IWD 2015: Make It Happen At The Polls

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’ celebrating women’s achievements around the globe but also continuing to push for greater equality. This year I am dedicating the BrightonMums.com post to our democratic right to vote and why every woman needs to seriously consider using theirs at the forthcoming general election. We can Make It Happen and here’s how.

"Hand Dropping The Vote Paper” by taoty. Image courtesty of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Hand Dropping The Vote Paper” by taoty. Image courtesty of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The April after I turned 18 was a general election. My parents have always been politically aware, just like their parents before them. Voting was important and my first trip to the polling station was a moment of pride. I may not have fully understood the political system and policies they parties stood for but I did understand that my vote was a voice.

But as we approach this general election, this voice feels weak. Even I, a true believer in our democratic system, struggle to see how my vote will make a difference. Our MPs seem distant and disconnected from our communities. Politicians are frequently exposed as swindlers and self-seeking, power hungry individuals, products of an elite system of public schools feeding males to Oxbridge and directly to Westminster. I’m not alone with this view, no matter where people’s politics lay on the spectrum of left to right, many people feel the same. But not voting is NOT an option for me.

Our vote can ‘Make It Happen’. Some political parties are relying on voter apathy in order to re-elected. Policies are engineered towards the generations who consistently turn out at the polls, meaning the country is being shaped in order to keep parties in power, instead of governing effectively for growth and sustainability.

There are rounds of memes on Facebook, pictures of The Suffragettes guilt-tripping women into voting because these ladies fought bravely for the right to vote. It’s true, we should honor these ladies by taking ourselves to the polling booth on 7th May this year. But these tactics aren’t going to engage younger female voters. Rather than shaming them, we should help them understand that even if they don’t vote for a ‘winning’ candidate or party, voting for what you truly believe in makes all the difference to the landscape of our political system.

Next time you hear another person say they are not going to vote, instead of chastising, maybe say, ‘I understand but why not try…’ and offer these suggestions:

– It’s not too late to register if you’re reading this before 20th April. It’s simple to do.

– Ignore the national political drama played out in the media. It sells papers, generates web-traffic or viewers which makes someone richer. Even the perceived respectable broadsheets.

– Ask yourself what your priorities are, how can the state and local government support your community better? For example, the 2014 budget clearly targeted at those who have retired or are about to – because 80% of them vote. The Scottish independence referendum clearly showed the difference high voter turn out from all age groups can make.

– Put party politics to one side. Research your local candidates. In this age of technology, there’s no excuse for not being able to quickly find information on who you are voting for. There are plenty of unbiased sources, Wikipedia and They Work For You.  And if you can’t find it, ask them directly, Write To Them helps you find all your elected members, About My Vote tells you how to register and where to find a list of your local candidates for Council and Parliamentary. If you want to know where they stand on university tuition fees or how they will help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder, then ask them. For the latest news on Brighton and Hove’s 2015 elections and candidates check here.

– Connect with your local parties and candidates on-line. Many are on Facebook and Twitter, often having debates with opposing parties (sometimes embarrassingly childish debates). You too can ask them about the important issues. Here in Brighton, parties active on Twitter are mainly, Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens.

– “It doesn’t matter who I vote for, I live in a ‘safe seat’ area.” For years I lived in an area where my vote was cast into a wilderness of an overwhelming majority for one party. But my vote cast is counted and despite who wins, the balance of votes between the parties is analysed. Politicians form their policies on those voices – opposition parties have 4 years to readjust and listen to your vote. Inhabitants of communities change, safe seats can become marginal and ‘swing’ areas.

– Vote the way YOU want to. Don’t be intimidated by anyone using terms such as ‘protest vote’, including canvassers from other parties. But equally it is careless to vote for a candidate to make a point unless you really think that person deserves to be in office.

I have tried to remove all my personal political feelings from this post but in the interest of transparency I consider myself left of centre. I don’t vote for any one political party, I find the candidate who I believe will make a difference to my country and local community.

I really don’t care who you vote for. I’m more concerned about voter turn-out than UKIP. Just vote and be true to yourself.

 

 

 

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About Claire Jones-Hughes

Founder and co-editor of BrightonMums.com, Claire has been blogging since 2009. She has posted on a variety of sites including The Argus, The Huffington Post and The Guardian's Comment Is Free. Known as The Contented Mummy on social media, she is dedicated to honest, unsponsored blogging so that parents can benefit from shared experience. Can also be found at www.fitfaband40.co.uk - sharing her journey to health & wellness.

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