It’s the election nobody wanted, but it’s the election that could define a generation. When Theresa May yesterday (April 18) went back on her promise not to hold a General Election until 2020, a collective sigh of ‘ohhhhhh, why now?’ spread online. As if the last two years – the Tories gaining a majority in 2015, swiftly followed by a Brexit decision almost half the country didn’t want – wasn’t punishment enough, this June things may well take another turn.
2016’s kick-us-when-we’re-down supply of misery was relentless, and at times it feels like we’ve become numbed to bad news. But the biggest threat to this year’s result is apathy, general indifference and a belief that there’s no opportunity to change our fate. As NME’s Mark Beaumont points out, the country is on a knife edge like never before. So far from being a foregone conclusion, a chance for the Tories to consolidate power or a nail in the NHS’ coffin, June offers the final opportunity in years to change the tide. Let’s face it – calling this election is nothing but a gross attempt on May’s part to strengthen her power to the point where any whiff of opposition doesn’t stand a chance. But what if this undemocratic, unfair decision all went horribly wrong? Wouldn’t that be brilliant? It could happen.
Think back to your Facebook feed the day after 2015 and 2016’s results. Chances are it was a mixture of Doomsday disbelief, finger-pointing at friends who didn’t vote, un-friending acquaintances who revealed themselves to be shy Tories. And above all else, most spoke about how they regretted not doing more in the build-up to an election, whether through canvassing, local campaigning or simply speaking to mates who might be apathetic towards politics.
Not only is June’s election a chance to turn things in our favour – it’s also a chance to escape the ‘online bubble’ many of us claim to be trapped in. Get out there and do something. Here’s how:
Register to vote – and actually vote
If that sounds patronising, bear in mind that for last year’s referendum, 64% of 18-to-24 year olds who were registered to vote actually did so. A high figure, compared to average youth turnout, but it wasn’t enough to shift the result. To contrast, 90% of registered over-65s voted. It’s already well documented that the older generations are more politically active and prepared to go to the ballot box. But it wouldn’t take much to shift the agenda.
Do the obvious thing and register to vote. It takes about as much time as a Chainsmokers song takes to reach its first drop. Once you’ve done that, tell your friends to vote – not just via social media feeds, in person. Talk about it in WhatsApp chats. Ask co-workers, students, just about anyone you meet in your day-to-day if they’re registered. And on June 8, if you feel the urge, parade the streets with a megaphone and make sure everyone’s out of bed and down the polling station. Do the right thing.
Vote locally and tactically
It might seem cynical and counter-intuitive to vote solely for the purpose of keeping the Tories out, but consider what a tactical vote could actually achieve – no majority government for another five years, the survival of the NHS, a greater say on Brexit negotiations, no more cuddling up with a warmongering U.S. President. This isn’t the time for a protest vote against a breaking but not completely broken Labour Party. By calling the election now, part of Theresa May’s motive is to completely demolish her strongest opposition when it’s at its weakest point. Jeremy Corbyn might not seem electable, but he doesn’t stand for the policies a majority Conservative government could enforce at will.
The fact is, due to boundary changes and the first-past-the-post electoral system, we’re near-enough forced to think tactically when voting. This useful ‘How to vote to stop the Tories’ spreadsheet is a catch-all for every constituency where your vote could count. It picks out the safe Tory seats, the current Tory strongholds where Labour or the Liberal Democrats have a chance of winning, and the grey areas where anything could happen. This is a time for left-leaning parties to form an informal alliance that actively works against the Tories. And if you’re still vehemently against the idea of voting tactically, join the campaign to introduce a measure for proportional representation, in order to achieve long-term, significant change.
For anyone feeling like they didn’t do enough to impact on last year’s result, the easiest solution is to volunteer. If you admire your local MP and they represent a party you support, campaign for them. If there are any nearby constituencies with well-meaning potential representatives, work with them. If any part of you wants progressive change, this is the next step.
Hold Theresa May accountable
Within hours of announcing an election date, Theresa May confirmed she wouldn’t be taking part in televised debates. Even though the live, cross-party discussions were only introduced ahead of the 2010 election, this seems like a gutless move on her part. Perhaps she fears a swell of opposition forming in the wake of debates, like with Nick Clegg in 2010. Maybe she doesn’t want to be held publicly accountable for some of the country’s most important decisions in decades. This petition is asking May to reconsider her decision and to discuss Brexit head-to-head with opposition leaders. She’s already performed a u-turn in calling the election – why trust someone who goes back on their word and then refuses to be held accountable in this way?