This article has been written by my friend Sophie who blogs at Raising Revolutionaries.
Have you decided how you’re going to vote yet in the general election next month? You are going to vote… aren’t you?
Only around 30% of eligible voters made it to the ballot box in the local elections. That’s 7 in 10 who left it up to others to choose who is going to be making the decisions about what happens in their local community for the next four years.
Hopefully the general election will be different. It was, admittedly, only two years ago that we were last asked to cast our vote for the government of this country – but a lot has happened in the last two years, and an awful lot is riding on the outcome of this one.
In the full seven years since this Conservative party first came to power, the impact on our society of their vision and policy decisions has been huge:
National debt has increased from £980 billion in 2010 to over £1.7 trillion in 2017.
1 in 6 of all A&Es, as well as 40% of walk-in centres, have been closed.
The GP vacancy rate has increased by 500% – and nursing vacancies have increased by 200%.
There has been a 43% increase in homelessness, and a 166% increase in rough sleeping.
An ‘affordable home’ now costs £250,000 – nine times the average UK salary of £27,600.
Record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession: a third of teachers who qualified in 2010 had quit by 2015.
Per-pupil school funding is falling for the first time in 20 years, with planned cuts to the education budget of £3 billion by 2020.
4 million children are living in poverty in the UK – the highest number since 2008. 67% of those children are in working families.
90 people a week have died after being assessed as Fit For Work.
The collective wealth of the UK’s 1000 richest people has almost doubled – from £335 billion in 2010 to £658 billion in 2017.
This is politics: this is what we are voting for on June 8th. So make sure you vote, and use your vote wisely.
In that last general election, in 2015, there were a huge number of people who didn’t vote – nearly half of under 45s in fact. Some because they felt that politics had no relevance to their lives, some because they felt that their vote wouldn’t make much of an impact on the overall result.
If you look at the figures, though, it is clear that isn’t true. In 2015, more people didn’t vote than voted for any individual party.
The picture becomes even more interesting when you look deeper into the data: the people who did vote are unlikely to be representative of the country as a whole.
For example young people and people from lower income families are significantly less likely to vote. They are also significantly more likely to vote Labour. How different could the last seven years have been if they had made it to the polling station?
Of course part of the problem in recent years has been that the two major parties have both spent so much time dancing around the centre ground that there have been legitimate reasons to believe that things won’t change much whoever is in power.
In 2017, things are different
Theresa May’s Conservative party has moved considerably to the right: this was demonstrated in their ability to so completely absorb the UKIP vote in the local elections, but can also be seen through an analysis of their policies which correlate strongly with those of the BNP in 2005.
The Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn has shifted from the neoliberal position occupied by Blair, with policies reflective of the social-democrat model which dominates in Scandanavia.
There are real choices to be made, and we as members of a democracy have a real responsibility to find out what we are voting for. The parties will be releasing their manifestos over the coming weeks, and there are several online quizzes that will help you work out which party you are most aligned with.
There’s the tactical voting option too – our ‘first past the post’ system means that the MPs elected to parliament do not necessarily reflect the views of the majority of voters in their areas, with the left of centre vote especially prone to getting watered down. If you’d like to see a change in how the country is run then it’s worth seeing which party is most likely to achieve that in your local area.
However you decide to vote, the most important thing is that you do.
If you are not already registered, then you have until Monday 22nd May to make sure you don’t miss out. You can do it online, and it only takes five minutes.
Once you’re registered, make sure you can get to your local polling station on Thursday 8th June to cast your vote. And if you know that might be tricky, then apply for a postal vote – you have until 5pm on 23rd May to notify your Electoral Registration Office.
It is easy to feel that we have little control over the way the world is going – to hunker down and focus on making the best of what we’ve got rather than trying to make things change. Our democracy though – and this general election in particular – is the best chance we’ve got to get our voices heard and make a difference.
Make sure you don’t miss your chance to have your say.