As I write this, many people are attending their local polling stations to take part in local elections and much of the country will be considering the upcoming General Election on 8 June (2017).
Some people will already have their minds made up, whilst others still consider who they most believe can do the best for the country. At times like this, you often see people ‘shut up shop’ in terms of them not wanting to see or hear anything to do with politics, particularly on social media platforms. Unfortunately, even these comments draw a reaction, with others declaring their intention to do the same whilst some others may even accuse the person of being part of the problem of apathy.
Worse still, in almost all scenarios, are those who declare their support for party in short and snappy posts. Following the announcement of the snap election being called, a Facebook page for people living in the local areas, normally used to sell unwanted items or advertise local businesses, suddenly became worse than the House of Commons, with people wildly declaring which party they intended to vote for, or berating one of the other political parties, often with little in the way of context.
The conversation thread started with, seemingly, fair and just intentions whilst someone enquired as to whether it was to be allowed that one Party advertised themselves and if either no political advertisements should be allowed or that all parties be allowed to advertise equally. Very quickly the discussion became what you might expect, people seemingly willing to dish it out but very few prepared to receive it back. And when people became offended, suddenly the question over freedom of speech or the need for political discourse gets brought up.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their own views and political discussion is important in order for a democracy to work well, but that in itself is the biggest problem, what most people refer to as political discussion is not actually discussion and instead more closely resembles people waiting for their turn to shout their opinion into the void with no real intention of listening to what was said before or after.
Politics has long been considered a taboo subject, much like religion, and is rarely discussed in polite conversation. If it ever is, it is almost always discussed with people whose opinions you are already clear on and, usually, agree with. This is natural, most people try and avoid conflict with people you know but behind this supposed veil of social media people feel like they can be increasingly more expressive with their opinions and not expect the same repercussions that you might expect speaking face to face.
Just as going to the polling stations and casting your vote is important if you want to ensure you have played a part in the voting process, active political discussion is key if you really want to have an impact on who someone is voting for. Don’t repeatedly shout at someone about who they should vote for and why. No one ever convinced a Tory to vote Labour by pointing out we should have an adequate welfare station or well funded public services, just as no one ever convinced a Labour supporter to vote Tory by highlighting that tax cuts would benefit the rich more than the poor.
Some people will never change the way they vote, at least not through conversation with someone who supports a different party, it depends how deeply those views are ingrained in their person. Because ultimately, when you criticise a parties policies, you are attacking the ideals of the person who supports those policies. And very few people will respond to being attacked by engaging in meaningful conversation.
When speaking to those less sure of who to vote for, take the time to find out what matters to them and start from there. But more than suggesting any political party on the person, ensure you encourage them to vote. If I had my way, voting would be compulsory (although I would probably have an option be ‘lack of confidence in all parties’). Political apathy amongst the masses means that elections become a battleground between the most extreme views and it only alienates further those that consider themselves ‘normal, everyday’ people.