For the past few months I’ve been looking at how we get people more engaged in politics, from registering and encouraging people to vote, to mobilising individuals and communities to be more politically active.
One thing has become really obvious in the run up to this General Election. A lot of people genuinely don’t know who to vote for and a very common reason is that people just don’t understand how it all works and what each party stands for.
For the next three days I am going to write an article each day addressing this issue.
We live in an information age. With so much information out there, it may seem strange that so many people are unclear about what politics means and what our political parties are about.
It feels like we are talking about politics more than ever before, my Twitter and Facebook feeds are littered with political posts. The news doesn’t seem to talk about anything else at the moment and our newspapers are a catalogue of party political propaganda. So if there is so much noise, why aren’t people hearing?
Here’s my theory. White noise!
White noise is physics terminology to describe a noise containing many frequencies, a constant background noise that drowns out all other sounds. It can also be used to describe a meaningless or distracting commotion, hubbub or chatter.
Has the continuous coverage of MP’s arguing; the sometimes seemingly meaningless conversations of our media broadcasters (reporting things like how many girlfriends a potential PM has had) and the never ending bombardment of stories about the seven major parties and what they have or haven’t promised, what is wrong with what they have promised and why what they have promised can’t be trusted; simply created a political white noise.
If we aren’t absolutely dedicated to the political cause, with weeks to spare researching the parties and getting our head round it all, how do we unpick all that has been said. How do we find truth from all the chatter? How do we hear what is really being said? And importantly how do we move forward and make that very important decision about who to vote for in two days time.
I am not sure sadly we can address this issue in a few days. For real democratic participation we need to re-think a whole host of things. We might need to re-think community, revive public gatherings, start going down the pub more, lobby for better political education in schools, encourage people to get active in political parties or unions, join or start campaigns, make it ok to talk politics at the dinner table or any table, ensure political voices are welcomed at community events, make our community activities more political. All of these things could ensure our communities are more politically aware and active. They could enable year round politics and not just election time politics
Unfortunately for this General Election we only have two days to make up our minds so If you are struggling to hear through the noise and are still unsure who to vote for, why not think about trying the following
1) Ask a friend for advice. We all have those friends who only ever post things about politics. They will be more than happy to answer any questions you have; they spend most of their time talking about it anyway. Don’t think you can’t ask the really basics either. I’ve been asked all sorts of questions and was very happy to answer them.
2) Choose wisely where you get your information from. The BBC are a much more reliable source of news and information than people like the Daily Mail or the Sun. (although some would say not completely unbiased) Many of our other papers and TV stations are owned by a small number of media owners who have their own agendas (usually to protect their billions and ensure they don’t come under scrutiny or restrictions) so I personally would take what they say with a large pinch of salt (or maybe a whole salt mine of the stuff)
3) Take one of those political compass tests, they’re not completely accurate but they do give you an idea of where you lean politically. These two are good http://election2015.votematch.org/ and https://verto.vote/#/ again take them with a pinch of salt, just because your politics align with a certain party, it still doesn’t mean they are the right party to vote for but at least you will know where you lean.
4) Lastly, to try and understand the main differences in the parties it’s good to understand their core principles, these can be described as left or right wing. Here’s a nice little overview of what that means http://idontgetpolitics.co.uk/right-left-wing Some parties policies may sound similar but there’s still some fundamental differences so understand these and it may just help you make your mind up.
If you have any questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. This is so important!