How to Survive the UK General Election 2015: A Guide for First-Time Voters

From spotting a bad bastard you shouldn't vote for, to disagreeing with your friends without falling out.

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13 April 2015, 2:45pm

(Illustration by Dan Evans)

The election is upon us, and everybody is just really bloody excited about it! Can't we prolong the fun somehow? Who hasn't loved six straight weeks of posh white men loudly lying to them?

"No," they say. "Your free healthcare system is safe." They smile and nod: "We will defo crunch down on the bankers. For deffs." They look us in the eye and say: "We totally value your opinion (But old people vote more, so we're going to fuck you on the minimum wage and help them with tax loopholes)!" And then they point to the stormy seas and say: "But what about them Europeans, though?" They squint into the distance. "They're coming over here, look, aren't they! Ready to take your jobs and your taxpayer's money! Don't they like wearing shellsuits, eh? Vote for us!"

But for many of you, because you are fragile and young, this is the first time you've voted, or at least the first time you've given a shit. Exciting, yes, but scary. You've never mattered before, have you? And now every shaved-pig-in-a-suit round your way wants to shake your hand and call you "Sir" or "Madam", and they want to "count on your vote" and they want to "assure you" that your opinion "is valuable to them". Is it? Are you? Do they? Does it matter?

Well, yes, but also quite often no. Which is why we've put together this rough guide to surviving the election without punching your parents or alienating all of your friends.

DON'T FREAK OUT IF YOU'VE NEVER VOTED

Really fucking easy to vote: you go to your polling station, a couple of people in cardigans find your name on a list and go through it with a Sharpie, then you go into a booth and use a little pencil attached to a high desk with a piece of string to draw a couple of crosses. Done. Boom.

The system is actually so simple that you have to question whether it's not fallible. Like: why does the system not trust you not to nick a pencil? Even Argos trusts you not to nick pens. Even betting shops let you have access to a pen without having a piece of string on the end of it attached to a desk. Who is counting these archaic, paper votes? How incorruptible are they? What's really stopping you from looping back in to vote a few hours later with a fake beard and doing it under someone else's name? Stop thinking this. Just deal with the fact that voting in an actual general election is less high-tech that voting on a Mirror online poll, and get on with your life.

(Photo by Jake Lewis)

DON'T BE THAT DICKHEAD WHO BOASTS ABOUT HOW THEY'LL NEVER VOTE

"Voting, is it? Talking voting, are we? I've never voted in my life!" Okay, good for you. "Because they're all cunts, aren't they, politicians? They're all like, pay us all of your money while we put fluoride in your water and start some more wars ."

Not voting is one thing – politics is a bit of a shit show right now after all – but there's something inherently smug about going on and on about it because you think you're somehow more savvy than all the other sheeple. Prattling on about not voting is the political equivalent of making sure absolutely everyone at a house night knows how you don't like house and that you wish you were at Download. It's playing a guitar at a party. It's a step away from growing dreadlocks and talking about "occupying" things without ever having occupied anything. You are essentially a novelty T-shirt that HMV discontinued so hard it became a person .

BUT ALSO DON'T BE SMUG ABOUT VOTING

You don't get a sticker for it. This isn't the dentist, and you're not six years old. Those days are gone. Your youth is gone .

(Photo by Milo Belgrove)

DON'T VOTE THE SAME AS YOUR PARENTS

General rule is your dad is either voting on the side of the bankers or the miners, and he has been doing so since the 1980s. Your mum just votes the same as your dad because it's not worth them having another fight that ends in a heart attack.

If you're voting the same way as your dad, cool: but make sure it's not for the exact same reasons. Your parents are thinking about their pension pots and whether the NHS is going to be around as they spiral ever closer towards the grave. You're thinking about the housing market and student fees. Your priorities have to be different.

DON'T TRY TO CHANGE YOUR PARENTS' MINDS

Every time you try to talk to your parents about politics – and it doesn't matter what you are saying or how well reasoned it is – all they hear when you open your mouth is, "You wiped my arse once, and now I'm going to tell you how to think." That's all they hear. "Hey Dad," you're saying. "I actually agree with you about Cameron." And all he hears is, "I was once your jizz, I was. You've spent hundreds of thousands of pounds making sure I haven't died even once over the last 20 years and I went and got a haircut that made me look like a member of the Libertines. I'm literally a bolt of your jizz that got a high-and-mighty idea about climate change." Stop torturing your parents with your opinions.

(Illustration by Dan Evans)

DON'T HAVE AN "HONEST, CARDS-ON-THE-TABLE" CONVERSATION ABOUT UKIP WITH ANYONE IN YOUR FAMILY

"Thing with Nigel," your uncle is saying, "thing with Nige: he's a man of the people." He's drinking, now, your uncle, he's tipping in your chair. "Because them Russians –" 'Romanians,' you're thinking. 'It's Romanians he irrationally hates.' "Them Romanians, right: peg-stealing cunts." And then you find yourself, stripped to the waist, about to have a car park barney with your mum's brother, and he's got the rage in his eyes like his last sober Christmas, and he's going, "Come on, then! COME ON YOU FANCY FUCK!", and your cousin's wedding is ruined. Nothing about voting UKIP makes sense, so stop trying to have sensible arguments about it.

