In the earlier stages of this general election campaign the emphasis on registration seems to have made a difference. An unprecedented number – more than 3 million – registered to vote between the election being called and the registration deadline. Disproportionately young, disproportionately urban, this surge meant that talk inevitably turned to comparisons with the 2017 ‘youthquake’ that was more real in name than in its impact on the election results.
Like all those people who signed up for the last event you organised on Eventbrite and didn’t turn up, you know that people’s good intentions don’t always translate into action. Since that high point in registration, pollsters have become less confident in their predictions, indecision has grown, the campaign has become increasingly bitter, the leaders have displayed their flaws, the media have shown their limitations, and social media truths and untruths disrupted views in ways we are not yet even aware of. The noise of this campaign may well encourage new voters, or those who might describe their interest in party politics as ‘casual’, to stay away from the polls wishing a ‘curse on all their houses’.
The noise of this campaign may well encourage new voters, or those who might describe their interest in party politics as ‘casual’, to stay away from the polls wishing a ‘curse on all their houses’.
During their 2017 election campaign, The Conservatives promised to make sweeping changes to social care provision in the UK. This included scrapping the ‘triple lock’ on state pensions, means-testing winter fuel payments and introducing the so called ‘dementia tax’, a scheme to make people with assets worth more than £100,000 pay for their own care. It was a total disaster. The plan was derided by virtually all major news outlets, provided ripe ammunition for the opposition and was so unpopular with the electorate that it forced Theresa May to announce a U-turn on her manifesto days after its publication. The ‘dementia tax’ was controversial because it risked leaving pensioners out of pocket. It was over 65s remember, who voted in droves to leave the European Union and 84% of over 70s turned up at the polls last time round compared with 61% of 30-39 year olds. Securing the grey vote was vital for success, so much so that the Tories chose to renege on flagship policies rather than risk alienating them further.
Now in 2019, it seems we’re being asked to choose between a party mired in anti-Semitism or the one responsible for the Windrush scandal, led by a man that’s made racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic statements as recently as last year. With the level of toxicity in our current political climate, it’s easy for us as black queer men to be apathetic about the upcoming vote. Sections of the establishment however, are counting on this apathy to keep us away from the ballot box on Thursday and avoid having to take our concerns seriously. We must not allow that to happen.
Elections are the life-blood of the political elite: reputations, jobs and billions of pounds depend on its outcome, so it stands to reason that policies are designed and implemented to benefit people most likely to keep them in power. To remove ourselves from this process is to allow a system that has historically ignored people from marginalised backgrounds to continue with impunity. For some of us, the mere word ‘election’ stirs up bitter memories of racist slogans, fractious protests and the fight to be treated as equal citizens in a country we’ve spent our lives contributing to and were promised we’d be welcome in. This struggle for survival leaves many of us sceptical that anything will change no matter who wins, but like it or not, important decisions on Brexit, housing, crime, the environment and our NHS including mental and sexual health- services we as a community rely on in particular will be dictated by the next government and undoubtedly affect us for the next five years at least. With so much at stake, we simply cannot afford to stay silent on these issues.
We live, work and pay our taxes like everyone else in the country and we deserve to have our voices heard just as loudly.
Even on a micro level, elections are a good way to get an authority figure on side to improve your immediate surroundings. MPs are elected to represent their constituents at Westminster, but they are also a valuable resource in ensuring organisations like local councils or energy providers act in the interest of the people and remain accountable to the communities they serve. A good MP can, and will intervene on matters right on your doorstep and can take your issues as far as the House of Commons if necessary. They will also set up opportunities for public consultation so they can hear your views on the things that matter to you most in real time. Your vote will provide the chance to reset the priorities for your area and enlist their help in making them happen, or force a change from ineffective ones.
When the 2017 general election was announced, the media predicted a landslide Tory victory in numbers not seen since Margaret Thatcher’s reign. By the time of its conclusion, the Labour Party halved the deficit to force a hung parliament and make a mockery of Theresa May’s promises to form a ‘strong and stable’ government. A weak manifesto, wooden public performances and a reluctance to face scrutiny in televised debates certainly contributed to her squandering a double digit lead in the run-up to polling day. But pundits and pollsters alike remain unclear about the effect young people and minority ethnic voters had on the final result. An unexpectedly high turnout from these groups played their part in disrupting May’s procession to Number 10 and set her on a course that eventually led to her resignation.
In many ways, this election feels much more contentious than the last. Polls point to red/blue polarisation – we’re being asked to take sides. One side wants this election to be the final public forum we have on Brexit before the government takes irreversible action. The other side wants this election to be about taking a golden opportunity to revitalise our public services and save the NHS from corporate America.
Queer black men are among the most resilient, if underrepresented, groups in our country- and while we cannot choose the next prime minister off the back of our votes alone, we do have a responsibility to ensure our views are represented on a national stage. Even if polling day is wet and miserable, as the forecast predicts, and despite a campaign that has been less than inspiring, we need to use our voices.
We know better than most that our silence will not protect us.