When the news came that there was to be a general election like many I was pretty cynical and imagined that the election was to quote the famous US example a contest of which pile of shit was least smelly. By the end of the campaign I have found myself actively campaigning for the Lib Dems.
It's tempting to put this down to the "I agree with Nick" Cleggmania generated by the first UK television electoral debates and that has helped the mood but that is certainly not the whole story.
Firstly I took a look at the manifestos, take a look yourself at the Lib Dem Manifesto. When I read through it I found in key areas that I did indeed agree with Nick. However that again isn't the whole story for worthy sounding policies are useless if the party concerned have no real chance of power.
What has really become clear in this election is that the UK's current political system cannot and must not go on the way it has. We cannot go on with an electoral system that allows one party all of the control with barely over a third the poplar vote.
The solution is a fairer electoral system and a vote for the Liberal Democrats not only represents the best chance in a generation of delivering that but sends a very clear message about how unfair the electoral system is. On current polls it looks like Labour and the Lib Dems will practically tie for votes but that Labour will get nearly three times as many seats.
In the last two weeks we have heard increasingly desperate cries from both Labour and the Tories about how dangerous a "hung parliament" (or balanced parliament in less pejorative language) would be for the UK. There would be a run on sterling, the country would be weak, shares would crash (no really - of course this never happens under "strong" single party government) lots of bad things would happen. In no other area of life is it seen as a virtue for a minority to force their views over the rest, at work and at play we work together and try and govern by consensus and by agreement - or argument if needs be, so why not at Westminster?
The Conservatives advance the "big society" as their big idea this election but it looks more like a smokescreen for cuts to public services. They claim these cuts will spare "front line" services but can we trust a party who when last in power left a country with disintegrating pubic services from railways to schools with holes in the roof? There need to be cuts to public spending that much is clear but the Conservative party cannot be trusted to deliver them. Their policies on schools show their true colours. At a time when what is needed is an assurance that school budgets will be protected they are offering to set up new "free schools" to take money away from existing local schools. We simply cannot afford to do this even if it was a good idea and the fact that they are proposing them shows that they are putting ideology before service delivery.
In my adult life I have lived through two periods of "strong" government by first the Tories and then Labour. Neither was satisfactory, both did some good but ultimately failed. Do we really want to perpetuate this ping-pong taking turns government or do we, in 2010, deserve a more grown up government? In most areas a vote for the Lib Dems is in my view the best way to achieve this but for some in areas where the contest is just between Labour and the Conservatives then a vote for Labour would be a better choice.
The Lib Dems offer to protect public services, putting more money into education to help us compete as we come out of the credit crunch but they also offer to roll back the constant interference of the state in all areas of life and the erosion of civil liberties that we have seen year on year. No other party offers to do this, the Conservatives just offer a big state of a different colour - even wanting to throw out the Human Rights Act which has fast become the only protection of liberty in this country. A vote for the Lib Dems rather than the Conservatives is a vote that recognises that the state is not the only solution to every problem.