Warning: I am about to write about politics.
I know this is not wise. I will probably regret it. But here goes anyway (I rarely listen to my own good advice)
Later this week we are being asked to vote for a new PM.
Whoever wins the election will form a government that will hold office for the next five years.
This is likely to be a very trying five years as we navigate the uncharted waters of Brexit and seek to make our way in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world.
This is important stuff.
Of course I will vote: people died to give me the right to take part in the democratic process. There are people around the world still fighting and dying for this right. It is more than a right; it is a duty.
The problem is I’m not sure I’m qualified for the job.
There are a lot of people out there who are very sure about who to vote for.
I know this because my Facebook and Twitter feeds are constantly deluged with posts from them.
Mostly they do more to annoy me than to enlighten me.
Mostly these posts are trite, partisan memes, or hate filled vitriol about the perceived inadequacies of the other side. They are rarely well thought out, balanced arguments.
People from the left (and most of the posts I see come from the left – at the last election I was almost convinced that we’d see a Labour landslide, but it turns out they were just a vocal minority) accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being heartless: of seeking to starve the NHS of funds and cut back welfare payments so that poor innocent little children will be left to die in the streets; of privatising every aspect of our lives to favour fat cats and oligarchs over the good working people of this country; of being bigots and racists who would see our cosmopolitan country torn asunder; and much else.
People from the right, meanwhile, accuse those who disagree with them of being profligate wastrels who would see the country go to wrack and ruin as they pour all of our hard earned cash into ill-advised government-led schemes and to undeserving scroungers; of putting our country at risk as they fail to take a properly firm line against crime and immigration; of taking the UK back to the bad old days of 1970s strikes, three day weeks and power shortages; and much else.
In some ways I envy these people.
I wish I could be so confident in my beliefs. I wish I could skip happily to the polling station, take the short, stubby pencil in my hand and place my cross enthusiastically in the appropriate box, confident beyond all doubt that I have made the right decision.
But mostly I am suspicious of these people.
Anyone who thinks the answer is so obvious, so straightforward, so black and white, clearly doesn’t understand the question.
As I look through the policies and manifestos I see things that I like in all of them. And equally I see things that I dislike in all of them. But mostly I see things that I feel insufficiently informed about to make a reasoned decision.
People will scoff, but I generally take the view that anyone running for Prime Minister does so fundamentally because they have the best interests of the country at heart.
You may laugh at this and call me hopelessly naive, but surely there are better ways for people with that much drive and ambition to find wealth and power without the hassle of running a country and the almost inevitable result of most people in that country coming to hate you.
So I believe that politicians, on the whole, generally share the same aims.
They all want a strong economy; they all want us to have an education system that gives us the best and brightest minds that we need to run the country for the future; they all want the population to be healthy and (at least relatively) wealthy; they all want us to be secure and free from crime and terrorism.
Where they all differ is on how best to achieve these aims.
They all have expert economic advisers telling them how to go about it. Some of these advisers believe the way to do it is through a socialist approach; some believe the way to do it is through free market economy and capitalism.
They all have experts advising them on different approaches to security, to immigration, to education and to all manner of other arcane topics we are probably not even aware of.
I am not an expert on any of these things. How am I supposed to know who’s right?
One thing I’m pretty sure about is that flip-flopping between the different approaches every five years probably isn’t an efficient way to go about it.
Even I recognise that any hope that the different parties could act like mature adults and acknowledge any shared ground or benefits of each other’s policies and work together to make them succeed is definitely hopelessly naive.
They would rather rubbish ideas and then later steal them and claim them as their own.
Or wait until they take power and reverse everything that the other party did, not because it is wrong, or because it doesn’t work, but because they didn’t invent it or because it doesn’t fit with their particular dogma.
I worry that we are not sufficiently mature as a species to handle democracy.
I sympathise with the quote attributed to Churchill “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
But I also agree with another quote attributed to him “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”
So for good or ill, I will cast my ill-informed vote on Thursday and I would encourage you to do likewise. I will continue to hope the wisdom of crowds prevails, although that hope has waned markedly lately.
Please feel free to comment on this post UNLESS you wish to do so with a biased one-sided dogmatic political rant. I don’t need my faith in human nature further eroded.