The past couple of years has changed the scene of politics. 2016 bought the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA and the resignation of former Prime Minister David Cameron following the referendum result, leading to Theresa May as the new PM. A general election has been called which, while spontaneous, gives the general population a chance to change the course of politics, or continue with a Conservative government. This election is all the more significant, considering the changes of the past few years. So why vote?
- IT GIVES YOU A STAKE IN THE GOVERNMENT’S PLATFORM: Young people, for example are significantly underrepresented as many choose not to vote or engage with political issues that will directly affect us as we grow older. By voting in mass numbers, you can become a cohesive group that parties are forced to be responsive towards and include in their manifestos. Many people complain of feeling disengaged with politics and see no point in voting yet so few are willing to re-engage and challenge the status quo. Politicians are there to serve the people, and be held to account – one vote contributes to that. A higher turnout gives the government a larger mandate to govern which is true democracy.
- VOTING MUSTN’T BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED: In liberal democracies, it’s all too easy to be used to having the privilege of voting once you turn 18 and so . But you have to remember that marginalised and minority groups across the world have fought for this right, from the Suffragettes to the Civil Rights Movement, and so to vote is to carry their legacy forward of universal suffrage. In many countries in the world, including acclaimed democracies, the rigging and corruption of elections is not uncommon. Registering to vote and casting your ballot is so simple and easy yet so many don’t.
- YOU CAN VOTE IN DIFFERENT WAYS: A common reason people give for not voting is because they either don’t know who to vote for, they feel too disillusioned from the party’s manifestos or see the voting system as simply wasting their vote. You don’t have to cast a firm ballot – you can protest vote by simply handing in a spoilt ballot. That way, you haven’t voted for any of the candidate but will be counted in the statistics of spoilt ballots, rather than be counted in the percentage of those who simply didn’t vote. This can send a clear message of discontent to political parties on issues such as electoral reform. You can even vote tactically by forming part of a voting bloc to vote out your least favoured party/candidate by voting for the most popular opposition. You can also vote by post if you cannot make it to your polling station.
Be sure to register by the 22nd May here: htww.gov.uk/register-to-votetps://w, and use your political power.
So Theresa May has done a U-turn and called for a general election to apparently give stable leadership to the Brexit negotiations. While I personally favour a softer Brexit and welcome an opportunity for people to decide on the Brexit they want seeing as there is a divide between a soft or hard brexit, it can’t be forgotten that the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to allow the PM to go ahead with the negotiations and trigger article 50 and Theresa May has consistently stated that she wouldn’t call an election precisely for ‘stability’, so it does seem more motive driven.
Many MP’s believe it is a distraction from the Tories recent election scandal in which they have been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to declare expenses used to re-elect MP’s in the 2015 elections. Some Conservative MP’s have decided not to contest their seats this time round. An election therefore seems appropriate for the Conservatives to act as not only a distraction, but also a means of confirming their mandate in light of the investigation, all acting under the guise of ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Let’s face it, while Brexit is the major factor being played out in regards to how many will be voting, it is not the only issue on the card. Domestic policy such as education, the health sector and the economy are causes of concern which people must not forget. Ironically, many who voted for a Tory government are now suffering in regards to
cuts to school funding, the NHS funding crisis, cuts to the disabled and increase in the use of foodbanks. The rich are getting richer. The poor are getting continuously poorer.
There is more to Britain’s future than Brexit. While Labour more recently have appeared to dance around Theresa May’s hard brexit, with Corbyn allowing for a three line whip to ensure the triggering of article 50 without full scrutiny, the bigger picture must be looked at and a Labour government is the only realistic alternative. While it likely that the Conservative’s will retain their majority, a shift in voting behaviour would send a clear message of holding the government to account. By all means vote Tory but don’t forget the bigger issues at hand.
Young people especially – politically educate yourself. Use your vote. 18-25 year olds have a low voting turnout and therefore do not form a major stake in policy. We must over time become a mass voting bloc. We won’t all share the same views, but will all bear the weight and policies of the next government. Vote Labour in Labour strongholds, or Lib Dem in Lib Dem strongholds. Protest votes in discontent of both the Conservative and Labour party will maintain the status quo of your constituency. They would however be useful to show discontent for a particular candidate. For example, in the Leicester East constituency, Keith Vaz is increasingly unpopular as many constituents now feel disconnected and feel the seat has been taken advantage of, though do want to vote for the Labour party, hence the continuous majority. I’d vote Labour if there was a replacement of candidate but would instead vote Liberal Democrat here. However, this only works if there is a united voting bloc, as it is a Labour stronghold. So vote cautiously. Though if Brexit is your main concern, bear in mind that the Lib Dems are the only ones offering a softer approach to Brexit.
Stay politically aware and use your vote wisely. Think ahead as opposed to being swayed by a single issue.
Happy voting! DON’T FORGET TO REGISTER TO VOTE BY 22ND MAY if you haven’t already done so: (5 mins) – https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote