Friday 21 July 2017

5 Ways to Participate in Politics

A healthy democracy thrives from high participation rates in its population. We need participation for voices to be heard and for politicians to offer the best service possible to their constituents.

Here in the UK, we’re suffering from a bit of a participation crisis. Lately, I think we have been doing better, particularly with the younger demographics (72% turnout at the GE, come on!), but there are always opportunities for improvement

1. Is there a cause you’re passionate about? Find a local pressure group for it

My friend and I have recently started attending meetings for our local Amnesty International group. Amnesty is such an important charity, particularly, in my opinion, as they give a voice and hope to those who have none. I am now more educated and understanding of how to help and take action when necessary. I’m now in the process of trying to plan a fundraiser. Don’t just moan about something you don’t like about the world, try to do something to change it, even if it’s something as seemingly insignificant as attending a group meeting.

2. Join a political party

I think the percentage of the UK population who are members of a political party is at about 1%. That’s a pretty pathetic statistic, I think. We should be supporting what we believe in as much as possible. Smaller parties like the Greens struggle to produce campaigns that will win them seats due to a lack of funding on the same scale as the main parties, despite the fact that I know many people support their policies but don’t act on that support.

These days, it’s easier to become a member of a party, particularly if you are a student or have a lower income, as many parties have different options for membership costs so that you can still support them even if you can’t afford to spend lots of money on membership fees.

3. Turn out to bloody vote

In the UK, I think we did pretty well turnout wise in our last election (68%, which shows we are improving), particularly with young voters (I will not stop going on about that 72%). However, the local elections a few weeks beforehand were not such a great story. For years, the turnout for local elections in the UK has averaged at around 30%. Not good. Your local councilors matter a lot, even if they don’t have as much national influence as your MPs. They make the more detailed decisions that affect you locally and that you’ll definitely notice.

Vote, otherwise you have no right to complain if things aren’t done the way you want them to.

4. Regularly contact your MP

I email my MP a lot. I email her quickly before lesson if I know there’s a vote soon that I think is important. I emailed her before she even had a chance to take up her seat in the Commons again after the election, making my dislike of the DUP heard. I joke with my family that we're bezzie mates now. As much as I dislike her ideology and policies of her party, I think she probably appreciates a young person taking an active role in being represented. How can someone truly represent you if they don’t know what you want? (By going against what you say they want them to do, but that’s not the point I’m getting at here.) If you don’t contact them, they will just presume they’re doing a great job, even if they’re actually the crappiest MP ever to have the job title. Make your voice heard by the people who make the decisions.

5. Attend rallies/events in your area

Recently, Jeremy Corbyn visited my nearest city – tackling a Tory seat with a majority of only 31 votes. I personally couldn’t attend, but many of my friends did and from what I’ve seen, so did many other people. The area seemed packed and it was great to see so many young people attending. Show up to events for causes you support, let them know they are supported. The more people who turnout, the better. It will more likely get more media coverage if more people attend, and therefore do more for the cause as a whole – which is your aim, right?

Remember that many events don’t involve a huge trek to some far off place. A few days before the election, my college hosted a hustings for the prospective candidates in its area. The theatre where they held it was full, it was held at lunchtime in a place that was easily accessible to me and my fellow college students. There will be events that are near to where you would be otherwise, and you don’t even have to attend the whole thing, you just have to keep an eye out for them.

If you liked this post you might like: My Thoughts on the General Election

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