DON'T GET SWEPT INTO EMPTY TWITTER ARGUMENTS ABOUT POLITICS

Christ, do you even know how wrong everyone is on Twitter? They are being wrong about everything at every single individual atomic moment of the day. Someone with an egg avatar and a bio that says "RYAN / 39 / EX-ARMY / LOVE ME SONS" is not going to change their mind about voting BNP because you hit them with an especially shareable .gif.

HAVE SOME IRL CONVERSATIONS, THOUGH

It is actually pretty important to talk about the election with people – friends, family members, local politicians who turn up on your doorstep with a crew of reporters hoping for a campaign-boosting chat with the youth. Because, yo: the election is a pretty important thing, and pretending it doesn't exist like some massive, blustering, rosette-wearing elephant in the room isn't going to work. Come on. Bring down the vibe at the pub while you and your mates are just trying to have a few beers today.

(Photo by Nick Pomeroy)

LEARN HOW TO GIVE A SHIT WITHOUT RUINING YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

"Wow, I'm really glad my friend earnestly told me off in the pub last night and told me I was a 'heartless fucklord who deserves to be teabagged to death' for voting Conservative. Guess it's Labour for me, now. My mind is changed forever." – nobody, ever.

You're going to disagree with a lot of your friends. This is a thing: a lot of people are going to be wrong, really loudly. If you haven't learned how to argue with your friends but still be friends after, then this is the perfect time to start. You're going to meet people who say they are Lib Dem but cannot quote a single policy of theirs. You're going to meet someone from Liverpool who is voting Labour just because they think this will annoy the Sun. A girl at a party is literally only voting based on which party leader she wants to bang more, and inexplicably that's Farage. But hearing other people's explanations for voting can shape and validate your own.

And remember, you're not going to change someone's mind. The best you can do is make people question why they are voting the way they are voting: turn their own gaze inwards, and question whether Cameron/Miliband truly is the man they want to put their X on. This is something you need to bear in mind next time you're chatting about politics: they are about as willing to listen to you as you are to them. Make sure you don't err on the side of preachy and you should be alright. And never say you're "disappointed" about how someone plans to vote. You can barely change a duvet cover without crying, mate. You're not in a position to be disappointed in anybody.

READ THE FUCKING NEWS

Listen, the news is boring: we've all seen people kicking off on Twitter about something George Galloway has said on Question Time and thought: what a shit way to spend a Thursday night . But if you're ever going to be bothered about the news, the General Election is as good a time as any. Think of it as like a current affairs-shaped gateway drug: the General Election is the weed to quantitive easing's smack.

DON'T BE SWAYED BY MEMES

Do you seriously want to vote based on a novelty Twitter account called "Ed Milibanter"? RT for yes, FAV for no.

REMEMBER TV DEBATES ARE FOR TV

TV debates are not actually hard-hitting. They're just a way for politicians to put on a harmless, vanilla face to the public, while dropping a few pre-planned lines about "family" and "hard work". "I am not evil," they are saying, with their forked lizard tongues and their hollow, fleshy heads. "I am not a high-level freemason automaton bred in a lab to bring despair. I, like, totally care about the poor." TV debates are to real debate what The Voice is to likeable talent.

A banner on a protest giving us all a sense of perspective (Photo by Henry Langston)

WORK OUT WHO YOU SHOULD VOTE FOR BASED ON SOMETHING REAL

Here are some bad reasons to vote for a politician: they seem like they are "a laugh"; their personality is bigger than their policies; they are refreshingly racist; they once tweeted their own name on Twitter; they are friends with Alex James out of Blur; they came to your school once when you were a kid and seemed nice; they do selfies on Twitter, which is so bloody youth I just don't know how to deal with it!; they once went on Radio 1 and knew who Iggy Azalea was.

Whatever way you vote – tactically, historically, based on gut feeling, based on deep-level research – just know why you are voting the way you are, and own it. You can't really own voting for someone because they looked funny suspended on a cable over some low-level Olympic event.

Would you vote for a guy who wears those trousers? (Photo by Adam Barnett)

LEARN HOW to SPOT SOMEONE YOU DEFINITELY SHOULDN'T VOTE FOR

Everyone knows how to spot an outwardly wrong 'un politician: they lick cream out of Rula Lenska's open palms on live TV, for instance, or they will shake hands with a war criminal as quickly as they'll kiss a baby on an election trail. But how do you spot an inwardly wrong politician? Because every politician under the age of 50 is a weirdly anodyne sexless robot now, aren't they – all smooth, no edges, no dark and mysterious underbelly – while every politician over 50 is just a fart with a suit on waiting patiently to die of a heart attack. Here are three pretty infallible ways of spotting a bad bastard:

They have ever been on a reality show or had a Daily Mail article about something they've done on Twitter
You want your politicians to focus on politics, and not popularity. If even one member of the Mail editorial staff wants to fuck the politician in question, do not vote for them.

