The Harbinger Online

Swindells: Get Turnt for Voting

I turn 18 next year, and it’s perfect timing. My birthday is in February, so it’ll be just in time for my senior year spring break. And, even better, it means I’ll be 18 in time for the UK General Election. Even though I moved here at the beginning of the school year, I’m still a British citizen, so I still have voting rights. I am literally so excited. (I’d like to apologize in advance to any UK readers, I may have watered our country’s politics down a little for the US audience.)

In May next year my ballot paper will arrive in the mail, and I will get to place a big X in the box for The Labour Party. The two main political parties are the Labour Party, which is more left-wing, more like the Democrats I guess, and the Conservatives, who, surprisingly, are the more conservative party. There are also a bunch of other parties, including the Lib Dems, who everyone hates at the moment because they told a bunch of lies to get votes last election; the Green Party, who are all cute and environmental; and a few right-wing extremist ones like the UK Independence Party (UKIP) who want to kick out all the immigrants and separate the UK from Europe.

The UK General Election takes place every five years, and it’s the one that decides which political party will be in charge. Basically, you vote for a person for your local area – mine is still Ealing Central and Acton because we still own our house there, who represents one of the parties. Then the party who gets the most representatives gets to have their party leader as the Prime Minister.

There was an election in 1997, the year I was born. It was the year the Labour Party took power after almost 20 years of Conservative government. Britain was recovering from the disaster of the Thatcher years in the 1980s, when she cut welfare and destroyed trade unions, ruining the lives of much of the working class. