is SDP, but because he is George Cunn- ingham. He is one of the outstanding back- benchers of the post-war period and should be recognised as such Though I prefer the Labour Party's policies on defence and on the Common Market to the Alliance's I am nevertheless relieved to feel able to vote for Cunningham rather than for Labour: I ob- ject not to leftish policies but to the malice and uncharitableness that are now in the party. In the circumstances I am grateful that George is there to be voted for.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft: No party represents my views or hopes.
Jeffrey Bernard: I shall vote Labour as I have always done. It isn't a particularly well thought out vote, but it's a strongly felt vote. It isn't so much a pro-Labour vote as an anti-Tory one. I'm politically naive and ignorant but my feelings tell me that the Tories haven't got their heart in the right place — and where the hell do they think that is anyway? Tebbit, Thatcher and three and a quarter million unemployed are disaster enough. Sadly, Michael Foot, or anyone wearing suede desert boots and a donkey jacket, just couldn't be prime
minister. William Pitt 'the Younger' is the only one who could have got away with all that. I should have thought the f17 billion spent on social security could have been spent on making jobs.
Richard West: For various reasons, I hate the three main parties equally. Although Margaret Thatcher has slightly repaired the economic damage done by Macmillan, Wilson, Heath and Callaghan, she has not repealed the Heath-Walker Local Govern- ment Act nor the Wilson-Foot Closed Shop Act. As a result, I pay or am unable to pay hugely increased rates and income tax, while earning less, since fewer newspapers now accept work from non-union jour- nalists. Not living in West Belfast, I cannot vote for Gerry Fitt, the only politician I ad- mire, and shall, as usual, spoil my ballot paper by writing in the name of Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.
Michael Wharton (Peter Simple): I am not going to vote because I shall be on holiday in North Wales on polling day. I would have voted Conservative: I have always voted Conservative. My vote is in Battersea, which is a safe Labour seat, so it doesn't make much difference. This time I shall not be canvassing for the Plaid Cymru can- didate. I used to urge people to vote for Plaid Cymru when the Tory candidate had no hope of winning, but since Plaid Cymru has now moved so far to the left, I have withdrawn some of my support.
Katharine Whitehorn: I'll vote for the Alliance candidate: in this area, SDP. Don't like Thatcherism, but a left swing now would be like knocking off in the mid- dle of open heart surgery; may as well go through with the experiment. I don't know which scares me more — the erosion of liberty from the Right with things like the Police Bill, or the threat from the Left with no deterrent, closed shops, their views on the press. I particularly dislike the doc- trinaire determination of the Right to stop anyone getting something for nothing even if stopping them costs more: e.g. curtailing foreign students' funds, rotten for British trade in the long run, or student loans, cer- tain to cost money now, uncertain to recoup it later. Possibly a strong centre would restrain the excesses of both ex- tremes; and a really hung Parliament might even give us PR and a fair system of voting.
A uberon Waugh: Since a Labour vote is out of the question, except as a deliberate act of self-mutilation, and since I can see no particular reason to vote Social Democrat, the choice is between voting Conservative or not voting at all, which is my usual deci- sion in a safe Conservative area. This time I have decided to vote Conservative, not so much in terror of Labour as in the hope of a huge Conservative landslide to be reflected in the total votes cast. This will be hard luck on the 'wets', but it may give the Tories the self-confidence they need to make school fees tax-allowable and to remove the punitive element in personal taxation, whether on incomes or capital. If they fail to do either of these things and merely restore the death penalty, I shall never vote again.