The 2017 Election and why you shouldn’t let the bastards get you down

On disillusionment, and why you should try to turn it into hope.

When the snap election was announced, my brain tried to sweep the thought of politics to one side. It’s hard to give a shit about something you don’t think you can change.

On the surface, every option seems like an abysmal choice. Parties are either getting their basic figures wrong, taking food away from school children or being accused of homophobia. Funnily enough, I don’t really blame people for feeling conflicted, or disengaged when it comes to the idea of voting.

To add to this (as though that’s not enough already) our parliament’s demographic is WILDLY unrepresentative. Only 6% of MPs come from an ethnic minority background and as little as 29% are women, whilst 32% are privately educated. Whatever the party, our UK politics sometimes feels like a rich boys club that’s untouched by the policies that they themselves create.

But I don’t want people to internalise the flaws of our system and stop engaging in politics because of it. The election may well be a foregone conclusion but it definitely will be if people continue to think there is nothing that they can do. I can’t watch people fear for the future anymore as if they are powerless to change it. I want that feeling of dread to turn into hope. Or even anger. I want people to start taking responsibility for politics, rather than disengaging and hoping that the next budget, legislation or referendum won’t impact them. We need to start having the confidence to criticise our politicians, no matter how little we know about politics. We need to tell them what we think, rather than convincing ourselves, and others around us, that ‘we don’t really care about politics, anyway’. [1]

The reality is that we all do. If you want our world to be better than it is, you do. If you want food to be cheaper, our streets to be cleaner, less wars, then you do care. If you earn a lot and hate paying tax, or you think richer people should pay more tax, you care. If you want to get paid when you’re sick, or you want your children to go to university, you do care. If you’re a recluse that lives in a house you built in the middle of nowhere and you just want to be left alone, YOU STILL CARE.

Stop being crippled by the failures of our political system and do something about it. If you think the Liberal Democrats have potential but are a bit weak, go to a debate and ask them difficult questions. If you think Labour are alright but they’re embarrassing themselves, consider becoming a member and telling them that. If you think the Conservatives align with your beliefs but need to expand their vocabulary beyond ‘strong and stable’, write them an angry letter and recommend they buy a thesaurus.

Yes, we have a lot to be disillusioned about. Yes, politicians are often elitist and out of touch to the expense of the most vulnerable. But we can’t expect them to realise this if we don’t tell them. They might not listen the first time, or the 50th time, but if enough people stand up on chairs (this doesn’t have to be figurative) and say ‘everything’s a bit shit really and I want to do something about it’, the politicians will stop and listen, because they have to if enough people are doing it. And, despite everything I’ve said, there are loads of MPs out there who will listen and who got into the profession because they wanted to create change, too.

If all else fails, you still have your vote. So use it well, mull it over, think about it. Now is not the time to vote blindly or lazily or not at all. An uncertain fear of the future doesn’t mean you should give up. So whichever way you vote, do it with determination, hope and a little bit of anger.

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[1] Credit to Owen Jones for his talk on ‘The Politics of Hope’, fighting fear and getting involved in politics.