I’ve become much more politically active over the past couple of years. I don’t mean in terms of joining a particular party, going to demos and the like. This is a self-proclaimed introvert talking, after all. Some days you’re lucky to get me out of the house. But I have found that I’m reading political blogs, signing petitions and posting about issues that are desperately important to me. Things like freedom of speech and expression. The right to privacy. An unassailable Human Rights Act. Protection of the vulnerable. Tolerance for all, regardless of skin colour, religion or cultural differences.
I’m writing and acting on these issues because I increasingly see them under threat. I’ve been stopped and searched twice under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, for no reason that I can see other than the bulky backpack I toted around back then (my Gabe bag of choice is considerably slimmer nowadays, and it’s not just out of consideration towards my back). It’s becoming more and more difficult to take a photo on the street these days without a uniformed jobsworth demanding to see the contents of your memory card. Even bloody Facebook is making it virtually impossible to keep control of what I can and cannot share with the world. (I know, I know, the government has nothing to do with Facebook. But it keeps my righteous anger simmering nicely.)
But I remain hopeful, which is why I campaign and sign and write letter after letter to my MP. I believe that once people organise, pool their resources and knowledge and make a stand against issues that concern them, then things can change. I contribute regularly to groups like 38 Degrees, the anti-BNP organisation Hope Not Hate, and have been a paid up member of Amnesty International for years. I’m not telling you this to brag or to show off my wishywashy liberal credentials. I’m telling you this to make it clear that by sitting at a laptop for a half-hour a day and bashing out an angry letter or two, you can genuinely make a difference. Thanks to online campaigning, the Liberal Democrat stance on the Digital Economy Bill, the awful, flawed, rushed piece of legislation that seeks to cut off a family’s internet connection based on an unverified accusation of copyright infringement, has hardened to the point where it’s repeal is now policy.
Furthermore, thanks to blogs like Angry Mob, Tabloid Watch and Enemies Of Reason, I now feel much more secure in my ability to counter the poison spouted by rags like the Mail and the Express about immigration and Europe. I learnt early on to take anything I read in papers with a large handful of salt, and that’s considerably more palatable than the bitter gall that the Murdoch, Desmond and Rotherhithe papers gush on a daily basis. I find it worrying that much of the guff that’s spouted by the BNP and UKIP comes directly from the unsubstantiated lies that these papers serve up on their front pages and editorials.
Tomorrow, then, there’s a chance to change all that, or at least point our nose away from the brow of the waterfall. These past couple of weeks have been utterly illuminating, as the two main parties suddenly see an electorate sickened beyond patience with the current political system, and scurry wildly from one extreme to the other in a desperate bid for power. Frankly, they’re as bad as each other. Better writers than me can come up with a pretty long list of what Labour have done to the country over the last decade and a half, but I’m also absolutely convinced that if the Tories were in power at any point in that period, they would have made the same choices, if not worse. For the Cameronbot to talk about change when a cursory glance at the policies makes it clear that they’re offering the same old bullying tactics towards the poor and helpless, focussing cuts in public spending towards the services that do the most good.
I think it should be pretty plain by now which way I’m voting tomorrow, so I won’t be crass enough to spell it out. But I will point out that I’m in the fortunate position of being able to vote both tactically, and towards my conscience, towards the path that I feel will do the most good.
If anyone reading this is planning not to vote tomorrow, then can I urge you to think again? This is the first time in a generation that the public in general has been so involved in an election campaign, and I’m fascinated to see what the turnout is going to be, and whether we wake up on Friday morning to a genuinely new political landscape. Arguing that “it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in” is a specious and reductive argument, and one for which I no longer have any patience. That’s the sort of argument that has led to painfully low voter turnouts, and the smug, unrepresentative government that we have suffered for far too long. We can do better. And we have the chance, tomorrow. Get your asses to a booth, and make your voice heard.
If you’re still not sure of who to vote for, spend five minutes with Votematch, which should point you in the right direction.