The Blog

Your Vote Can Change the UK

The Scottish independence referendum was proof that a positive campaign, engaging rather than side-lining young people, will inspire people of all ages to vote. The major political parties have forgotten this... But there is an alternative.

At the 2010 General Election, almost 16million people - 34.9% - did not vote. Around five million fewer people voted Conservative, and only slightly more voted for either of the Coalition parties than the number of registered voters who did not vote at all.

Among younger people, the situation was even more worrying: just 44% of 18-24 year-olds voted, while for 25-34 year-olds, 55% voted, still well below the 65% turnout.

Since that election, which delivered a government few people expected and even fewer actually wanted, politicians, commentators and celebrities have debated exactly why so many people - and among them so many younger people - do not vote.

Almost as many theories have been put forward as people who have taken part in the debate, but two possibilities have been touched on more often - and with greater volume - than any other: the lack of representation of people by political parties, and the idea that in many cases people's votes are 'wasted' anyway.

First Past the Post was suited to a two-party system, but can't really handle anything more diverse. As an example, in Norwich South in 2010 (a Green Party target seat for 7 May), Lib Dem candidate Simon Wright won with just 29.4% of the vote.

Not only did more than 70% of voters not wish to be represented by a Liberal Democrat, only for a Liberal Democrat to be elected, but all those votes - more than 70% of all votes cast in Norwich South - were then reduced to nothing.

In many seats, voters are pressured into voting to for the candidate or party they prefer, but instead to keep another candidate out of parliament. It's no surprise that people decide not to vote: it's hard to inspire people to vote for someone they don't agree with - and in some cases actively dislike - solely to prevent someone even worse winning a seat.

And young people - often accused of apathy - may be forgiven for looking at the so-called 'big three' (by membership, of course, the Green Party is bigger than either the Lib Dems or Ukip - and its young people's party is the largest of its kind in the UK) and concluding that no-one really cares about or represents them.

The Scottish independence referendum - in which 110,000 16-17 year olds (about 80% of the eligible total) voted, was proof that a positive campaign, engaging rather than side-lining young people, will inspire people of all ages to vote.

The major political parties have forgotten this. As a result, young people are discouraged from voting, seeing little reason to give their support to people who are not interested in them. The tragedy is that they are not alone in thinking that.

But there is an alternative. Though Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and Ukip appear united under a banner of cuts and punishing the poor simply for being poor, the Green Party stands outside of this twisted, wrong-headed and spiteful consensus.

That's why I am a member of the party, and it's why I want to let you know that whoever you are, wherever you are, however old you are, regardless of race, religion or region, the Green Party stands for you, and with you.

Instead of austerity - or the slightly watered-down version offered by Labour and that the Lib Dems claim to offer, the Green Party proposes to change how society is run, to the benefit of all, rather than just a few fortunate people who already control vast levels of wealth.

We understand that not only is it wrong to blame society's less wealthy and most vulnerable for our challenges, it's also to the detriment of all of society.

We only succeed as a nation if we are able to contribute - to lead fulfilling lives in comfort. That's why the Green Party stands for decent education for all. It's why we are the only party which will abolish University tuition fees, and the only party which will write off student debts.

It's also why we will reverse the privatisation of the NHS, and protect it too as a publicly-owned, public service which is free at the point of use. And we will provide homes for all those who need them, improving mental and physical health and enabling vital workers such as nurses, teachers and street cleaners, to work where they are needed.

We will return water, electricity and transport companies to public ownership, and build an economy powered not by trading in shady 'derivatives', but by real production, including of renewable energy technology - because societies can only thrive if the environment on which we all rely is protected.

And of course, we will change the electoral system so that nobody - young or old - will ever again be made to feel their vote has been wasted.

With just one MP - Caroline Lucas of Brighton Pavilion - we have shown we can and will keep the important issues, those affecting us all, at the forefront of Parliament's attention.

With more MPs, from seats including Bristol West, Norwich South, Liverpool Riverside, St Ives, Solihull and many others, and in unity with members from Plaid Cymru and the SNP, we can help ensure those issues remain on the agenda, that people are better represented by their government and that we can step away from austerity and towards a more inclusive, less spiteful system.

But we can only do so with your help. We can only deliver if, on 7 May, everyone who can do so votes Green.

We can only change the system with your help.