It doesn’t really matter where I cast my vote in the forthcoming General Election; I already know who my next Member of Parliament is going to be. In fact, in most of the General Elections where I have been eligible to vote, my cross on the ballot paper has been effectively worthless.

Relax, this isn’t a conspiracy theory and I’m not about to allege massive voter fraud. I live in Knowsley, the constituency which had the largest Labour majority in the entire country at the last Election. In 2019, the retiring Sir George Howarth secured 80% of the votes cast; this seat isn’t a brick in the ‘Red Wall’; it’s part of the foundations.

The thing is, I’m not instinctively a Labour voter and the way the electoral system is set up in the United Kingdom is set up to actively disenfranchise people like me, all over the place. Having a ‘first past the post’ system made up of 650 individual winner-takes-all contests will do that.

Although I live in Knowsley now, I grew up in Runnymede & Weybridge, one of the safest Tory seats anywhere. Now, I am not – nor have I ever been – a Conservative voter. But voting Labour in Runnymede & Weybridge (or North West Surrey, the seat which included my home town before 1997) wasn’t going to get you a Labour MP. In 1997, the Conservative candidate, Phillip Hammond won the seat with a majority of almost 10,000 despite a 13.5% swing to ‘New’ Labour. During the campaign, Mr Hammond visited Strode’s College, where I was doing A-Levels. I remember him taking questions from all the students who wanted to ask, even those who opposed him politically with courtesy and detail. Maybe that 1997 election is why I don’t consider myself a Labour voter? There was something about the New Labour project that felt… inauthentic. A bit too polished. Although I was ineligible to vote in 1997, I did take part in the Mock Election organised at College, standing for the Referendum Party.

A quarter of a century later, this almost seems absurd. Politically, I’d describe myself as ‘left of centre’ and even then I certainly wasn’t as Eurosceptic as the party’s founder, James Goldsmith. However, this was an era during which the tabloids ran stories about “bendy bananas” and headlines like “Up yours, Delors!”. At hustings, I argued that whether the United Kingdom stayed within the European Union or not, what was needed was a proper, grown-up conversation about the benefits and drawbacks of the European project and if there was a net benefit to the UK, we should stay in. We used resources provided by the national party, but we also created our own.

We attacked the Tories on their record because, at the time, the Major Government was collapsing under the weight of its own incompetence and was beset by scandals. Sound familiar? We attacked New Labour for being “a redder shade of blue”. In short, we fought dirty and it worked. The Referendum Party finished third in the Mock Election and I would have ‘held my deposit’ had the campaign been for real, which is more than any of their actual candidates managed. The two main parties finished in a tie, eventually decided in Labour’s favour by the teacher in charge of the exercise.

A few months later I went to The Hague as part of my Business Studies course on a trip partially funded by the European Union. I travelled extensively throughout Europe in my twenties and came to appreciate that, while imperfect, the EU was a club the UK needed to be in. When a referendum on membership was called, I was convinced it was a terrible idea. History shows that I was correct and that the “proper, grown-up conversation” I had called for two decades before simply didn’t happen before the narrow vote to leave the European Union.

Yet, eight years after seventeen million people voted for Brexit, the main parties aren’t talking about it, despite the chaos it has caused and the harm it is inflicting. I find this baffling and, when I consider national issues when trying to consider where I’ll cast my vote, this is something that weighs on my mind.

At the same time, when you vote in a General Election, you’re actually voting to decide which personal will represent your home in Parliament. So, which is more important? Backing the party you want to form the next Government, or the person you feel will work best for the place where you live?

I tend to lean towards the latter, which is why while living in the Hayes & Harlington constituency in 2015 I voted for John McDonnell. I would find myself riding the same H98 bus as Mr McDonnell as we made our way to work; he would always attend local events such as Hayes Carnival and worked hard on issues raised by constituents. At the same time, were Sir George Howarth standing again, I would be voting for him. Since moving to Kirkby in 2016, I have contacted Sir George several times in respect of local issues, one of which was deeply personal. I always received prompt and considered replies and while dealing with the issue I raised as a personal matter, Sir George contacted the relevant Minister of State on my behalf. I am certain this helped to move things forward and I will always be grateful.

We can be confident that Labour will hold the seat on July 4 and will form the next Government, despite something being a bit… off about the party under Kier Starmer’s leadership. This is why my vote doesn’t really matter; if I vote for a different party in Knowsley, it won’t make any difference to the result locally and because of the ‘first past the post’ nature of our elections, a vote in Knowsley for Green, the Liberal Democrats or anyone else wouldn’t count for anything locally, regionally or nationally.

Yet, I still believe in the importance of casting my vote. I have done so in every General Election in which I’ve had the right to do so and will definitely be voting this time around. Labour’s candidate in Knowsley is Annelise Midgeley; what will she bring to the job if elected? Here is the campaign launch video she posted on Twitter / X:

Ms Midgeley is saying the right things; she grew up in the area, she has experience of working in politics and within the Trade Union movement and the video is soundtracked by Saint Etienne, which both hints at her previous life as a DJ and ticks a musical box for this ageing Indie Kid. This is a good start and compares favourably with the Conservative candidate Sherrie McDaid who is currently the Mayor of Broxbourne, a borough more than 200 miles to the South. Ironically, a major employer in Knowsley, Newsprinters, proposed closing the Knowsley site in 2023 and transferring the work to Broxbourne.

In total, there are seven candidates competing for votes here with the ‘big two’ being joined by the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, Reform UK, the Social Democratic Party and the Workers Party. No doubt all will find favour with sections of the local community, but let’s be honest, none will seriously challenge Labour here in the same way that in Runnymede & Weybridge the Conservatives will win comfortably, regardless of the candidate they put forward.

It’s high time the way we vote changed to reflect what people really think. Nationally, the Scottish National Party won 3.9% of total votes in the 2019 General Election, which won them 63 seats. The Green Party won 2.7% of votes cast and got one seat. That seems a little off-kilter to me, although by using the SNP in my example I’m being both mischievous and simplistic. Having said that, some form of Proportional Representation where each of the four nations returns MPs based on local and national preferences would surely be an improvement on what we have now, where millions of votes are effectively ‘wasted’ in every General Election.

While the Conservatives, Reform UK and the Workers Party need not knock on my door, I hope the other parties will at least attempt to engage with voters here. They may not win, but they could and should encourage the electorate to think about which box the cross goes into on Polling Day. I am, as yet, undecided and hope that progressive parties will at least attempt to make this campaign a proper contest.