Over the last year or so, I’ve really tried to be more engaged with politics. Since my teens I have on a number of occasions tried to be more interested in politics, but typically this only ever lasted for the General Election and was generally fuelled by what was in my best interest rather than what I genuinely believed to be the best way to run a country.
The earliest such occasion was in the run up to the 2010 General Election, when I was having thoughts about going to university as a mature student and the idea of the Liberal Democrats wanting to abolish tuition fees made them an attractive choice. Partner that with being from a Northern town with a strong mining history, and therefore knowing that I must never vote Tory (even if I didn’t really know why at the time) and that the last few Labour governments only legacy seemed to be taking us to war, my mind was made up: Lib Dems it was. And of course, we all know what happened then.
Disheartened by what felt like a betrayal of our hearts and souls, I found it difficult to be too interested in politics following this. As far as I was concerned, they were all liars who were as bad as each other and we were doomed as a country. And following the Alternative Vote referendum, which was always a lose-lose situation for those of us unhappy with first past the post, I developed a large amount of political apathy.
Roll on the 2015 General Election and by this point I had started to pay a more active interest in politics again. This was largely as a result of having a couple of people in my friendship groups that I knew I could talk about politics with and not being afraid of saying something wrong. It was really nice to have a space where I could engage in conversation about political views and even ask approach subjects from the opposite point of view, to see why people with different views would see them as positive or negative.
I can also point to a short interaction with someone on Twitter in the immediate days after Margaret Thatcher’s death in April 2013, where a girl posted on Twitter something to the effect of ‘say what you like about her (Thatcher) but she broke the glass ceiling for women in a field traditionally dominated by men’. I responded to the effect of ‘was it worth it for the negative impact she had on countless communities in the north’ and her response was to call me a Socialist, in a negative way. At first I was offended, someone called me a word that ended in -ist, typically something you do to offend someone. And then I looked at what a socialist was and felt like, even if it had been by chance, someone had finally summed up the way I felt about politics.
When it came to time to vote for the 2015 General Election, I felt pretty happy with my political choice. I stood in line for a booth, a smile on my face that I was doing something positive for the country. I ticked the box for our local Green Party candidate and went home to have my dinner and a good nights sleep. Unfortunately, when I woke up in the morning and saw the results coming in, it became apparent to me that my vote ultimately counted for nothing. You see, the constituency I live in (South West Hertfordshire) has been a Tory stronghold since 1950, receiving at least 42% of the votes in each election to date. My vote for the Green Party did very little in terms of bringing about change.
That day, me and my colleague from work went out for lunch and spent our lunch hour talking about the politics further and I made a conscious decision that I was going to get ‘involved’ in politics now. Since then, I have joined the Green Party properly and have started to partake in discussions where I feel able to. I am also trying to learn more about politics generally and am starting to ensure I have an educated opinion of current events now.
This is why yesterday I did the post about the EU Referendum and I intend to do frequent posts breaking down current events and trying to start conversations about the same, because I really do believe that political apathy is detrimental to society and we need to remove the stigma that it is not proper to discuss politics in polite conversation. So please, if you are reading this, leave a comment, or tweet me and I would be interested in starting a conversation where we can discuss politics in the right way, even if our opinions may differ.