General Election 2017: Politics is for the young

Last month, Theresa May called for a snap general election, to be held on the 8th of June 2017.

Since the EU referendum, I’ve seen more and more young people taking an interest in politics. How refreshing to see the younger generations (myself included) getting involved and hashing out the pros and cons – and attempting to separate fact from fiction – on social media.

Votes for women

Every time there’s an election, I bang on about how women fought, suffered, and died for our right to vote. But it’s still incredibly important that we remember what they went through, just so we could have our voices heard. Do you know how these women were treated? We’ve all heard snippets of history, but the full story is much more horrific. Named the Cat and Mouse Act, the government treated them like playthings, and treated them horrendously.

Another thing that is less known is that there were two groups – Suffragists and Suffragettes. Put simply, the Suffragists (led by Millicent Fawcett) wanted to campaign for the vote peacefully, while the Suffragettes (led by Emmeline Pankhurst) were open to more militant ways. Both groups were made up of middle class women, and the movement also campaigned for other rights, such as “the right to divorce a husband, the right to education, and the right to have a job such as a doctor” – all things we take for granted now, although true equality has not yet been achieved. In 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst formed a third group for working class women, rejecting the violence of the Suffragettes, and, in 1918, female householders over the age of 30 got the vote – but women over 21 got the vote in 1928.

We have had less than 100 years of women voting, and already, so many (too many) women have forgotten the fight, the struggle, for them to have a vote they do not use.

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In England, we have had two female prime ministers. Although I wouldn’t call Thatcher or May feminist heroines, they are still women among a sea of men. Politics is still a male-dominated area, driven by white, rich men, with old families and plenty of influence. But more women are getting involved – the Women’s Equality Party is one fine example. Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party is a strong, admirable woman. The Green Party has more female politicians. If women are not in power, the women of the country will not benefit. Representation is vital to securing the rights of women, the rights of our daughters and granddaughters.

How to vote

First of all, you have to make sure you’re registered to vote. It only takes a few minutes, and you have until the 22nd of May to register for the general election in June. Once you’re registered, you should receive a confirmation letter, and you will probably receive a polling card in the post, but you don’t need these to vote. You simply have to turn up.

At the polling station

Your local polling station will probably be in a community centre or church in your area – there are always polling stations dotted around, to make it easier for people to vote. Once there, a table of people will ask for your address and name, and they’ll cross you off the list. You’ll be handed a slip of paper, and be directed to one of the booths. You put a cross next to the person/party you wish to vote for, fold the slip, and pop it in a box kept close by. And that’s it!

But who do I vote for?

It’s difficult to know who you should vote for, particularly at a time where the country is so divided. You can join this discussion group on Facebook, where like-minded people gather to discuss the best tactics in order to reach the desired outcome – no more Tories.

The easiest way to decide on a party is to think about what’s important to you. This quiz and others like it can help, but I’d also recommend getting your value straight in your head before attempting to choose a party. Here’s what I care about, in a nutshell:

  • Women’s rights and equality, including, but not limited to, access to abortion, free contraception, justice for victims of rape and sexual assault… simply, equality in all things
  • Free, decent healthcare for all
  • Free education for all
  • Marriage and civil partnership equality – for opposite sex couples as well as same sex
  • National living wage for all
  • Decent, honest sex education
  • Closing the pay gap and destroying the glass ceiling
  • Benefits for those in need
  • Affordable housing
  • Controls to be put on landlords and big corporations
  • Right to free speech and media
  • Lower the unemployment rate
  • Remaining in the EU, or having another referendum, if possible, or at least striking a good deal for all involved

I suppose you could say I’m fairly liberal. My values align very well with the Women’s Equality Party, of which I’m a member, and the Green Party, for whom I voted in the last general election.

Tactical voting

This year, I’ll be voting tactically. As I mentioned before, I’m of the “anyone but the Tories” mindset, and Labour is the only party that currently has a chance of pushing them out. (Our “first past the post” electoral system is warped and unfair, but that’s a discussion for another day.) If you’re simply worried about the impact of the Tories on your future, your country, voting Labour is a good way to go.

And remember – we vote for the party, not the person, so if you’re not a fan of Corbyn (and I have to admit, I’m not his biggest fan), but you like Labour’s policies, and would prefer them to the Tories, vote for them. Prime ministers are bound to their cabinet and the rest of Parliament, they are not (contrary to popular belief) mere tyrants, one person ruling over the nation. Our government is made up of a mixture of people and departments, it’s complex, and, for the most part, works. Put your faith in the system, if you can, and use your vote to help make a difference.

Your vote counts – I promise

Another blogger shared a post about her experience with politics, and how she came a bit late to the party. Take a look at this:

screenshot_2017-05-10-20-09-27

If every single person who did not vote, chose to vote for one party or another, their votes would make a difference. It’s easy to get disheartened, but it’s our duty and our right to have a say in the running of our country, and voting is one of the best ways to have your voice heard. Mobilise those around you, if you can, to take the time to vote on June the 8th. I can’t predict the outcome, but the more people who vote, the more voices there are to take into account. And, for that, I have hope.

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