The 2015 general election will be my first chance to vote (aside from local and European elections) and therefore my first chance to participate in the simplest form of democracy our system of government allows. But there seems to be a greater interest in abstaining from voting amongst the public this term, perhaps off the back of Russell Brand and his widely-reaching (and possibly quite harmful) views on the matter. Actively voting in elections, referendums, and other forums is vital to the maintenance of a true democracy.
While it is certainly true that there is a great deal of disillusionment among the public (and more specifically, the younger end of the electorate) regarding our current political climate, this cannot be reason enough for people to waste the precious opportunity of voting in a general election. As a woman, and supporter of all social minorities (all of which have historically been denied the right to vote up until very recently), it frustrates me that there is such a blasé attitude towards the importance of the vote. Generations before us fought, and sometimes died, their legacy dedicated to championing the right to democracy, and it is an insult to our own history to discard the chance that they were able to give us.
Some people abstain from voting due to indifference – they simply don’t care who comes into power. Perhaps they feel that all parties are offering the same things, or that they will be unaffected by the changes. This is not true at all. Each party will have things that every individual will find to be either in their best or worst interests, and the only way to combat this kind of political apathy is to educate. For the most part, teenagers inherit their political standpoints from their upbringing, with little influence or education coming from unbiased lessons at school, instead arising from the hugely biased (one way or another) mass media and the opinions of the people they interact with. Offering simple and fair compulsory political education from a younger age could encourage the 18-24 year olds (those who are least likely to vote) to get out and take part. But hey – this isn’t my political manifesto.
There are those of us who feel that our vote won’t make a difference, but truly it is only the collective effort that works in our system of government, and with there being such a low turnout at elections, it allows a smaller number of people to choose your future for you. Failing to do so takes your own democratic freedom out of your own hands, and frankly, if you then choose to complain about a system you chose not to vote against, then you must accept your own responsibility in part for that.
If you do choose to vote tomorrow (and I hope you do!), really consider what you want your vote to mean. Tactical voting is proof that our current system doesn’t work, but unfortunately sometimes it is necessary. The constituency of my student house is an incredibly safe Conservative seat, with Liberal Democrats having three times the support of Labour. Therefore, even though I personally might find myself more suited to the Labour manifesto (and the views of our local MP), a protest vote against the Conservatives is really the only way for my vote to come close to being effective. Luckily, I will be going back to my home for the general election, where there is a lot of Labour support, so will be voting there.
I urge everyone to do lots of research about the parties’ views as a whole, but also to look into their local candidates. Do you want to put your trust in a candidate who has just been parachuted in with no knowledge of the local area? What have these people voted for and against in the past? What do they stand for as people? Do they care about reflecting the best interests of their constituents? You only get to vote every 5 years, so even though this might seem like a lot of work to be doing, it’s more than worth it!