Which party deserves my vote?

It’s the afternoon after the night before. Paxman attacked Cameron on policy, Miliband on personality (that “Are you alright, Ed?” jibe on camera was beneath Paxo, though Ed’s riposte “Yeah, are you, Jeremy?” gave it the contempt it deserved). And Kay Burley? The Twitterverse has said enough about her partiality.

But are we any clearer about which party deserves our vote from this exercise? #davcam appeared shiftier and less prepared than one might have expected the former Carlton TV spindoctor to have been; #twokitchens baconsarnie was feistier than many predicted. And both leaders – the only realistic prospect of Prime Ministers of minority governments in our brave new, multi-party world – admitted that their most recent attempts to control immigration weren’t exactly covered in glory.

I blogged recently about the “Fresh threat of Newspeak” as the General Election verbiage piles up, picking up George Orwell’s 1946 rallying cry to strive for conscious competence in every sentence we craft. Last night’s performances didn’t fill me with too much confidence that either Ed (or particularly Dave) or their flunkies have yet familiarised themselves with my urging them to speak human. Far too many “hardworking families” last night for my liking …

So – I repeat – are we any clearer about whom to vote for? And I speak as a (early) middle-aged veteran of six general elections, a conviction voter who’s been tactical for the past three. Trying to put myself into the shoes of a first-time voter, of a disengaged generation which believes that all politicians are the same, self-serving breed without (in Farage’s phraseology) “a cigarette paper between them” on policy … I think I might vote like 60+ per cent of my peers who opt out. And choose no-one. Indeed, latest polling shows 44 per cent of voters are as-yet undecided; almost half of Britons are “Don’t knows”.

It’s this very apolitical apathy meets party political puzzlement that a new online tool aims to banish once and for all. Yesterday, I attended the launch of Vote Match, a party-neutral app that asks you your views on 20 key topics in nine subject areas and matches you with the party whose views best mirror your own. Topics range from education to the economy, the NHS & health to the environment.

Vote Match has been smart.

Selecting topics, Vote Match style
Selecting topics, Vote Match style

Smart in the coalition of the willing and able it built to create the platform – from hacks to politicos, from app-builders to psephologists.

Smart in the way that it got all parties (with the exception of the irrelevant BNP, who wouldn’t respond) to answer clearly all 20 questions with Agree/Don’t Mind/Disagree responses, plus relative degrees of importance for Agree/Disagree questions (Very Important/Somewhat/Not at all).

Smart in the way that it’s partnering with media outlets, starting with the Telegraph, to get the disenchanted and confused to engage with the political process and vote if they can understand which party is clearly for them.

Smart in the way that they’ve done the reading of the manifestos for us. I only ever read manifestos before the 1997 election. Never again. Boy, could they do with the services of a corporate and brand storyteller.

And smart and ever-so-modern in the way that they raised the £10K financing needed for their smart app via Crowdshed. In the interests of accountability and to deflect accusations of puffery, I must declare on the register of members’ interests that I was indeed one of those funders.

Answering questions, Vote Match style
Answering questions, Vote Match style

Web 3.0 social life is great. Shazam to help you identify that elusive piece of music. LinkedIn to identify your perfect next hire without the recruitment consultancy fees. And Vote Match to determine which party deserves your vote and why.

Vote Match’s Minister Without Portfolio, Tim Johns, and his team have created something truly remarkable. Their (admittedly ambitious) target is three-to-five million downloads and uses in the coming 43 days, and the web-based version got 1.2m in 2010. And if just – what? – 10% of those targeted go on to vote in an informed and engaged way, Vote Match will have had an amazingly positive impact on participatory democracy.

I commend Vote Match to the House.