General Election 2015: Grace Dent's guide to your ballot box options on 7 May

From Tory cutbacks to the Greens' radical and raucous proposals...

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Indy Politics

David Cameron, Conservative

Votewise, David Cameron is, quite literally, the devil you know. Gone are the days of the Conservative clan repositioning itself fragrantly as the ‘Not nasty any more Party’. No, the Tories have a strident plan to eradicate our embarrassing deficit by 2016, and yes, some less hardy souls may literally die of Leukemia shortly after Maximus have billed them fit for work, and OK, fine, record numbers of UK citizens are surviving on food bank hand-outs of Lidl spaghetti hoops, but, look, we’re cutting back.

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The devil you know: David Cameron has a strident plan to eradicate our embarrassing deficit by 2016 (© Seth Watkins)

In other areas, the Tories are – as per usual – the party which says yes to pulling up one’s socks, buckling down and keeping upper lips stiff. Immigrants: find a job within six months or be hurled back from whence you came. Children: we’re going to war on literacy and numeracy. GPs to work seven says a week by 2020 and Help to Buy Isas for good little diligent savers.

If all this isn’t steely enough, if re-elected for a third term, Cameron has already warned he’ll move aside, making room for Theresa May, George Osborne or Boris Johnson to take power. So that’s a Home Secretary who has offended the entire Police Federation, a Chancellor so unpopular he was booed off an Olympics podium and the Mayor of London, whose most famous political moment was being dangled from a zip wire. The Tories, man, they don’t give a f***.

Ed Miliband, Labour

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Ed Miliband's pre-election pledges form an irresistible-sounding utopia (© Seth Watkins)

There's only really one thing to do when facing an election armed with a leader as charismatic as a mildewed shower curtain and a party which even hardline socialists recoil from: promise the goddam earth. The Labour Party’s many, many pre-election pledges form an irresistible-sounding utopia. Frozen energy prizes, capped rents, no more rail fare increases, increased free childcare, all patients to see their GP within 48 hours! Wow, this is incredible! We thought there was a recession on. Why has that Chancellor dude been being so mean for the past four years?

Labour will fund this bright future by a 50p tax for everyone earning over £150k, a mansion tax for anyone with a home worth more than £2m and, OK, the rest is unclear. But who wouldn’t want to live in a country where all children are given ‘relationship classes’, all health and social care is integrated into ‘whole person care’ and local residents can decide the police’s crime fighting priorities. It’s almost as if they’re making this stuff up on the hoof.

Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrats

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Bold ideas: There's a strong sense of too little, too late with Nick Clegg's election schtick (© Seth Watkins)

Before the Lib Dems seemingly inevitable return to the political wilderness, it’s worth perusing the bold, sensitive ideas that Clegg and co promise. Fast-track treatments for young patients experiencing psychosis, the end of prison sentences for personal drug possession and English language classes in return for Jobseeker’s Allowance? “Hang on, I agree with Nick!” one might be tempted to yell, again. And what about votes for 16-year-olds and five new garden cities along a train line linking Oxford and Cambridge? Who doesn’t love the sound of a garden city?

But it’s not all hearts and flowers. It’s worth remembering that the Lib Dems invented the mansion tax with which Labour are now tormenting Myleene Klass, and likewise, make no bones about plans to withdraw several freebies from wealthier pensioners, too.

But there’s a strong sense of too little, too late with the Lib Dem’s election schtick. It’s a cold day in Westminster when ‘reduced bus fares for under 21s’ becomes anyone’s political hot potato.

Nigel Farage, UKIP

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Nigel Farage's policies are either clear-headed patriotic sense, or terrifying starter-level Nazi bile (© Seth Watkins)

Farage, truly, is the ‘man in the pub’. Yes, it might be the pub with a tattered England flag in the window, where the lager pipes were last cleaned during the Falklands conflict, but that’s where Farage has his own tankard. Nigel would whip us out of Europe away from those fat cats quicker than you can say Branston Pickle. He’d spend the £8bn membership fee on the NHS and give more power to matrons. Bad news for fatties hoping for a gastric band. Nigel’s not happy about your drain on the resources, either.

UKIP’s policies, depending on your vantage, are either clear-headed patriotic sense, or terrifying starter-level Nazi bile. He wants an Australian-style point system for immigration, laws relaxed on British workers being offered the first chance at jobs, plus stiffer language tests for newbies. Farage’s USP is he’s the bloke saying the things that other blokes dare not say. Nigel’s biggest problem is his party which is full of ‘blokes and women saying things that wild-eyed racists and pub thugs say’.

Natalie Bennett, Green

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Radical and raucous: Natalie Bennett is confident the UK would adapt to the chilled-out, kibbutz lifestyle (© Seth Watkins)

No longer merely the party of ‘recycling bores too timid to spoil their ballot paper’, today’s Greens are the serious party for radical and raucous change. Decriminalise sex workers! Free the weed! Terror suspects? Give them more rights! Scrap the £26,000 benefit cap and give everyone £72 per week funded by ‘the better-off’.

The Green Party’s manifesto is a collection of statements a 17-year-old might shout at the Christmas dinner table, following three glasses of Blossom Hill Zinfandel, shortly before Uncle Rupert had the minor cardiac incident.

Nevertheless, Green leader Natalie Bennett – an Australian who has lived here since 1999 – is confident the UK would adapt to the chilled-out, kibbutz lifestyle. Vote Green for a Britain without fossil fuel! In your face Jeremy Clarkson. A land where every young scamp has a free university education and our arms are open to Syria’s refugees. A country where the great days of British Rail live again. The Green’s vision for Britain is a sort of steampunk-themed dystopian commune, where citizens drive methane-fuelled Vauxhall Rascals and everyone stops their capitalist toil at 11am daily for laughter yoga. It’s all a bit day-three-at-Glastonbury’s-Green-Fields and for that reason alone, Bennett is worth a punt.

How to vote

By Oliver Wright, Whitehall editor, The Independent

Vote local

Who is the most capable candidate putting themselves up to represent you? Do your research, find out where local hustings are taking place so you can listen to the candidates and question them. Then cast your ballot on the basis of the individual who you think will best look after the interests of your local area, regardless of their party.  

Vote tactical

Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system means that your vote may not count unless you use it tactically. Some parties have very little chance of winning in some seats – so decide which party you really don’t want to win and then vote for the person most likely to stop them.  

Vote principle

Vote for the party which you most believe in, regardless of their chances of winning. If you support the Greens, for example, you may not end up with a Green MP, but you will be registering your beliefs and you’ll leave the polling station with a clean conscience.

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