Please go out and vote – who else can speak your truth but you?

Have you lost your polling card? Me too. I have two children under five, so I’ll find it in a few months stuffed down the back of the sofa with wobbly portraits of me scrawled across it in blue felt tip, or pictures of spiders and imaginative beasties. I can barely tell the difference. The good news is, if you’re registered to vote, you don’t actually need it, spiders and beasties or no.

It’s a curiously British thing, a card dropping through your door with a footnote on it saying it’s surplus to its own requirement, but I suspect it serves as a reminder that there is an election coming up, for those not permanently embroiled in the inner scandal and machinations of the Houses of Parliament. To vote without your polling card, simply find your nearest polling station (link here), turn up, and state your name and address. If you had a postal vote that you haven’t posted, just complete it and hand it in. I was advising people to take some form of identification with them yesterday, but was widely assured that it wasn’t necessary – however I get asked for ID for everything from cider to hotel bookings, so I always carry my Provisional Driving License to be on the safe side. Not being a car driver, I suppose it cheers me to give the small piece of green plastic some purpose.

But polling card or no polling card, postal vote or hastily-completed-and-handed-in-vote, please do vote. And vote with your heart. Or your mind. Or your conscience. Or your gut. Or an other indeterminable part of your anatomy. This is your slice of representation, this is your voice, your chance to be heard. Who else can speak your truth but you? Who else can colour your beliefs and ethics and convictions and priorities and moral fibre into the great tapestry of our diverse and wonderful country, but you?

It’s easy to cast a sweeping glance over a bunch of people in smart blazers and think they’re all the same. They aren’t. One is an immigrant who used to be a journalist. One set fire to money in front of homeless people for laughs. One is a former banker bankrolled by 90% of the donors to party he claims to be so different from. One has inspired an entire fan club of teenage girls into a One-Direction-esque rapture. Their histories form their priorities and their priorities form their politics, just like you, and just like me.

If your conviction is that you don’t want to vote, then fine. If you are genuinely apathetic about the potholes in your roads, about the price of your train tickets, the price of food, the cost of your rent, mortgage, stamp duty, inheritance tax, if nothing in your day to day life matters enough to you to take ten minutes out of your day once every five years to make a decision about it, that’s fine. If you don’t care about school places for your children, or the quality of their education, the cost of higher education and the accompanying debts that young people are saddled with as they face a hostile jobs market and the likelihood of being one of twenty people to apply for every job at their local coffee shop, that’s fine by me. If you genuinely think that over the next five years you won’t need to see your doctor, or visit A&E, have a baby, call the midwidfe, call the Police, or the Fire Service, okay, don’t go out and vote.

The reality is that ‘politics’ isn’t restricted to the catcalls and baying mob that pantomime on Prime Ministers Questions. It’s not the select few flicking through ringbinders with prepared answers on BBC Question Time. It’s not just homogeny in suits making decisions on our behalf – it’s all around us. Politics is life, and all aspects of life are deeply political. Admittedly a First Past The Post system is clunky and not truly representative, but the less of us who vote, the less representative it becomes. I hope for a proportional representation system in the future, but we need to vote for it if we want it. We need to vote for progression, if we want it, or austerity, if you really believe that’s the answer, or whatever you believe in or the closest thing to it you can find.

If you really believe you are too small a cog in the system to change anything, remember that constituencies have been won and lost on a single vote.

If you really don’t know what a difference you could make, remember that three years ago I was a single mother, unemployed, with my Housing Benefit suspended and a Section 21 eviction notice through my letterbox. I felt helpless, hopeless, at the bottom of a scrap heap and resigning myself to it because I couldn’t imagine anything else any more. A chance glimpse of a headline in a local paper enraged me enough to write a letter to the editor. I started my blog. The rest is history. Now I register young homeless people to vote. I’m canvassed for my opinion on news sofas as a ‘social commentator’. I write for national newspapers. I have been on Question Time. I forced a debate in Parliament with a relentless and furious campaign. I’m nothing special. I had no media training, no ‘friends in the know’. I just got involved. You could do that too.

