Apart from two posts back in early 2015 (this one and this one), I deliberately haven’t written about politics on the blog. It isn’t a focus of my usual writing but as my readership has grown beyond my wildest imagination, I’d like to use my platform just this once to put it out there and say:
“UK Politics: what on earth is going on?”
For those who know me well, they know that politics is extremely important to me, it always has been, and I’m an active member of the political party I support.
Those same friends and family members know that I love getting up on my soapbox and that I have an opinion on pretty much everything. However, they also know that I’m not one for shouting about my political views online or through my social media.
This post isn’t about what I think or you think, it’s not about the Party I support and the ones I don’t, it’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, it’s not about who can shout the loudest about their views or who can post the most politically-driven messages on social media. It’s about each one of us stepping up and playing our part.
So, what is going on right now?
On Tuesday (18th April), Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK will have an early General Election on Thursday 8th June.
On Wednesday (19th April), the MPs voted on this with a resounding outcome in favour (522 to 13).
But didn’t we only have a General Election in 2015?
Yes. And the next one should have therefore been 5 years later in 2020. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act is what sets this time period but there are ways to get around this and getting the MPs to vote in favour is one of those ways (which is what happened on the 19th).
Why are we having an earlier one?
There’ll be a lot of different views on this but as I see it (and of course, you’re allowed to disagree), in simple terms, since the Prime Minister triggered Article 50 to start the process of Britain leaving the EU, we’re heading into very uncertain times. There’s a lot to get done and not enough people or support to do it.
As such, whilst the polls look pretty favourably on the Conservative Party at the moment, the PM is looking to capitalise on this by aiming to win some extra Parliamentary seats for the governing party thus giving her more support and more people on her side to help push through various policies/bills/agreements/etc that will need to be dealt with during the Brexit process.
Is this right or fair though?
Who knows! There will of course be people who disagree whether it’s right or not. But when it comes to fair, we have Parliamentary processes in place and these have been followed so it’d be a difficult one to try and claim it’s unfair.
What happens next?
We have 7 weeks; 7 short weeks and then we go to the polls. Anyone else feeling like the local polling station is becoming a frequent hangout spot?
How do I decide who to vote for?
You and only you can make that choice. It isn’t easy; with political figures often focused on trying to damage each other and telling us why the other candidate is worse, rather than telling us what their plan is and what actually makes them better.
(This is now me on my soapbox, sorry!)
What I will ask of you all please is that you take time over these 7 weeks to educate yourself. Spend time to figure out why you’ll make your decision – what is important to you, what issues will affect you now and in the future, what do you care about, what kind of country do you want to live in.
- Read the local information that arrives from the different candidates in your area
- Read the national information put out by each Party
- Watch, read and listen to the news – across different channels and even check out what the foreign press are saying as it’s often another view of what’s happening in the UK
- Read a diverse range of info on the internet – understand what the source is and who the author is (people will be biased and that’s ok, but try and read both/all sides of the argument)
- Do all the online quizzes you come across (Buzzfeed, we’re relying on you guys for some of these!) to see which Party your views and opinions might align you to
- Ask people around you their thoughts – not just the one or two closest to you but ask your colleagues, people in your wider networks, and even people you just meet randomly in life (the most interesting conversation I had ahead of the Brexit vote was with a man I happened to be sitting next to on the train, who noticed me reading an article in that morning’s Metro newspaper and saw it as a way to strike up a chat – we had extremely opposing views but he was the first person I spoke to ‘on the other side’ who actually gave me pause for thought over some points)
- Attend local meetings run by different Parties or campaigning organisations
- Speak to your candidates at hustings and challenge them on the issues that matter to you and will affect you, your family, your community and your country
Do whatever you can to try and get a full picture, or at least one you are content with and that you would be confident enough to back if someone asked you what your thoughts on it are.
The most frustrating thing to me is hearing people interviewed pre- and post-election say: “I just didn’t know enough” or “I don’t feel like I understand enough” or (and this one makes me want to scream) “I don’t see how it affects me anyway”.
It does affect you in every aspect of your everyday life. It affects us all.
And this General Election can’t just be based on Brexit. It has to be about all the usual stuff that matters to us and affects us: healthcare, education, employment, trade, taxes, the military, the environment, foreign policy, and so much more. Let’s not be blindsided by the imminence of this election. Let’s just prepare ourselves the best way we can.
- Please educate yourself enough not to be dragged into the crazy world of fake news and there’ll be more and more of that in the coming weeks on your Facebook timelines and elsewhere online
- Please educate yourself enough to vote for yourself, for your views, and not of those pushed on you by your parents or others close to you
- Please educate yourself to know what the key issues are for you and your family and your career and your future ambitions and your community and your country
- Please educate yourself so that when Thursday 8th June comes around, you can go to the polling station and cast your vote and know that you’ve done it equipped with an understanding of what impact that vote could or will have
Don’t be tricked by the few key messages the Parties want you to hear/see. Don’t buy into the slogans on the buses – I could advertise in giant writing on a bus too but it doesn’t mean I’m saying anything of relevance or truth. Don’t buy into the quick soundbites that the media will throw our way.
It will take some of your time over these 7 weeks but it will be worth it. Our country is in a weird way at the moment and it’s already going to be a challenging few years as we fight our way through leaving the EU. But this is one thing we can all do. Our strength and resilience as a nation will come from us working together, being divided in our views, but united in our goals.
It isn’t a bad thing to have a different view from someone else. It isn’t a bad thing at all, as long as the view you hold is done so with educated conviction.
P.S. Don’t forget to register to vote if you haven’t already!