Please don't splutter until you've heard me out.
In the first place, my vote had no chance of making any difference between 1984, when I came here, and 2010. Local demographics made this a rock-solid safe seat for Labour.
My first MP here was Roy Hattersley, and because it was safe, he made no local effort that I noticed. The only time I even heard his voice was in 1997 when he got his peerage and cruised the neighbourhood in a Tannoy car saying, in effect, "So long, and thanks for all the fish". Doubtless he did good work for his Party, possibly for the country, but I couldn't say he "represented" me.
He was succeeded by Labour's Roger Godsiff, who moved over when the then-safe Small Heath constituency was abolished. Again, he could count on most people's vote here, if not mine. So he stood and won in 1997, 2001 and 2005. In the latter year, he got a scare when George Galloway's Respect Party ran a fairly close second, and moved over to neighbouring Hall Green for GE 2010 when the boundaries were again redrawn. The Respect candidate pursued him but failed by a wider margin than before, and he's been comfortably returned a couple of times since.
Had I voted for Labour, I'd have got Labour; had I voted against Labour, I'd have got Labour.
What I actually did, in '97 and '05, was vote UKIP. For me it's always been about sovereignty, but of course if you are on Facebook you'll know that Ukippers are... [fill in long list of slurs]. Social media make me doubt the wisdom of a democratic system, to the extent that we have one [as Winston Churchill said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."]
2001 was different: by then I was convinced that Tony Blair was dangerously mad, so I voted Conservative for the first time in my life - merely to send the tiniest squeak of a message, and I'm sure it went entirely unnoticed.
The reorganisation of constituencies for GE 2010 set the cat among the pigeons. For the first time ever, I had candidates doorstepping me. Only two - Labour and Liberal Democrat, but that's two more than in the previous 26 years. The Labour fellow was clearly not the sharpest knife in the box and when he asked me about key issues and I said Europe, he tried to tell me that we had voted to join the EU in 1975. When I corrected him (we had voted to remain in the EEC) his female minder smirked at her pet's ignorance.
The LibDem asked the same question, got the same answer and his expression changed - oh dear, I was one of those. [Later, when he was my MP, he replied to one of my emails to assert that Parliament was indeed sovereign. I still don't know whether he actually believed that.] In any case, UKIP got my worthless vote yet again.
During this fellow's tenure, I spent some 18 months trying to get him to ask a question at Prime Minister's Question Time. Now like Dicken's Mrs Jellyby, he was full of enthusiasm for all sorts of worthy liberal causes, but a one-minute question? No. Perhaps it was the fact that I wanted to ask when the Government was going to make inflation-proofed savings certificates available again, having withdrawn them as almost the first act of the Conservative-LibDem Coalition; the question would have been a potentially embarrassing litmus test of the Government's attitude to small savers and its commitment to contain inflation. So instead I got two Treasury Minister letters, both of them full of irrelevant waffle.
So much for representing me.
2015: UKIP for me again, but Labour regained the seat, probably as the electorate turned away from the LibDems in disgust at their complicity in the Conservatives' locally unpopular policies.
But what I got this time was a feisty local lass who actually polled her constituents before this year's GE to get their views on Brexit and the Single Market (actually four markets, all more or less damaging to our interests, but that's another story) - and reported back.
Imagine: an MP who makes an effort! [And one who told Diane Abbott to eff off, and when asked what the latter's response had been, said... she'd effed off.]
So I voted for her, this time.
Now she's also not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn (see last link), though even Peter Hitchens can understand why people might have turned to JC despite the increasingly hysterical Press campaign against him:
"It struck me as I watched him that he was far more dangerous than the Tories thought he was. His absolute courtesy and refusal to make personal attacks appealed to many in my generation who remember a different and in some ways better Britain.
"His realisation that George Osborne’s supposed economic miracle was a sham, and that many have lost hope of getting steady, well-paid jobs or secure homes, appealed to the young. He may not have any actual answers to these questions, but he at least knew they were being asked. His absolute opposition to the repeated stupid wars of recent years also has a wide appeal, in many cases to conservative-minded people and Service families sick of the waste of good lives."
Too right, especially on the last. [And as for the terrorists' friend stuff - who brokered the Good Friday Agreement? Not Jezza.] If this has buried New Labour, well and good. Blair and his Goebbels (1) threw away a golden, once in a generation opportunity to reshape our economy in 1997, preferring instead to start fighting the next election the day after the last one. All hail bankers, Russian mobsters and White Van Man. And personally, they did so well for themselves out of doing good for others, did they not?
I've decided that flawed as democracy may be - and more than it need be, seeing the 2011 collusion between the two major parties to prevent electoral reform - we ought to make the most of it. First, by asserting our sovereignty in the face of the empire-building Eurocracy; and then, by choosing politicians who take an interest in their own constituents.
When you vote in a General Election...
- you don't decide the Party leader - we saw that most recently with Gordon Brown and Theresa May
- you don't decide on a legally binding manifesto - Mrs May is even now gutting hers in the light of the election results
- you're merely one of some 70,000 registered voters in any case (2)
- and thanks to the rejection of any form of proportionate or transferable vote, you can't even express a partial approval of a second choice from the list
Perhaps Britain's problems are now insoluble by anyone, but for now, I shall reward with my wretched little votette the candidate who tries hardest to listen.
To quote the great man again: 'Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.'
(1) Truly a nasty character:
"Alastair Campbell, himself a former journalist for the Daily Mirror and Today, earned a reputation as a fearsome handler of the Press when he became Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman. As a poacher-turned-gamekeeper, he knows the tricks of the journalists' trade, but his communication sources also yield him plenty of ammunition to keep the scribblers' heads down when he wants to; and the threat to Marr, via Campbell's blog, came swiftly:
""It was sad to see Marr, perhaps with an eye to a few Monday morning cuttings, feel that he had to raise blogosphere rumours about Gordon going blind, or being on heavy medication of some sort. I know it will give him the passing satisfaction of pats on the back from journos … But it was low stuff. I'm sure Andrew would agree that everyone has certain areas of their life that they'd prefer not to be asked about live on TV."
"That's how it works, and that's why people in Mr Marr's position need to tell the truth and shame the devil, for otherwise the devil will know how to build on the weakness."
(2) Though I note with unholy joy the upset in Kensington as a quango queen with a misplaced sense of entitlement lost her seat by 200 votes. "The only mention of Lady Borwick that crept into my Facebook feed during the weeks before the vote related to her campaigns in defence of the antique trade," says Josie Cox in today's The Independent.