Help! I’m a Conservative thinker living in a Labour constituency.
Leading up to last year’s snap election I was not only overwhelmed by how unexpected it was but also by the prospect of not knowing how to vote. The thought of belonging to a constituency that voted the opposite to my political beliefs made me take this decision. My journey from being an apathetic voter in the UK to actively seeking ways to leave this stage has been daunting, yet an exciting one.
For those reading, it is essential to not consider this thought as a taboo subject or with judgement of a political privilege that apathetic voters neglect, but rather as an ‘agonising citizenship insomnia’. The nature of democracy is one which enables us certain freedoms, including the basic right to vote. However, in our system we vote for candidates that will represent their party as a Member of Parliament in an area.
Even though statistics show that the number of young voters did increase in the previous general election it is in this same way that many have been, are or will be apathetic voters at some point. An apathetic voter is an individual with the rights to vote yet chooses to not vote. This could be due to the lack of care, or perhaps in my case confusion and fear that my vote will not count.
Throughout our school education, whether engaging with Citizenship or Politics classes, we are taught about the voting system. However, following an election, or on the journey towards one, all that theory learnt in class does not seem to make sense, for some. For those that fall into this category it has caused much confusion as to not knowing what exactly to do when voting and who exactly to vote for. Questions like ‘do I vote for this party as I align my politics with them or do I vote for them because they have been the ruling party for my constituency for a very long time?’ or ‘do I hope that one day I become rich enough to move into a majority Conservative voting area and in the meantime vote amiss?’ and lastly, ‘am I compromising my integrity as a voter?’
Why be so pedantic, you might say. Why not? I once sat in a lesson where we were taught about the First Past the Post system. As flamboyant 15 to 16 year olds could get, majority of us criticised how moronic this system sounds, we resolved in describing it a brainless system. We did not understand why we could not vote directly for the leader of a party to become Prime Minister.
In a conversation with a friend he too expressed the agony of apathy. His words were:
“I feel torn. I’ve been brought up in Tottenham, where crime is notorious. Welfare support has been important and helpful to my family and neighbours. However, I support many fiscal principles of the Tories and values of hard work and not having to depend on state welfare.”
It was with a similar conflict in mind that I made my decision not to vote in the 2017 General election. I just felt that my vote would not count. That my voice would not be heard. At this point advice to ‘just vote anyway’ was not convincing enough either.
I am in favour of the current MP that represents my constituency, I applaud his tenacity, eloquence and courage. However, it has been difficult for me to wrap my mind around a Labour government. For the times I have come home to vote or stayed in the town of my university to vote I have never felt comfortable in making a decision.
Yet, being in a state such as this should not become a predicament one should choose to remain in throughout their voting lifetime. So I have two suggestions that might help:
1. Attend your local ward meetings or read up on your MPs intentions for your constituency.
It may be daunting enough that your MP will not be the Prime Minister, but hearing their objectives and intentions might help you to channel your apathy into energy for your local community.
2. Don’t be afraid to share your confusions (in a safe environment).
My conversations about party politics began at home at the age of 17. Both my parents, loyal Labour supporters, could not understand why I chose to spew such disloyal words. Being a lone ranger with these thoughts made me feel uneasy at times. In the beginning you might feel like the sinner in the congregation but, eventually feeling comfortable enough to share such confusions may help you to understand voting politics in a way that might prepare you for the next election.