And if we wake up on Friday morning with the possibility of a Government that we would rather not see in power, if all your dreams didn’t come true at the ballot box, it is not the end. It is just the beginning. You do not have to accept the top-down cuts and austerities and policies that will directly negatively impact on your life. We can rally. We can protest. We can organise. We can campaign. We can petition. We can scrutinise, pressurise, but we must not give in.

To quote my late friend Hetty Bower, who I campaigned with in 2013; “We must fight. Yes, if we fight, they might win. But if we don’t fight? Then of course they’ll win.”

Jack Monroe.

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Categories: Blog

42 Comments »

  1. Thanks Jack! Another passionate, inspiring, articulate and thoughtful post. I have voted with pride and hope that we will wake up tomorrow to a government who cares for the weakest and listens when we say we want change. Overly optimistic? I am praying not!

  2. Hear, Hear Jack! Voting is a privilege in the current world order. I wholeheartedly agree that if you don’t vote you cant complain. I live in Australian voting at EVERY election – local government council, state government and federal government – is compulsory and you receive a fairly hefty fine if you can’t come up with a good reason why you didn’t vote. Suspect tomorrow’s result in the UK is going to be another hung/difficult parliament.

  3. Great post. Trying to figure out how I can go out to vote with a vomiting four year old and a teething baby who won’t sleep anywhere but my lap! Every time he falls asleep the big kid wakes up and shouts,

    ‘I’m gonna be SIIIIIICK!!!’

    Thank God for phones. As much as people whinge about technology, on a day like this it’s a very handy connection to the outside world!

    Hopefully my polling station will be open this evening. Trying to make my small contribution to keeping bloody ukip out of Kent.

    • I think they’re all open until 10pm, and polling station staff are briefed to help out harrassed parents with small children so that they can grab a few minutes to vote. I hope your four year old stops vomiting long enough for you to make a break for it!

      • All done! I escaped to house of vomit leaving kids with my husband to vote (go greens!). It was lovely to walk there and back without a sick bucket in hand or baby attached to boob.

        Thanks for the info!

  4. I’m in a Tory stronghold. I’m very much NOT a Tory. It’s depressing that every X I’ve marked on ballot papers over the years have amounted to nothing. But I’ve already put my mark in today’s box. And I’ll continue to do so. Maybe one day I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    • Me too, a Tory stronghold. I am 60 now and voted in each and every election, and will continue to do so even though my choice has no chance. One day hopefully we will have PR.

  5. You are, as usual, inspirational and almost entirely right – although most of the pothole problems, even in London, are for the local authority to fix rather than central government.

    I’ve just completed my postal vote and handed it in at the polling station that I found occupying half the local sports centre. Their staff jibbed at taking it, even though the instructions on the inner envelope specifically state that this can be done, at any station, up to close of polling. (I argued the point; they gave in.)

    It might be rather a waste of paper, I know, but it’s so helpful to see the list of candidates before going to vote; far too few are known in advance. Not that I wanted to vote for any of the loony fringe, of course.

    Green’s good enough for me and the party finally got organised enough, this year (although sadly not last year, for the local elections), that I didn’t have to search to find out who they were putting up in my ward – although it helped that I already knew slightly their candidate for the other Hackney ward. Pity that Caroline Lucas isn’t still the party leader, though: I can’t be alone in being subliminally put off by the current leader’s rather grating Australian accent and struggling not to let it affect my principles.

  6. But the question is who to vote for? Some people have 2 votes today, they are voting for a council. My local council couldn’t hove a piss up in a brewery for alcoholics demanding the beer, and I doubt most of them are any better. We have, here, a Labour candidate who is new and been bought in from outside after they wanted an all female short-list to replace the Labour MP who has held the seat since 1992, I wont vote for her because she is from outside the area, the conservatives and Lib-Dem candidates can go commit suicide for all I care, the only 2 choices are UKIP or Greens even though I think the Labour must vote for them brigade will be out in force, I see my local MP still been Labour and the council been HUNG!! Well they should be the lot of them are in it for what THEY can get!!

  7. Yes, yes yes, you are so right. I posted a picture of a boat overloaded with desperate migrants on facebook today. People risk their lives just for a chance of the life and the choices we have. To be too apathetic to make those choices seems like a travesty.

