Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Is there an election happening?

All of you lovely people living in East Edinburgh might be surprised shortly to find my face on a General Election campaign leaflet. I was approached by the current MP for Edinburgh East, Sheila Gilmore MP of the Labour Party and asked whether I would be happy to help her re-election campaign as a local and engaged constituent who has gotten in touch with her on numerous occasions ranging from fracking, the Lobbying Bill, TTIP and the NHS. She asked whether I would be willing to appear on her election campaign leaflet with a supportive quote outlining how she’s helped.

I strongly believe in voting. So strongly in fact that despite being a European national with the right to live and work in the UK and vote in local and Scottish elections, I still paid over £1,000 and spent many stressed-filled hours over the minutia of my application to become a British Citizen for the right to vote and participate in the General Election. There are people and predominately women in the world who don’t have the right the vote or who risk their lives to exercise the right to vote. Celebrities and anarchists tell us there is no point in voting, only full-scale revolution can bring about the changes we need. While the ideologies they express and the revolution they aspire to would be idealistic, realistically we're not there yet as people are still too scared and comfortable in their ways of living, me included! Having said that, we are also not at the stage where not voting ‘in protest’ at the system is a viable options because it paves the way for continuation of political parties perpetuating the status quo or parties proposing worse. The success of extreme and intolerant political parties is based on the fact that people who support them go out and vote. Those of a liberal tolerant inclination shouldn’t be surprised things aren’t changing if they’re not voting ‘in protest’ or because they think their vote won’t make a difference. Imagine if the reverse were true, how different the world would look then?

I also believe in a participatory democracy both as a constituent but from my representatives as well. If I demand their attention, I shouldn’t be surprised when the reverse happens. As far as I am concerned and regardless of party politics, Sheila Gilmore MP is a good MP. She was approachable and available. She listened and genuinely responded. She kept me updated. In 4 out of 5 times, she shared my concerns and gave me the understanding that like me, she wants to make the country we live in a fairer, equal, environmentally sound and safer place. Despite what I will be voting in May, I decided to help Sheila Gilmore because she helped me during her term as MP. Because I’ve engaged with her as a person trying to make a difference and not an abstract, goliath impersonal political party.

I’m not telling you what to vote or who to vote for or even to vote for someone. Remember you can always spoil your ballot! I’m saying make sure you’re counted, make sure you participate in an exercise others only wish they could. Be counted, participate, do your own research, don’t pander to fear, trust your instincts, be heard and perhaps maybe help bring about the change you want to see. 

UPDATE: If you need a place to start, I recommend the website Vote For Policies, which allows you to compare policies from each party in their own words and make an informed decision about who to vote for. It takes the format of a survey where you choose the issues important to you, the policies are laid out without any political party colours and then the results are revealed to you. Hope this helps! 

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