There was kind of a big event this week in the UK. One that has completely divided the country, and caused arguments, debates, heartbreak, and jubilation, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
I’m talking about the General Election, of course.
Writing a post about why you should always vote several days after the election is a little bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but a) I didn’t have time to write this before the general election, and b) it’s important anyway. After all, we’ve had three general elections in five years. No doubt there’ll be another one before long.
I bloody love politics. I’m never very articulate when it comes to it, which is odd considering I am a writer and articulating thoughts is what I get paid to do. However, I do have strong opinions on it and a massive interest in it. Part of my history a-level was on the rise of the major political parties and I’ve always been interested in it. This evening, I tried to explain to my 7-year-old the difference between socialism, capitalism, and Marxism as they were words he heard on TV. Hopefully, because we take the time to talk about politics with them, they’ll grow up showing interest and not be apathetic.
However, I will never talk about who I vote for on social media. It is something to keep to myself – not for any sinister reason, but because quite rightly, it stirs up a lot of intense feelings from both sides and to be honest, I’m all about the easy life where possible. I have friends and family on both sides of the coin and I have the utmost respect for whatever their political leanings. In my head, I might be thinking ‘knob’ if they support the opposite to me, but we are privileged enough to live in a democracy, and that means respecting everyone’s choices and the decisions made.
What I can’t tolerate, however, are those who don’t vote. I’m not talking about people who are too young or can’t because they are not eligible. I’m talking about those who claim ignorance, or say that their vote doesn’t matter or those that simply can’t be arsed.
If you are one of those, get in the bin.
I’m going out on a limb here and wildly generalizing, but in my experience, the ones that don’t vote are the ones that seem to have an awful lot to say about ‘the state of the country’. Well, to be honest mate, if you were that bothered about the state of the country, you’d get off your arse and get to the polling station.
The power of that little cross on that little piece of paper should never be underestimated. You might think that your one seemingly insignificant vote means fuck all, but actually, when more than 30% of the eligible population think the same – well, you don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that actually, yes, your vote does make a difference.
I know voting is hard. I get it. You’re not voting for who you want to win I’m A Celeb or love Island. You are voting for the people who are going to make the decisions that affect almost every aspect of your life for the next four years or more. Politicians themselves don’t make it easy. It’s not like they’re known for being entirely truthful, or making wild claims and exaggerations. They often promise the world and deliver very little. They bamboozle us with jargon and information that is above many of us. I like to think of myself as reasonably intelligent and yet I didn’t (don’t!) understand a lot of what they are saying at times. However, our right to vote comes with responsibilities, and that is to read party manifestos and learn a little bit about what each party is offering, and go beyond what you see on social media and in the news. You won’t find all the answers, but you’ll have a better idea.
I also know that physically, getting out and voting can be a pain in the arse. However, there are almost no excuses. If you think you won’t be able to get there in person, you can vote by post (which I know one of my friends who was due her baby did, just in case she was otherwise engaged!), you can even get someone else to vote on your behalf. If you haven’t voted by post or by proxy, you need to get your arses up there on election days and do it. This time around was hard. The last thing I wanted to do on a cold, wet night was load four kids into the car and drag them to the polling station, but I did because it’s that important.
We are massively privileged in the UK to be able to vote. There are countries all over the world that would do anything to have a say in their government system, and if you’re a woman, which most of you reading this are, it is even more important. It was less than an hundred years ago that women got the vote, and women literally died to give you that opportunity.
It is too late to do anything about the election this time around. 67.3% of the eligible voting population cast their vote and we have a Conservative majority government for the next few years. If you don’t like that, but made the effort to go out and vote, rant away at the results. If you didn’t vote and you could have, don’t ever moan about the way the country is being run – you had the opportunity to have your say at the polling station and didn’t.