I first voted in 1983. I lived in one of the safest Conservative seats in the UK. The sitting MP was Minister For The Armed Forces and a toady to his leader. He was once trapped in a lift at the Ministry of Defence and insisted his civil servants pass papers under the door so he could continue working whilst unable to exit the lift. This was more about word getting back to Margaret Thatcher, that he carried on is site of obstacles such as a broken lift!
In 1983 there was clear distinction between parties. The Labour party presented (very badly) a progressive left wing manifesto. It scared the electorate in many ways. Their leader, Michael Foot was a passionate, intellectual who was vilified by the press and public for being scruffy and out of touch. They ran a poor campaign against the Tories riding high on post Falklands War euphoria. Two pivotal players in Labours future were elected as MP’s in 1983. Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn. They represented the idealogical poles of the party although in those early days Tony Blair could be said to have been closer to Jeremy Corbyn’s beliefs than he became. Blair represented Sedgefield, a constituency in the North East of England, Corbyn won in Islington North, a London constituency.
Tony Blair underwent a transformation, believing that the only way a Labour government could come to power was by appealing to the middle ground of British politics. The party eventually moved with him and they were elected in 1997. He went on to win two further elections. The Iraq war damaged his credibility and left a legacy of mistrust from many in society.
The Tories were returned to power as part of a coalition in 2010.
But you probably know all this. You will have read much about Jeremy Corbyn the protestor, the Man who fought against military action in Iraq, who sat down albeit briefly with all parties in Northern Ireland. The press make much of him meeting Gerry Adams and most is made up. Just because you sit down and talk with someone doesn’t mean you agree with them. After all John Majors government and Thatchers before had been secretly meeting Sinn Fein/IRA as well. To understand conflict, you must be prepared to listen to both sides?
So back in 1983, a young fresh faced, ginger haired 19 year old civil servant from Kent voted Labour. I have voted Labour in every election since. I do not vote because of the leader. I vote because I believe in what they stand for. I was most tested in the two later elections during Labours last stretch in government. I profoundly disagreed with the war in Iraq. I felt uncomfortable that they relied on big corporations and the City of London to prop them up. They were still however preferable to the Tories.
In 1983 I bothered to voted. I have always voted because this is how you change your political system. I always vote because I would hate to sit back and complain about the outcome if I had done nothing to change it. I vote because millions of people around the world have fought for the right to vote and we should use that power.
This election in 2017 is a crucial one. The parties have not been as ideologically divided in years. The young must realise that it is one thing to register and another to actually vote. You are the future. You will be the ones that have to live with the loss of the NHS, state education, civil rights, The increase in food banks, the loss of opportunity to own your own home. The older generation have much to look back on but will also be robbed of a future as much as you will. The difference being, you will have longer to live with the despair and inequality.
You have the chance to build a society for your future as well as ours. I want opportunity for all not based on privilege, money and postcode. I want my children to shape the future for the many not sit back and say no one listens. If you want to be heard, make your mark on June 8th. Don’t watch others cast their vote and think there’s no point because THERE IS!