They have ever claimed anything inessential
Fun fact: if you say the word "taxpayer's money" three times into a mirror, you will immediately be struck with male pattern balding and will become a fully fledged member of your local Neighbourhood Watch – that's how uncool it is to obsess about how your taxes are being spent. But when MPs claim shit like duck houses and plush kitchen refurbs on expenses, entitlement or not, you've got to admit that stinks.

Their voting record goes against your core beliefs
Go to theyworkforyou.com and check out how they've voted for gay marriage, or welfare reform, or the NHS, or student fees, or Trident, or whether or not your landlord is allowed to evict you because you complained about a broken shower. See how much of a bad bastard they are.

(Photo by Henry Langston)

DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP

Thanks to the eternal wisdom of First Past the Post voting system, your vote will probably count for nothing. At the last election, more than half of all votes were for losers. Sorry, but your opinion is – technically – actual garbage. The guy you didn't vote for will become your MP and you don't get a consolation prize. And chances are the winner will be some thin-necked Eton kid who looks like he'd get the shit beaten out of him at your school, parachuted in from party head office having previously only experienced your community by looking at it through the window of a delayed train.

They're probably not ever going to do some of those things they said they promised they would on the election trail, is the thing, because once they've won your vote, their rich, lobbyist mates become the main priority, and their main policy becomes "generally dicking the poor over". If you prepare for this eventuality now, the whole process of becoming a grizzled cynic will be a whole lot smoother.

(Photo by Adam Barnett)

WORK OUT WHAT'S IMPORTANT

Ed Miliband's a funny-looking dork, isn't he! An Aardman character melted under a lamp and force-fed a bacon sandwich! David Cameron's head looks like he was on a drug trial gone awry and now he's doing a solemn interview with the Mirror about how his temples swelled up to the size of grapefruits! Nick Clegg looks like a divorced dad who can't think about his kids growing up without crying!

Which: yes, hilarious, all very hilarious. We all love a bloody good lol. But the country... the country is quite fucked at the moment. A staggeringly unequal country where the rich get all pernickety about which tax avoidance schemes are legit while the thousands of workers wonder if they'll get any hours from their zero hours job this week; where gated towers are built in lieu of social housing, and the rich are demarcated from the slightly-less-rich by poor doors; a United Kingdom where nearly half the people in the northern bit would really rather not be united at all any more; a country where there seems to have been a truly revolting number of paedophile scandals recently, some of them somehow overlooked by elected politicians. Hold on, someone's remixed Nigel Farage so it looks like he's singing "Ignition"? Shared and liked, my dude! Shared AND liked!

(Photo by Chris Bethell)

DEPLOY THESE USEFUL PHRASES AT OPPORTUNE MOMENTS

Sometimes you will find yourself having an argument about politics that you can't win, because the person you are arguing with actually knows how the economy works and what an interest rate is. If you find yourself backed into this not uncommon corner, drop one of these bad boys and flip them onto the mat:

"This really is the end of two-party politics."
The beauty of this election is that nobody knows what's going to happen, with any number of potential fudged coalitions that nobody really wanted a potential outcome. In the tactical minefield that is UK politics, reiterating this obvious fact will give politicos the gentle nudge they need to engage in such wild fits of speculation (come on, a Conservative-Labour coalition isn't going to happen, guys) ( But what if it did?) that they'll look stupid and you can just sit back and be the least ridiculous person in the conversation.

"Of course, what they're saying is bullshit. But whose bullshit smells best?"
Everyone's going to be going on about how you can't trust politicians to keep promises, but the realisation of something that has been the case since Nero promised not to waste all his time on violin lessons does not somehow make you a political Machiavelli to rival Francis Underwood. Show that this is passé to you: You already know that in the harsh light of real politik they're not going to deliver on half their manifesto and have factored this into your calculations already.

"Yes, but I read somewhere..."
If you're ever losing an argument, just say this, then say what you were going to say anyway. Nobody you know is a Wikipedia editor. Nobody is going to say "citation needed". Nobody will investigate your lie .

Some people doing some politics outside election time (Photo by Henry Langston)

DON'T LET THIS BE THE LAST POLITICAL THING YOU DO BETWEEN NOW AND 2020

You've got up early and gone to a church hall and marked your opinion with a tick and set your Facebook status to "hoping... x": cool. But today shouldn't be the last time you give a shit between now and the year 2020. Like: you know those protests people go on? A lot of them are just an excuse to take an afternoon off work and wear an Anonymous mask, but quite often they are people's reaction to political goings on. There's politics happening, like, pretty much all the time, and if you care about it between now and May then you should care about it afterwards, too. I'm not saying, "Buy a suit, put up a deposit, print off a load of rosettes and run for council yourself": you're not a nerd on a power trip. But maybe read the politics stories now and again instead of just skimming over them. Work out why you don't like Nigel Farage, and not just because he looks like a headmaster who has a room in his house that eventually the police use a riot squad to get into. Keep a check on your new overlords. Give a little bit more of a shit.

@joelgolby / @Dan_Draws

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