Tomorrow’s the most important election I can *ever* remember, and I’ll be strolling along to the polling station as soon as it opens – then spending most of the day doing everything I can to make sure other people vote.
It’s a cliché, but I’ll never forget people protested and even died for my right to place a little piece of paper in a tin box with a pencilled cross on it – and fought battles to be recognised for their part in democracy in a way that you can’t even begin to believe. So, putting it another way, it’s a hard-won privilege, and if we’re to be perfectly selfish about it, it’s an investment in my future.
I can’t pretend that every UK politician is the most honourable and decent person, but I’ve met and do know a few of them. And I don’t buy this nonsense that ‘they’re all the same’. It’s the most cynical and illogical argument, and it breeds a dangerous apathy that ends up creating the likes the UKIP and the BNP. You’ll not be surprised that I put those people in the dishonourable and not decent category, and the people who vote for them, at best, deeply misguided.
Our relationship with politics and politicians can be frustrating, just like our friendships and relationships at home and at work. But above all, politics embodies hope because it’s the only damn thing that can change the way things are.
Why do I care? Maybe I’m just hard-wired for this stuff, but governments have made a huge difference to my life, like giving me the opportunity, should I wish, to marry my partner of the same sex. I’ve been to university, and studied what I wanted to get ahead in my career – because someone’s decided that it would be a good idea to fund academic institutions that allow not just a few people to have a high quality education, but everyone. And I’m pretty keen on all those other big things that we take for granted like railways and roads, and subsidies for things which are important but not necessarily fashionable like green energy, but also the arts in the form of museums, galleries, libraries, theatres and swimming pools. They’ll always be there in some way, but without the necessary funding will be cut substantially, withering away to nothing.
But I’ve also lived in houses owned by rogue landlords who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near property ownership – and been the victim of violent and property-related crime, several times, perhaps because ultimately, someone’s made a decision or created an environment that’s allowed that kind of behaviour to happen.
All of that comes down to politics, and I need to make decisions based on what kind of a country I want to live in (it’s a pretty civilised one, to be honest).
I’ll be voting for the National Health Service, the brilliant institution that played a part in bringing me into the world in the first place, patched me up when I hit my head, and cared for my family when they’ve been unwell in all stages of their lives.
I’ll be voting to stay in the European Union, because we’re better when we’re not at war with each other like we were for hundreds of years before the middle of the 21st century and we share a lot in common with our neighbours, and much as though I admire the anti-austerity politicisation of Scotland, supporting the United Kingdom not least because I think a federal UK would be a better option.
I’ll be voting for a party that’s serious about ending poverty, whoever you are and wherever you live, because no-one in 21st century Britain should be forced to rely on food banks, penalised for where they live or face the indignity of having every possible tiny income stream turned off simply because they face misfortune.
I’ll be voting for a party that above all has recognised who I am and who I choose to have relationships with.
I’ll be voting for a party that has promised to take on big corporate interests in a way that no government has done for years, not least because I believe politics shouldn’t be dominated by mega-corporations, but also because I don’t think politics should be dominated by a handful of egotistical newspaper owners.
That’s me decided. I’m not naïve enough to believe any government is perfect or has all the answers, although I’ve got pretty good instincts for the sort that I prefer. Above all, the prospect of a fairer economy appeals to me pretty strongly. The alternative is a brand of politics that is about division, greed, resentment and isolation that frankly just terrifies me.
You’ve got as many answers as you’re going to get now, whether you’ve pored over websites that help you decide which party best matches your views or leafed through the piles of leaflets that may have come through your letterbox. The difficult bit is placing your trust in a politician and their party tomorrow based on what they promise (and what their record is). And trusting someone, particularly when they’ve let you down, isn’t always easy. But the brilliant thing about democracy is that in a few years time, or maybe even sooner, you’ll be able to make that decision all over again.