  8. Well said Jack. I’ve voted just now. I just made a slight adjustment to my normal routine so people don’t really have that excuse, not to vote. If you chose not to then hush yourself, if you don’t like the PM of the day.

    Oh I didn’t take my card. It’s in a “safe” place but can only blame myself but no ID was ok, though I can see it coming one day soon.

  9. Reblogged this on Sophie E Tallis and commented:
    Never a truer word was spoken! Come on people, it’s Election Day, go out and vote! Celebrate the fact that you live in a free country where you actually have the right to vote when so many people across the world have no such privilege!

  10. From “across the pond”, I applaud you! We silly Americans are already deluged with our potential candidates for President (election in Nov. 2016). Our papers and blogs and other media are are full of people who are dissatisfied with so many aspects of our government…..yet only 40% of them vote. Your eloquence on this subject has inspired me and given me more ammunition in my fight for getting people off their couches and to the polls! How sad that in some countries people face possible death or other horrors in their attempts to vote, and so many of us who have the privilege (and dare I say responsibility) forget that without exercising our votes, we have NO say in our government. Kudos to you to find the time in your busy schedule, and also the time to craft this reminder of how important it is!

  11. I would beg everyone to vote; even if it seems hopeless ; even if you think ‘what’s the point we just get the same old …’, even if you think no candidate stands out for you , please just do something. Vote for the least worst if that makes sense, because we will get what we deserve if we don’t vote and then where will we be? . Think of all of those who died just so we can put a mark on a ballot paper and make our voices heard. PLEASE just do it!

    • Rubbish. In what other aspect of life should anyone have to actively promote the least worst option … other than in politics?

  12. I found your blog last week and, while I was already following the British elections with some interest (I’m American), catching up on your last 2 years of blog posts has made me VERY interested. But my biggest question reading this post (even bigger than who will win the elections!) is…when did you have a second kid?? Apparently I’ve missed something in my quick scroll through the blog (stopping mainly on the recipes, I confess—they are excellent and very inspiring!)

  13. Green party will be voted for tonight! I wasn’t going to vote; but then remembered the women who died to give us this right!….so as much as I don’t like voting; make it count in some way!

    • Me too, even tho I have always lived in various Tory strongholds. People have literally fought and died for my right to vote and I feel duty bound to exercise that right. Every time.

  14. Thank you Jack. I always ask about turnout in my ward when I vote, the answer is usually ‘poor so far ‘ or ‘not too good, really’. Today, at 5 pm the response was ‘Really good, lots of first time voters’. Some good news to share.
    I suspect the pattern will be followed elsewhere, maybe not everywhere, but it is heartening.

  15. Fantastic post Jack. Walked my 86 year old mum, still sporting a livid bruise and black eye from a recent fall, down to her local polling station today. On the way (it took a while, cobbles don’t go well with a walking stick) we talked about suffragettes and horse races (our candidate’s name is Emily), and pictures we had seen of people queuing to vote in countries where they have only just got the right to do so. Mum remembers a time before the NHS and the difficulty her mother had paying for a doctor to visit her seriously ill son. She is adamant that it must be protected and that we must exercise our democratic rights. We felt we were doing this for our forebears, the disenfranchised around the world, and our children and grandchildren. Its a great feeling, participation.

  16. Hear hear! It was just over 100 years ago that Emily Davison died in the fight for women to get the vote. It’s shameful when votes are wasted by not being cast.

  17. Please do not confuse utter disbelief in anything to do with any politician, anywhere, with apathy. Lack of engagement – in any sphere of life – needs game-changing reform. I’ll wait until I can actually make a difference, thanks.

  18. You know you are disillusioned with the whole political process – when you decide to cast your vote as a “protest vote” just on the offchance the Government will listen about one particular policy. They didn’t listen to 1 million of us protesting about the Iraq War. I doubt they will listen to the one-third of the voters saying “Close our country’s boarders – NOW” (courtesy of precisely one MP elected on that ticket so far) – but we have to make the point as to what our opinion is.

  19. Did as you said and voted to end this dreadful govement, and today all I can say is the only good thing going into number 10, is Larry the cat.

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