I can't vote for Brian Paddick twice

So where should my second-preference vote go?

I love the ceremony of voting. I like the stroll down Lock Road to the polling station, the good natured hello’s to the party folk, friend and foe, at the door, the hushed librarian tones of the officials, the crispness of the blank ballot papers, the stubby pencils, the lot.

But I will enjoy it less than usual this time. Because I don’t know, with a day to go, who to vote for.

Don’t get me wrong. I will be voting Lib Dem. I shall happily support our local GLA candidate Munira Wilson, confident she will do a wonderful job. I will cross fingers as I vote Lib Dem in the party lists, hoping this time our local leader, Stephen Knight, gets over the line, as well as the inspirational Caroline Pidgeon. And I will happily put a great big cross against Brian Paddick’s name, who has run a brilliant campaign and shown a better grasp of core issues like housing or policing than any of the other candidates.

But at that point the misery kicks in. Because in the London Mayoral election I have the chance to express a second preference, on the off chance Brian doesn’t make it over the line. And for me and all Lib Dems, it’s a rotten choice.

Lots of fellow party members have been making warm noises about the independent candidate Siobhan Benita – but she’s pro-third runway, which is a red line issue for me and the good folk of Ham Common. The UK Independence Party are anti-third runway (it’s one of the reasons I’ve been tipping Zac Goldsmith as a potential Tory defector in their direction – been a couple of weeks now, he’s still not denying it). However , ‘no-third-runway’ is just about the only policy I have in common with Ukip, so they’re a no. When I answer blind policy questions to tell me who to vote for, I find I have much in common with the Green Party. But I’m voting for a Mayor, and do I want Jenny Jones to be the leader of this great city? Sorry Jenny, but no, I don’t. And anyway, everyone tells me that if a second preference is to count, I have to select either Ken or Boris.

My problem with Boris is not that he isn’t a likeable character – but I struggle to think of what he’s done. There’s the bikes – but that wasn’t his idea in the first place. There’s the new buses. Which look lovely but don’t seem to have been the most brilliant way of spending gazillions of pounds.  And that’s pretty much it. After 4 years I have no sense of radicalism, of excitement, of a crusade to make Londoners lives better.

Which to be fair to Ken, I do have.  But can I really vote for a candidate who is clearly making all sorts of promises that I just don’t believe he can keep – like the return of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). And who half of his own party wishes they hadn’t selected  (and no, I don’t just mean Dan Hodges).

So, a loveable rogue who doesn’t inspire me or the candidate Labour wishes they hadn’t chosen in the first place.

It’s not much of a choice is it? And this is to elect a politician with the largest electoral mandate in the country?

I shall probably find myself banging my head in frustration on the table on the voting booth.

I wish I could vote for Brian Paddick twice.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference.

Labour Party mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone jokingly holds a T-shirt in front of current Mayor Boris Johnson as they pose with Greencandidate Jenny Jones and Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick. Photograph: Getty Images.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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The Tinder dating app isn't just about sex – it's about friendship, too. And sex

The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, as I found out quickly while using the app.

The first time I met someone using Tinder, the free dating app that requires users to swipe left for “no” and right for “yes” before enabling new “matches” to chat, it was an unqualified success. I should probably qualify that. I was newly single after five years in a committed relationship and wasn’t looking for anything more than fun, friendship and, well, who knows. A few weeks earlier I had tried to give my number to a girl in a cinema café in Brixton. I wrote it on a postcard I’d been using as a bookmark. She said she had a boyfriend, but wanted to keep the postcard. I had no date and I lost my page.

My Tinder date was a master’s student from Valencia called Anna (her name wasn’t really Anna, of course, I’m not a sociopath). When I arrived at the appointed meeting place, she told me I was far more handsome IRL (“in real life”) than my pictures suggested. I was flattered and full of praise for the directness of continental Europeans but also thought sadly to myself: “If only the same could be said about you.”

Anna and I became friends, at least for a while. The date wasn’t a success in the traditional sense of leading us into a contract based on exclusivity, an accumulating cache of resentments and a mortgage, but it had put me back in the game (an appropriate metaphor – people speak regularly of “playing” with the app).

According to Sean Rad, the co-founder who launched Tinder in late 2012, the service was invented for people like me. “It was really a way to overcome my own problems,” he told the editor of Cosmopolitan at an event in London last month. “It was weird to me, to start a conversation [with a stranger]. Once I had an introduction I was fine, but it’s that first step. It’s difficult for a lot of people.” After just one outing, I’d learned two fundamental lessons about the world of online dating: pretty much everyone has at least one decent picture of themselves, and meeting women using a so-called hook-up app is seldom straightforwardly about sex.

Although sometimes it is. My second Tinder date took place in Vienna. I met Louisa (ditto, name) outside some notable church or other one evening while visiting on holiday (Tinder tourism being, in my view, a far more compelling way to get to know a place than a cumbersome Lonely Planet guide). We drank cocktails by the Danube and rambled across the city before making the romantic decision to stay awake all night, as she had to leave early the next day to go hiking with friends. It was just like the Richard Linklater movie Before Sunrise – something I said out loud more than a few times as the Aperol Spritzes took their toll.

When we met up in London a few months later, Louisa and I decided to skip the second part of Linklater’s beautiful triptych and fast-track our relationship straight to the third, Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after the protagonists’ first meet in Vienna, and have begun to discover that they hate each others’ guts.

Which is one of the many hazards of the swiping life: unlike with older, web-based platforms such as Match.com or OkCupid, which require a substantial written profile, Tinder users know relatively little about their prospective mates. All that’s necessary is a Facebook account and a single photograph. University, occupation, a short bio and mutual Facebook “likes” are optional (my bio is made up entirely of emojis: the pizza slice, the dancing lady, the stack of books).

Worse still, you will see people you know on Tinder – that includes colleagues, neighbours and exes – and they will see you. Far more people swipe out of boredom or curiosity than are ever likely to want to meet up, in part because swiping is so brain-corrosively addictive.

While the company is cagey about its user data, we know that Tinder has been downloaded over 100 million times and has produced upwards of 11 billion matches – though the number of people who have made contact will be far lower. It may sound like a lot but the Tinder user-base remains stuck at around the 50 million mark: a self-selecting coterie of mainly urban, reasonably affluent, generally white men and women, mostly aged between 18 and 34.

A new generation of apps – such as Hey! Vina and Skout – is seeking to capitalise on Tinder’s reputation as a portal for sleaze, a charge Sean Rad was keen to deny at the London event. Tinder is working on a new iteration, Tinder Social, for groups of friends who want to hang out with other groups on a night out, rather than dating. This makes sense for a relatively fresh business determined to keep on growing: more people are in relationships than out of them, after all.

After two years of using Tinder, off and on, last weekend I deleted the app. I had been visiting a friend in Sweden, and took it pretty badly when a Tinder date invited me to a terrible nightclub, only to take a few looks at me and bolt without even bothering to fabricate an excuse. But on the plane back to London the next day, a strange thing happened. Before takeoff, the woman sitting beside me started crying. I assumed something bad had happened but she explained that she was terrified of flying. Almost as terrified, it turned out, as I am. We wound up holding hands through a horrific patch of mid-air turbulence, exchanged anecdotes to distract ourselves and even, when we were safely in sight of the ground, a kiss.

She’s in my phone, but as a contact on Facebook rather than an avatar on a dating app. I’ll probably never see her again but who knows. People connect in strange new ways all the time. The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, but you can be sure that if you look closely at the lines, you’ll almost certainly notice the pixels.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad