Tomorrow, yet again, we go to the polls.
Yup, for the sixth time in less than three years, I’ll be off to out my X in my box of choice, sit tight and hope for the best. This time, though, something feels different. There’s something hanging in the air, something that says change is brewing. I don’t know whether it’ll be for good or not. What I do know is that this election carries a weight of expectation and, whatever the result, things aren’t going to stay the same.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to tell you which way to vote. I’m not an expert by any means. Even if you’re voting Conservative, I’m going to assume you’ve done your research, looked at the respective party manifestos, watched the debates, conversed with peers then decided you still hate the poor, sick, young and elderly and thought “fuck ’em all”. Hey, you do you. Opening up discussion and accessing information is one of the great things about our generation being so media savvy. I’d like to think, in the last few years, we’ve become a lot more switched on politically. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its downfall, though. Social media is an echo chamber of political discourse, and it can at times feel pretty daunting. After all, Thursday’s outcome will determine who’s going to be in charge of running the UK for (at least) five years. In turn, that’ll determine what kind of country it’s going to be. There’s a lot riding on it, now more so than ever.
With all that in mind, it can be overwhelming. With people shouting over one another, telling us to vote this way and that, it’s hard to admit that there’s anything you don’t know. Like how to decide who to vote for, or even how to vote. The first part? Well, that’s entirely subjective. The second part is actually pretty straightforward.
Who To Vote For
It’s now so close to the election that deciding who to vote for is more than likely a done deal. However, if you’re in need of a refresher, have a look here:
- The SNP manifesto, which promises to fight to end the Rape Clause, challenge Tory austerity, fight benefits sanctions, do more to end domestic violence, oppose Trident, increase free childcare provisions, keep university education free of charge, scrap the bedroom tax and oppose state pension inequality. I’ve dealt with the party at a local level concerning zero hour contracts and they’re the only party whose commitment I can account for first hand.
- The Green and Scottish Greens’ manifesto. The Greens are into empowering young people. The Scottish government lowered the voting age to 16 in 2014 and the Greens want to campaign for the same in Westminster. They also want to reinstate housing benefits for under 21s, scrap age-related wage bands and introduce a higher living wage.
- The Labour and Scottish Labour manifesto. They’re looking to bring railways, energy and the Royal Mail back under public control, as well as scrapping tuition fees, the bedroom tax and wage caps for NHS staff. They’re also looking to completely overhaul the care system, which in the face of an ageing population is sorely overdue. Sadly Scottish Labour is a bit of a mess and I can’t vote for Corbyn’s Labour party, but I wish them well.
- The Liberal Democrats and Scottish Liberal Democrats want to offer a second European referendum, extend paternity leave, add a 1p dividend on income tax to fund the NHS, restructure provisions for mental health care and introduce a regulated cannabis market (I know, right?).
- The Conservative and Scottish Conservative manifesto, which promises strength and stability or something and looks like an estate agent’s schedule for a stately home.
- UKIP have a baffling purple filter over the union jack and are predictably anti-burka.
There we have, at a glance, the main party manifestos. On each site there are easy-read versions listing the main points, as some of them are pretty heavy. Research is important when it comes to informing your decision. I wish I’d done more when I first voted. I went for Lib Dem because they were the third largest party after Labour and Conservative, and I quite liked Charles Kennedy. Also, my first choice didn’t have a candidate in my area. Who knew that Aberdeen, oil capital of Europe, wasn’t a big Green demographic?
Way back in 2005, there wasn’t the same access to social media discourse. I didn’t even have a laptop. To access the internet I had to go to my uni’s computer lab and that was more effort than I was willing to make. There wasn’t the same drive back then, it wasn’t such a huge, pressing issue like it is now. It’s great that we have these conversations now but, like I said, it can also be hard to ask questions. Now for that second part.
How To Vote
First of all, in order to be eligible, you should’ve registered by the 22nd of May. However, if you missed it, you can always do it now for forthcoming elections. Keep reading too, if you want, for future reference.
In order to vote you have to go to your local polling station. It should tell you where to go on your polling card. If you don’t have that, you can find out your local station here. You can’t, as I found out, just turn up to any polling station and vote there. You have an allocated polling station- usually somewhere like a school or community hall. Polling stations are opened from 7am to 10pm on voting day so pop in at your convenience. You don’t need to take your polling card, or any other form of ID, with you. Sure, it makes it slightly easier to look you up, but it’s not essential- just give your name, take your voting slip and X marks the choice. Pop it in the ballot box and that’s it. Done. Well in pal, you’ve voted.
That’s all you need to do. Please don’t put anything other than an X in your chosen box- otherwise, it won’t count. I mean, unless you want to spoil your ballot, but what’d be the point?
Regardless of the outcome, like I said, there’s a change in the air. The results of an election don’t always signal the end, if the outcome isn’t favourable. If you resonated with a particular party, look into joining them. The post-election period is boom time for party membership, why not get in on it?
You can also use your representatives in your favour. Something bothering you? Write to them. I did, and my MP took it all the way to Westminster. Check out when and where your nearest MP (or MSP) surgery is held and make ’em work for you- not just your vote. Keep an eye on good ol’ social media, too. There are loads of grassroots protests and demos popping up. In my city, thousands of people marched for independence, a mere month after protesting the hideous, dehumanising rape clause. Even my mum travelled to London to protest against women’s state pension inequality. If you’re anxious about going it alone (which, admittedly, I can be too), just ask! There’s guaranteed to be an event page or a Twitter post about it. There’s no harm in asking, after all.
In the current climate, it can sometimes feel like voting is a futile exercise. Every party has its flaws. Brexit showed us that even when an entire country votes against something, it makes little difference to the bigger picture. What I would say is, don’t be disheartened. In the EU referendum, the biggest turnout was amongst the over 65s who, unsurprisingly, opted to leave. Turnout was lower in areas with a younger population. 1, 269, 501 votes separated Leave from Remain, yet 30% of people didn’t turn out to vote. The split between the Yes and No camps in Scotland was 45% to 55%. If you think one vote can’t make a difference- it really, really can.
The margins between these referendums was minimal. In order to get the results we want, we have to take the power back from an older generation that doesn’t understand us. That doesn’t, overall, think about the future they’re leaving behind. Voting is a privilege, one which it’s our duty to uphold. Suffrage wasn’t always afforded to everyone in the UK. We live in a democracy where we have the opportunity to choose from a multitude of political parties. That’s important. Not voting, or spoiling your ballot, is no longer an act of defiance or rebellion. Your generation needs your voice. Stand up for yourself. Make your damn vote count for something.