It occured to me recently that I am a ‘swing’ voter and, as such, I could actually make a difference at this week’s General Election.
After Tony Blair’s ‘Education, Education, Education’ campaign in 1997, and as a student about to head off to uni, I was naturally drawn to Labour for the 2001 election.
In the 2010 election I had just finished my course at university and, having been there with friends who struggled to afford the course fees, I was wooed by the Liberal Democrats.
After both those parties badly let me down, I still refused to vote for a Tory party whose austerity was having a negative effect on my life (more on that later), so in 2015 I voted Green to show I was not satisfied with our main three options.
This year… well, this year I am living in Pudsey, a Tory constituency which has a lot of support for Labour too. Leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the town recently, presumably because we are considered one of his party’s ‘swing seats’.
For the first time ever, my decision about where to put the cross on my ballot could actually make a difference – in my area and to Corbyn’s rise or fall this year.
GE 2017 is also the first time I’ve voted since my priorities were shifted somewhat by becoming a Mum – I now vote with my mind focused on the future and knowing that having my son means I can’t continue to face the struggles I have in the last 10 years.
So what has influenced my decision?
Education, Education, Education.
This has always been important to me because, in past elections, I was in the education system, be it at school or university, and wanted to support the policies that were best for that.
Today it’s still important but for two different reasons: my son, Harry, and my partner, history teacher Luke.
Before the next election, my baby boy will be going off to school and I want him to be doing so in a world that’s fair. Where he and his classmates are entitled to a good education, whatever their background.
Meanwhile Luke’s experiences at work, which tally with those of other friends and family I have working in that field, are a testament to what a struggle it has become to teach our children under the Tory government restrictions.
Most weeks we hear of cuts and job losses and what is really scary is that these are being directly attributed to Tory leader Theresa May’s plans to introduce more Grammar schools.
(This is despite her claims the schools budget is not being reduced. In the real world, it absolutely is because funds are being directed to Grammar schools instead of the state schools most of our children will attend.)
For me, education is the most important part of a young person’s life. It prepares them for the world of work, to become good citizens and to work hard.
We need to be investing in their futures, not stripping them down to the bare bones. They are, after all, our future.
Jobs for all.
I’ve not had a lot of luck when it comes to employment, from being made redundant while I was pregnant to being stuck in a temporary job in the public sector that couldn’t be made permanent (thanks to cuts introduced by the Tories).
This misfortune is, I am convinced, mostly down to the timing of my graduation. I left university and entered the world of work at the exact time this country went into a recession. Bummer.
Since then, it’s been a battle to set up a career and I strongly believe the Tory’s austerity plans have had a huge impact on that, making it harder for me to find work by reducing the opportunities available.
It wasn’t until ten years after I completed my degree that I was finally earning a wage that surpassed 16k. A wage that, under Labour, could soon be below minimum wage.
I fully support their policy on raising the living wage. While I was earning that 16k (around £1,200 per month) I was living in a house share and commuting to Leeds for work – my take-home wages weren’t enough to cover my outgoings.
What’s worse is that this was at a time before I had a child, heaven knows how I would have managed all the things Harry needs on top of the rent and bills. I genuinely feel for low income families and want to see them helped.
I strongly believe the minimum wage needs to be raised and zero hours contracts need to be scrapped. I believe in Corbyn’s theory that by investing in the work force we can improve our economy.
There was a fascinating series on the BBC recently which documented the every day goings on in one of the capital’s main hospitals. It was hectic, frustrating and worrying.
There were elderly people unable to leave hospital because the care system was too overloaded to look after them, people from emergency surgery being unable to move to ICU because the wards below them in the chain were so busy.
Whilst we are on the topic, our police force have also faced cuts that have reduced their ability to get the job done and resulted in terrible consequences.
This week alone May has been outed as lying over cuts to the police force that she allowed. I won’t even go over her claims in the past that the police were ‘crying wolf’ over the effects the cuts would have because it makes me too mad.
I just don’t trust our wonderful emergency services in the hands of a Tory, I’d quite like to keep them.
A safer Britain?
In the light of the recent attacks in Manchester and London, it would be remiss of me not to consider the war on terrorism whilst deciding how to cast my vote.
May has rightly spoken out about the need to do something to stop these attacks, to make our people safe again.
I’ve had some ‘interesting’ discussions online about the best way to do this (I won’t dwell on the ignorant ‘send them all back’ line that you have undoubtedly read countless times on your timeline in the last fortnight.) and I have to say I lean on the side of Corbyn here.
I’m not a pacifist, but neither am I a warmonger and watching his interviews lead me to believe he stands in that middle ground too.
There is a time and a place for war and sometimes it is the answer, sadly, but it should only be when all other options have been exhausted. And I don’t believe they have.
Coming off topic a little, it is my firm belief that these young men are being radicalised because they are feeling secluded from the world they live in, like they don’t really fit in. They are vulnerable and that is why they are able to be influenced by people who want to hurt us.
Stop them feeling cut off, you stop them being radicalised: a very simplistic version of my feelings on the matter, but in a blog covering so many other topics I don’t feel this is the place to expand.
Ultimately, I want my son to grow up in a world there is tolerance and support of people from different cultures, background and opinions – not one that is divided by hate.
Over to you…
I am not sure if I should be being quite so open about my feelings (read ‘biased’) during the election period, but I wanted to talk about the things that matter to me and, to be honest, get these frustrations off my chest.
It is not a piece written with the intention of persuading you to vote one way or another, but to hopefully help you consider what is important to you and how that influences your vote.
If you’re undecided at the moment, I found these Telegraph summaries useful:
Or you might like to listen to ParentPod, a new series of podcasts I will be producing with Mama Mei. In our first episode we look at what the general election means for families:
But, most importantly, whatever you are doing on Thursday, please make sure you’ve got ‘visit the polling station’ on your to-do-list.
This is potentially the most important election in my lifetime because it really could bring about change, it’s a chance for us to really have a say about how we want our country to be run.
Research the policies, chat with your friends, sit down and have a long think about what party you want running our country… and then stick a little cross in the box and know you’ve done your bit.
What issues are the most important to you when you are deciding which way to vote? Does having a family change your opinion on this? Please do let me know in the comments below: