Use Your Vote.
Today there are elections in most places in the UK. Elections are taking place to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and to local councils in England except London. There are no elections in Northern Ireland.
Over the last few weeks or so whilst listening to the news on national radio it has become increasingly apparrent that there is little interest in these elections. Only last night on Radio Five Live, the Anita Annad show was inundated with text messages from people who were not going to vote. The reasons were varied, from a man who said he wouldn't vote because he was a 44-year old, white male hetrosexual lorry driver and thought he he 'didn't count'. To people who,it seemed, just couldn't be bothered.
Although I can understand that some citizens are feeling disenfranchised by our political system, I am concerned that the opportunity to vote is being treated so lightly. One contributor to the programme voiced his contempt at the local elections because no party had canvassed for his vote and as a result he wasn't going to bother. I cannot understand this point of view. He will undoubtly be paying Council Tax, lets say for arguments sake he is paying £800 per year. That is £800 of his money that is being spent on services within his local area. Why would he not want to have a say in how that money is spent? I know I'd want to find out who was standing in my area and ask what they had to offer for my £800.
In many ways, local elections are far more relevant to us because they effect us more directly. The outcome of planning applications for new roads, housing and so on can be changed at the ballot box. One party's view of the arts in the local area can vastly differ from another, what time parks shut, how our waste is collected, when our libraries are open and countless other things that affect our everyday lives are decided at local level. Why would you not want a say in that?
It wasn't until 1928 that Universal Sufferage was obtained in this country. This is only 79 years ago and many fought, were imprisoned or even died so that we all have the vote. It is a great dishonour to people like Emmerline Pankhurst, founder of the Womens Franchise League and Emily Davison, who threw herself in front of a horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 whilst protesting for the right to vote and died 4 days later in hospital. There are countless other people all over the world who are imprisoned or executed for the democratic right to cast a vote.
The war in Iraq, whilst in many eyes not justified, has at least brought about democratic elections of some discription. The vote should not be taken lightly. Maybe we should try and imagine what it would be like if we didn't have it?
So today please vote. We may have differing opinions on who we want in control and some of us, and no doubt it will be me in Tory riddled South-East Essex, will be disappointed by the outcome. However, I have taken part in the democratic process and at least if I do have to raise a complaint about how things are run I'll feel safe in the knowledge that I have taken place in that process.