#GE2015: You can make a difference

Alex Mitchell

Political observer and current affairs addict. Northumbria University graduate. Opinionated, my aim is to fuel debate. My favourite questions in life are Why? How? And What? My Favourite answers tend to start with It depends or Yes & No.

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Today I am urging you, the reader, to make your voice heard in this election by voting. I’m not here to tell you who to vote for, or whether your preference is wrong. I’m not writing this as a member of a political party. I am writing this to encourage you to take part in the democratic process and encourage those around you to join in.

Sitting at home is not an option today. Ignorance or lack of interest is not an excuse. The MPs who form Parliament will be elected by those who go to the ballot box, not by those who sit at home and do nothing. If you are frustrated with politics or politicians then tell them at the ballot box.

There are three things the country asks of you as a citizen. One: Pay your taxes. Two: Serve on a jury when asked. And three: vote in elections. This is YOUR chance to have your say. In this case, the pen is mightier than the sword. That ‘X’ on that ballot paper will be the most important thing you write today. That one letter can say a thousand things.

Our turnout figures have been shocking in recent general elections. In 2010 it was 65.1%. In 2005 it was 61.4%. In 2001 it dropped to 59.4%.

We can and we have done so much better.

In 1997 voter turnout was 71.4%. In 1992 it was 77.7%. Our 2010 figures put our turnout rate below countries such as Uruguay (96.1%), Ecuador (90.8%), Rwanda (89.2%) and Cyprus (78.8%) to name but a few.

Participate in this mass exercise of people power, I urge you. The only vote wasted is one not cast. I will leave you with a few thoughts from my fellow writers on why they are voting with a few ‘people power’ songs to get you in the mood from my playlist.

A word from an angry young writer

‘Do you really want another five years of this government? That’s five more years of cuts to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Five more years of those at the top getting away with it. Five more years of ideologically driven, top-down reorganisation of the NHS. Five more years work capability assessments that are so unfair and discriminatory even top judges said, back in 2013, they contravene the Equality Act. Five more years of David Cameron. That’s good enough reason for me to vote.’

Adam Lowe – Editor in Chief

A view from overseas

‘I should disclose right now that I was born in the United States and am not a British citizen. That said, I still feel that I have something to say when it comes to why you should vote in the upcoming election.

‘I am a citizen of what has been called one of the most successful democracies in the world: the United States of America. I am also a member of a country with a pathetically low voter turnout. Limited by a two-party system, voting rights in the United States have been eroded by political parties whose main goal is to keep themselves in power.

‘Voter apathy is one way to achieve this. As a result, the current government is one of the most polarized and ineffective in the history of the nation. In the 2014 election, 33.9 percent of all eligible voters cast ballots.

‘Because the turnout was so low, a small minority of motivated right-wing extremists managed to swing the election in their favour, even though the party they supported had nearly shut down the government on multiple occasions, had actually shut it down for just over two weeks, and essentially given the V-sign to the poor in our country.

‘Such childish behaviour flourishes in a combination of apathy on the part of the majority and extreme, unthinking loyalty on the part of the dedicated nut-jobs who show up no matter what (UKIP anyone?).

‘Jose Saramago, the late Nobel Prize Winner, wrote a novel, Seeing, in which the majority of voters cast blank ballots. Imagine the delicious chaos that would have come in 2014 if 50% of the population had showed up to vote instead of 33.9%, but 16.1% of the ballots had been cast for a candidate named “No”.

‘Voting like this is a form of protest, a form of chastisement of those in power, and sends a message that things are not as they should be. If no candidate is appealing to you, you should still vote, if only to register that things must change.’

James Patrick Carraghan – News

A word from a ‘scrounger’

‘For as long as I can remember I have been looked down upon, judged and labelled a scrounger by this government and by those in support of it. My crime? I was a student, struggling to pay the fees that had been increased by the government.

‘During the last five years, the Government saw fit to make cuts to education, but not the price. This reputation I’ve gained hasn’t let up, even since my graduation, even since I’ve gone back to study, paying straight out of my own pocket this time.

‘I can’t get myself a relevant job because … well, how am I supposed to pay the rent with an unpaid internship? I know I’m not alone, because there are students and young people up and down this country struggling financially, unable to move out and start their own lives because some politicians see fit to snatch their future away before it’s even had a chance to begin.

‘It’s not a way to live, and if you don’t vote then we may all be stuck in this rut for years to come. You’ve been given the right to vote, and with that you’ve been given tremendous power. Every vote counts, so make yours count.’

Samuel Alexander – Events