Ben talks about what being political really means - and why it matters for the upcoming General Election.
I know you’re probably fed up of people encouraging you to vote. You’re probably also fed up of people saying that they “know you’re probably fed up of people encouraging you to vote”. Everyone seems so desperate to be #relatable, to appeal to young voters in any way possible, to get them to vote.
There’s a reason people seem desperate though – this s*** matters.
Whenever politics is discussed, I hear people moan and groan. I hear people cry, “Why you gotta make everything political?” I hear people say they hate politics because it “makes people argue, it gets heated.” My opinion on this is that everything is political. The word ‘politics’ may have become shorthand for big, boring words, and posh people arguing. But in action, politics is just the way we think the country, if not the whole world, should be run.
It’s about how we treat people. Politics isn’t just words or speeches or elections – it’s people. The reason I take politics and voting so seriously is because I want to live in a country and a world where we are all treated fairly. Where every human being is respected.
This principle is summed up really well in the movie Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014). It’s all about Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for black rights. His focus during the film? As simple as protections for their voting rights. Black people had already won the right to vote, but white registrars were abusing their private power and turning black people away, or making them jump through hoops only to be rejected.
There’s a scene where Dr. King (played by the wonderful David Oyelowo) is meeting with President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). Johnson says there are more important matters for him to worry about right now. He questions why voting is so important to black people, when they are facing racial violence and attacks on a daily basis. “This voting thing is just gonna have to wait”, says the President.
But King says it can’t wait, and sums everything up beautifully;
“There have been thousands of racially motivated murders in the South... And you know the astounding fact that not one of these criminals, who murder us when and why they want, has ever been convicted... Not one conviction, because they are protected by white officials, chosen by an all-white electorate. And on the rare occasions that they face trial, they are freed by all-white juries. All-white because you can't serve on a jury, unless you are registered to vote.”
That’s why politics gets people heated or desperate. Because even the tiniest issue matters. It has an impact, a domino effect, on real people’s lives.
There are a whole host of issues and talking points in the upcoming general election. Some may interest or affect you personally. For me, I’m gonna focus on who represents my views on women’s rights (issues such as contraceptive rights for women), LGBTQ+ rights (such as workplace protections for transgender employees), immigrant worker’s rights, and healthcare rights (for the poor, for the disabled, and for mental health issues). These may be what you care about. You may care about something else. But it all matters to somebody.
So please register to vote. Because if you don’t care, if you find it all too boring or too ugly, then people will suffer.
And yes, I know that sounds dramatic. But this is important.
You can register to vote before the 22nd May (for an in person vote) or the 23rd of May (for a postal vote). To register online or find a postal vote form, go to: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote