“Why vote? It only encourages them!” is a phrase that has been heard by more than one party canvasser on the door.
Putting aside arguments of civic duty, the fight of the chartists and the suffragettes, how does voting actually change things?
The last two years would suggest it changes them a lot.
In 2015, we were members of the most successful trade union ever seen, having kept a continent that had previously been divided by war at relative peace since its creation, and stabilising countries newly freed from communism into democracies with healthy economic growth.
Now, we’re leaving, and in two years will no longer be in the EU.
In 2015, all five- to seven-year-olds received a free school meal, establishing healthier eating that will see them less likely to suffer from obesity when they are older, type 2 diabetes, premature death. This is estimated to save the NHS billions in future care costs.
Soon, this will be taken away.
In 2015, Britain generated 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, having doubled renewable energy production in just four years, and setting the UK on course to have zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Now, renewable electricity subsidies have been slashed, and we’re still only at 20 per cent.
Closer to home, here in Bristol, we have seen how your vote can make a difference. The new mayor has set his priorities to build more social housing but at the same time has closed housing offices, planning a mass closure of libraries and is going to cut all funding to parks.
So your vote does make a difference – sometimes not the difference you wanted. But for it to make a difference, it is essential you know what you are voting for, because – surprisingly – the candidates do not always tell you what is in their manifesto, what action your vote will endorse.
For example, if you voted to ‘remain’ in the EU Referendum, and wished to at least continue Britain’s membership of the single market; if you think that the benefit cuts put through by the Conservative Government were excessive and should be reversed; if you think that our NHS needs additional funds and that to raise £6 billion a year funding we should put 1p on income tax, you might believe these to be Labour manifesto points.
But you would be wrong. Labour in fact oppose the three policy positions above. So I call on you to make yourself aware of what you are actually voting for, by reading through the manifestos of the Conservatives, Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats: the four parties standing in each of Bristol’s parliamentary seats.
Here is your chance to read what you are voting for and understand how your vote will be used to implement changes to your life and that of your community. Vote, but also know what you are voting for.
Tim Kent is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park.
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