I’ve always been an election geek, even in the days before I studied local government as part of my journalism training, I used to be intrigued by the voting system and the different political parties and their policies. I’ve also always believed it’s mandatory to vote. Women lost their lives to give us future generations the right to vote – the least we can do to honour them is use that right. Then there’s the fact that people in some countries still aren’t given that right. Can you imagine that?! We moan about our politicians, but at least we have the right to try to do something about it.
Anyway, my government geekery meant that one of the first things I did yesterday morning was check my local news to see who’d won in my local ward. I was still sleepy as I checked the screen.
Surely, it couldn’t be right.
Surely I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was seeing.
I was. I suddenly felt quite nauseous. My local ward had been won by UKIP. Granted, it was a close race and, fortunately, they didn’t take enough local wards to have too much bearing on our local council. But even so! I was shocked that people who I walk amongst could have voted for, what I deem, a racist party who want to send us back into the dark ages.
I’ve tried to make sense of it and the only thing I can think is that the demographic of a lot of the people who live in our area are your typical Daily Mail reader. They think they know it all, but they haven’t actually checked out all the facts. They’re of a ‘certain age’. And, and this is most worrying of all, they’re a teensy bit racist. They’re the sort of people who, if they’re telling a story about someone whose skin colour happens to be anything but white, they feel the need to tell you. You know the sort that end sentences with things like ‘Well her boyfriend is black y’know’ and you’re left wondering how that fact is even relevant.
The day after the polls I was waiting patiently to use the cashpoint at our local shopping centre, when said type of oldie decided to podge me in the queue. Not just podge me but actually give me a filthy look at the same time! Charming!
Age has long drawn respect. We’re brought up to ‘respect our elders’. But what about when, in situations like this, we just can’t? David Cameron talks of Broken Britain. He tells us to go and ‘hug a hoodie’, but from what I’m seeing they’re not the ones he needs to worry about. Looking at our local polls none of the more deprived areas voted in UKIP (although FYI David C they did vote in Labour), neither did the wealthy areas (generally sticking to their Conservative tendencies) but in the middle-ground there seems to have been a sharp turn to UKIP. And the only reason I can think that this is? These people are hankering after a forgotten era – their youth. How often have you heard an oldie utter ‘it was different in my day’, ‘you had a job for life’, ‘you were just expected to get married and settle down’. It’s almost like regressing back to those (in their eyes halcyon) days is going to fix everything. They don’t seem to appreciate the progress we’ve made since then.
Of course, there’s another issue at large here too. Apathy. The amount of people who refuse to vote ‘because they’re all as bad as each other’. Well, no actually, if you look into their party policies and what they can do for YOU and the country (but let’s face it most votes are cast on a selfish notion) they’re not. Do you really want a government who doesn’t believe in sick pay or maternity pay? Do you want an increase in income tax? Again, one reason I reckon the oldies voted is because these policies no longer affect them, as they’re retired.
You HAVE to vote people. You just HAVE to. Our local turn out was something like 36% – that’s awful. You don’t just have to vote for who you want to get into power, you have to vote strategically to make sure the idiots can’t get into power. You CANNOT rely on other people to do that for you and then moan when they don’t. You need to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY and cast your vote. Voting is easy. So, so easy. If you can ‘pick up the phone’ and vote for the X-Factor winner, you’ll cope with voting in an election, trust me. Which brings me onto another sad truth. How can so many people give a f*** who wins X-Factor but not care who takes control of their country? Seriously!
Don’t even get me started on the amount of other blatantly racist parties there were on the West Midlands EU ballot paper. At first I seethed with rage and then felt smug that, at least, I had done something to stop them getting into power. I’m only hoping my vote was enough! I’m writing this on Saturday morning, so only time will tell what the results of the EU elections will bring!
It’s the general election next year. Let’s lose this apathy people. Let’s take control. Let’s turn out in force. You want to make a difference? Voting is your opportunity to do just that!