As I start writing this post it is 8:41 which means that polling stations all over Britain are still going to be open for another hour and 19 minutes. I’m nervous and judging by what I have read on various blogs, websites and Twitter, I’m not alone in feeling this way. For the first time in my life I genuinely care about the outcome of this election, not necessarily because I have anything more to lose at the outcome, merely that during this election I have tried to make an informed decision and as such my vote feels more valuable to me.
Judging by the people I have spoken to over the past few weeks not everyone makes an informed decision, not many people even try. They seem to try and make judgements based on hearsay or family voting patterns, or who looked good on TV, rather than taking the time to find out what each party or candidate actually stands for. I have some sympathy for them. I have received leaflets from the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, the BNP and the Liberal Democrats, but I didn’t meet a single candidate or even hear whether any of them were in the area.
What is worse is that all of the leaflets were completely irrelevant to me because they were sent to the wrong constituency. I received a second leaflet from a different Liberal Democrat who was actually in my constituency, but I received nothing from any of his rivals. Strange that after 5 years of supposed planning only one party got the boundaries correct for my neighbourhood.
Adding to this sense of disappointment my local Conservative candidate’s email address did not work, even though when I eventually got in touch with her via Facebook she confirmed the exact email address that I had used for her. Labour got back to me with a message of thanks for the post I had written on Emma Moore – the same local Conservative candidate – and her dishonest leaflet as they had received feedback from various people that had read it. The local Liberal Democrats got in touch to say that they had forwarded my email on to the relevant candidate’s team, but I have heard nothing since. She called herself an ‘activist’, yet couldn’t even manage an acknowledgement via email. I voted Liberal Democrat, but they were extremely lucky that I had a different local candidate to vote for thanks to the border confusion.
So, politics has a long way to go to really engage with voters. Being a political ‘activist’ is all well and good, but too often I don’t think people realise that they need to move outside of political circles and actually engage with the voting public. As I experienced, even if you do try to get involved, to enter the political circle, you still find it hard to get even a one-word response from a candidate.
However, getting involved in politics has its own rewards. Today I cast a vote that genuinely meant something to me. I actually felt completely happy with my choice, because I knew what the party stood for and just as importantly exactly what the opposing parties stood for. I was glad I made the effort to read some manifesto summaries on various websites, as well as taking independent assessments such as VoteforPolicies.org.
I read the leaflets that got put through my door and posted articles about two of them. The post on Emma Moore’s leaflet is now the top Google search result for ‘Emma Moore Conservative’ and the post on the BNP leaflet received a solid amount of readers and confirmed that it was the same leaflet that was being used around the UK – each candidate just added their name and photo. Very lazy, almost as lazy as the lies it told.
To her credit Emma Moore left a detailed response underneath my post on her leaflet, although she failed to return to answer any further questions. Nonetheless, she got in touch and tried to politely back up and explain her views. Her use of Facebook to engage with voters also gained my respect. A relatively young candidate I think she is at least using the right tools to engage voters. Just a shame she happens to work on behalf of an elitist party that only wants to engage voters every five years and spends the time in between treating them with utter contempt.
So, as the polls close and the results come in I can at least be satisfied that I was politically active during this election. I asked questions, I responded to the propaganda that was put through my door. I tweeted, I blogged, I watched the live debates, I read manifestos, newspapers and encouraged those around me to do the same. Whatever the result, I can rest happy that I participated as fully as possible.
But, here’s the thing that has become more apparent as this election campaign has gone on: now is not the time to rest, to stop, to give up. Whoever wins this election requires the utmost scrutiny, not from an unregulated and shamefully biased press, but from informed, active citizens. Thanks to Twitter, Youtube and bloggers who go the extra mile, lies are exposed at a faster rate than ever before, as is injustice. I sense a new spirit in the air, it is the spirit of revolution and disgust. Disgust at three weeks of solid attacks by a main-stream press desperate for the Conservative party to win the election. Disgust at the way that politicians come begging for votes every 5 years, only to lock the door of number 10 on us afterwards, treating us with utter contempt until the next time.
Britain needs a fairer voting system and an end to the two-party system. The vast majority of people in this country hate the Conservatives and everything that they stand for; yet here we are, the masses, nervously awaiting a possible Conservative majority because the voting system makes it possible and the scare-mongering press make it probable. This is no longer acceptable. It is no longer logical. The earth is not flat. The power resides no longer solely in the hands of the politicians. The sooner we realise this, the quicker we can remove the Conservative elite from power, forever.