I had a conversation with a friend about the General Election in May. In his personal opinion, the NHS doesn’t get enough funding from the government and, he is always complaining about how our current government is handing out benefits to people who are ‘unable to work’ and immigrants who have only come over to take advantage of our benefit system. He isn’t voting. Men are able to shrug off voting the way that rich people can smash up old cars for fun, couples who can conceive like a piece of cake and moan about their child not being smart enough, beautiful people who can fall asleep with makeup on and still not wake up covered in pimples. It’s easy to be so dismissive of something that came so easy to you.
Men have been able to vote for hundreds of years, woman only came into this right in 1918. Less than 100 years ago, woman just like us – with opinions, bad hair days, boyfriends; woman who listened to music, read books, went shopping, ate, drank, argued, loved; living, breathing, adults – had no say in their political fates.
Plenty of people will say that all politicians are the same, so why bother voting? The only guaranteed similarity in politicians is that they all want power. Under current rules, to get power, they need votes. To get votes, they will each try and address what is relevant to the voters. If woman and young people don’t vote, Westminster will not bother thinking about what they want. It won’t need to. Non-voting people are not affecting the fates of politicians. Some have sought to draw links between young people not participating and a lack of parliamentary measures that benefit them. As Rowena Mason, a political correspondent for the Guardian pointed out last December:
“This may explain why pensioners have kept hold of their free bus passes and TV licences for over-75s, while under-25s are targeted for benefit cuts and are struggling to find jobs.”
Take the Scottish Independence vote for an example. Nearly the entire county took part; people really cared about the outcome. Armando Iannucci, an Oscar and Emmy-nominated Scottish writer, television director and radio producer wrote “The 45% who voted yes to independence in Scotland, because it was so large and because underwritten by the force of an 84.5% turnout, is driving the agenda in Scotland politics as powerfully as if it had been on the winning side”. In other words, even though they didn’t win outright, the people who voted yes are still getting a better deal from Westminster just because they turned up and made their voices heard. Now imagine the same thing, but young adults and woman. A massive female and young adult turnout would motivate politicians to put our issues on the agenda. They would want to win all those votes for themselves next time. Even if only for selfish reasons, they would have to please those voters and address what they want done. What we want done. VAT free tampons, tax deductible childcare, more sophisticated rape laws, greater equality in the workplace, more help fleeing from domestic violence, and more. For all the issues that there are for young people and woman, but possibly not for parliament because there are so few women employed there. But these things will only be addressed by politicians if they can see that their own careers, fates and incomes might depend on an overwhelming young adult and female vote.
I was 17 for May 2010’s General Election and missed being able to vote by just 3 months. I am now 22 and this will be my first time voting, my first time that I will have a voice – and I don’t need to give this right a second thought. In 5 years, at the next General Election, every party has to care about what I care about, because my vote matters.
You do not have a voice if you do not vote. Your opinion does not matter if you do not vote. Westminster will not give a toss about you and your needs if you do not vote.
A lot of people are putting their vote toward their preferred candidate, as opposed to the policies that they agree with the most. I can understand that with all the different promises being made by each candidate if they are elected, it can be confusing and difficult to decide on who to vote for. This is why I think that the Vote For Policies Not Personalities survey is a fantastic. It goes through all the polices that refer to the issues that you think are important, without telling you who they are being made by. You pick the policies that you agree with the most and, at the end of the survey, it will show you the percentages of whose policies you agreed with. I ended up with 100%. What could be simpler?
The general election will take place on Thursday 7 May 2015. To vote in the election you must be on the electoral register. You can register online or by post. The deadline to register to vote in the election is Monday 20 April 2015.