If I stopped you in the street and asked you what you think of politicians, chances are you’d give me one or all of these replies: “They’re all the same”. “They’re only in it for themselves.” “They don’t represent people like me”. “What do they know about my life?” “They’re all lying, thieving scumbags”. And one in three of you would march away proclaiming “I don’t vote”, as if it was something to be proud of. That’s how bad things have got.

In all likelihood half of you reading this article won’t be bothered to get off your pert little arses and go down to the polling station on 7th May. And yet you are happy to take part in votes to decide who wins the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. This just goes to show what a challenge politicians have in encouraging the population in general, let alone the gay bit of it, to take part in what ought to be the biggest celebration of democracy ever.

If you were a gay Hungarian, you’d turnout in your hundreds of thousands to vote against the Jobbik Party which wants to criminalise homosexual behaviour. If you were a gay American you’d probably turn out to vote in state referendums asking you whether you were in favour of gay marriage. Yet in this country, on the face of it, most gay equality battles are won. Yes, there are many concerns about gay bashing, about bullying of homosexual kids in schools and discrimination at work, but none of these issues are going to get gay activists protesting the on streets and telling politicians that they won’t vote for them unless there is ‘action this day’! But just because battles over age of consent, adoption rules and marriage have largely been won, that doesn’t give the gay voter the excuse he or she may need to sit on his or backside and not take a trip down to the polling station on 7th May.

The fact is most gay men and women vote in exactly the same way as the rest of the population and this is a mark of the equality that has been won over the last forty years or so. All three traditional political parties can lay claim to promoting enacting various bits of equality legislation that has improved the lot of gay people. In this election, though, we have more than just the three main political parties to choose to vote for. In Scotland, the SNP is tipped to sweep the board. In England and Wales Nigel Farage’s UKIP will win some seats and influence the outcome in the others, while the Greens think they can do the latter, if not the former.

UKIP’s LGBT chair Tom resigned at the end of February complaining of a lack of a ‘gay friendly’ tone at the top of the party. It’s fair to say that UKIP haven’t made a huge effort to understand gay issues, although I remember Nigel Farage ringing me up with the equal marriage bill was first mooted to ask what I thought UKIP’s stance should be. I’m sorry to say he didn’t take my advice, although I think Farage’s own personal view is rather more libertarian than that of some of his more recidivist colleagues. We should also remember that UKIP have an openly gay MEP (David Coburn in Scotland) invited Kelly Maloney to address their spring conference at the end of February to explain transgender issues to their members, and she received a standing ovation. I haven’t seen that happen at any of the other party conferences. Perhaps as well as certain UKIP supporters needing to reassess their own prejudices regarding gay people, we also need to look beyond some our prejudices regarding UKIP.

Courting the so-called ‘gay vote’, if there is such a thing, could well mean the difference between winning and losing in some marginal constituencies. But political candidates shouldn’t patronise us by treating us as a special interest group. Just like straight people, we have mortgages, we use the health service, we pay the same taxes, we have views on Europe.
In this most unpredictable of elections, your vote really could make the difference as to who forms a government the next day. So make sure you get off your pert little/big fat arse, and put the X exactly where you want to.

This article first appeared in the April issue of Attitude Magazine