Given the volatile current political landscape, the reality is, anything could happen at any time. Months and months of the Brexit debate has rolled on, and understandably many people feel exhausted by the whole debacle. Suggestions of a second referendum and/or a snap General Election have caused some to become visibly disenfranchised. Can you blame them?
Record numbers of voters took to the polling booths in 2016 to vote in the EU Referendum, often for the first time in their lives. Voters of all political persuasions have had to put up with two General elections in four years and face the prospect of a third. This country has been deeply divided for years now and it takes a toll. It would be very easy for us all to give up and stand down. But it has never been more important that we exercise our hard-fought right to vote.
Party politics aside, the fact is, people often think their vote won’t matter or won’t count for anything. Our electoral system (First Past the Post) can make people feel disillusioned. But it is simply untrue to say that your vote won’t make a difference, particularly in the most marginal seats. The 2017 snap election had the highest turn-out since 1997. A staggering 97 seats in the last election were won by a majority of 5% or less. This has risen from 56 seats in 2015 and 91 seats in 2010.
In 2017, 31 seats were won with a majority of less than 1%, compared with 13 in 2015 and 23 in 2010. So, the race to win seats is becoming ever-increasingly tight.
In North East Fife, the SNP beat the Lib Dems by just 2 votes. 2 votes! That is the equivalent of half of a typical household. Kensington, in London, was won by Labour by just 20 votes (0.05%). The other most marginal seats were:
- Perth & North Perthshire (majority of 21)
- Dudley North (majority of 22)
- Newcastle-Under-Lyme (majority of 30)
- Southampton Itchen (majority of 31)
- Richmond Park (majority of 45)
- Crewe and Nantwich (majority of 48)
- Glasgow South West (majority of 60)
- Glasgow East (majority of 75).
As you can see from the figures above, the most marginal seats were distributed evenly around the country, although more were concentrated in Scotland. Obviously, if you’re living in a safe seat that has been in the hands of a single party for decades, the feeling of cynicism can be exacerbated but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t vote.
In 2017, majorities of over 14,000 were overturned. Banff and Buchan, a seat which was won by the SNP in 2015 with a 14,339 majority, was overturned and won by the Tories. In fact, 9/10 of the largest overturned majorities were in Scotland, and all losses by the SNP (5 went to the Tories, and 4 to Labour). It goes to show that no matter how much of a foregone conclusion your constituency seems, it’s always possible that dramatic change can occur!
When I’m out campaigning the most commonly heard phrase is: “politicians are all the same”. This is obviously untrue. But do the leg-work and read manifestos. Watch interviews. Form your own opinions. Don’t rely on the media to drip feed you soundbites and spin. Use independent sources to see where politicians really stand and make your mind up from there. Don’t buy into the fallacy that all politicians are the same – especially not at a time when politics literally couldn’t be more polarised. If you really don’t like any of the political parties on offer, spoil your ballot! You can write/draw on it, and it will be counted as spoilt – sending a message to politicians that you found none of their policies suitable.
The outcome of the election will affect you, but you can at least have a say. Use your democratic right to vote, that was fought for (especially if you are a woman). It might be cliché but in 1913, Emily Davison threw herself under a horse for British woman to have voting rights. This struggle still carries on abroad, where not everyone has the right to vote. You do – use it!
The establishment doesn’t want you to vote – it is happy with the status quo. For the establishment, the fewer people who take part in the democratic process, the better. Whichever party your views align with, it has never been more important to vote. It is YOUR future, YOUR money, and YOUR life that is being decided for you – so don’t just roll over and take it. For too long, politicians in this country have ignored vast swathes of the population, because they just don’t rely on their votes.
Whether you’re a young person, disabled, living in poverty, in insecure employment, or living in an area like the North West or Scotland that is taken for granted and excluded, you are not being represented properly in Westminster. If you don’t vote, your voice counts for nothing.
Make sure you’re registered to vote. A snap election could happen at any time.
(You can also register for a postal vote or a proxy vote)