Can you remember the last time you felt inspired by a political leader, the last time you felt hopeful about the future of your country, or the last time you used the word 'politics' without it leaving a bad taste in your mouth? For many in my generation, and perhaps for many in older ones too, this is a feat of memory that is simply asking too much.
Neither Labour nor Conservative any longer have the vision, the drive or the courage to tell a compelling narrative or prescribe an effective cure. They know that they both (along with Ukip and the Lib Dems) have welded themselves to a system that simply does not allow room for compassion or ingenuity, and is simply unable to provide the solutions we desperately need. Its practitioners don't even both to try and win over the electorate as a whole: instead aiming for tactical slices in marginal seats that may, with the right 'strategy', push them into office.
Ed Miliband, apparently oblivious to the damage it would do to his alleged left wing credentials, issued a direct plea to Conservative voters, and Grant Shapps, Tory party chairman, gleefully told listeners on BBC's Question Time that his party need only convince 11,000 voters in key constituencies for Cameron to extend his stay in No. 10 (mission accomplished). Elections have been marketised, relying more on strategy than ideology, tactics rather than drive. Quite why this completely misses the point seems to escape both Labourite and Tory alike. The elite have adapted our flavour of democracy to suit their own ends, manipulating swing voters, opinion polls and the media to maintain control whilst offering us a semblance of power. For those that really hold the strings of power elections are strategic games, sacrificing a pawn here to gain a rook there (but what happens to the pawn?)
Mirroring recent trends, millions have opted to stay away from the ballot box again. These are the people that no campaigner or polling guru has accounted for, the people that haven't had their say in this election, yet again. They are quite likely to be the people that have suffered at the hands of this government the most, the ones that will again be trodden beneath the boots of 'economic progress' and these are the people that are going to change the course of history.
Too many of us have been watching politics from the side lines for far too long. Whether it be through a passivity-propagating media or an out of touch political elite, we are, in a multitude of subtle, discrete and unconscious ways told every day that we are not important, that our view doesn't count, that we do not have power: but we do.
The world and history is full of examples of ordinary people altering the course of history, from the abolitionists and the Suffragettes to modern student occupations and left wing surges epitomised in Podemos, Syriza and the SNP. If those of us who have been lied to, betrayed, belittled, patronised, accused of causing freak weather events or otherwise been trampled over by the Establishment band together we can change the world. Whether you voted or not, let this be the start of something, not the end.
I got involved in politics because I was tired of passively accepting the lies, deceit and corruption. I was tired of resigning myself to oscillating between the evil and the mediocre. I was tired of feeling powerless, ignored and forgotten. Of course our electoral system is laughably outdated and hopelessly inefficient, so don't wait until 2020 to do something, don't rely on them to fix it for us. Westminster belongs just as much to us as it does to any of them, our prosperity just as much our responsibility as theirs. Of course they don't want to listen to us, so don't give them a choice. Don't accept the world the way it is. Allow yourself to feel the anger and injustice at a government that is set to tear society apart and then use it. Direct it. Change the world with it.
Join a political party or a single issue group (or even start your own) and start campaigning on the issues that matter the most to you. Blog. Read more widely and deeply and get angry. Write more frequently to your local MP/council, and proceed to egg throwing if you don't receive a response. Design some amusing memes that get their message across via the medium of cats. Sign e-petitions, attend demonstrations, boycott products and put on local discussion groups/debates. Drag a mattress through your town centre collecting signatures against the Bedroom Tax (as someone in my town did). But above all don't exist in a vacuum: connect with like-minded people and watch the wonders a small group of committed individuals can achieve.
The next five years will be hard and cruel and will bring us closer to the edge than we thought possible but it can bring us closer to each other too. We face a crisis of truly staggering proportions, a planet and her people crying out for relief and change. We cannot ignore this call, every single one of us has a responsibility to do something about it, now. I cannot stress enough how important you are, how powerful your voice can be if only you choose to raise it. What you think and do and say matters, despite what our political system and press consistently seems to tell us. The day of an election isn't the only time we have power: we have it every day we just don't realise it. Don't let 7 May have been the end of a political conversation, let it be the start.Suggest a correction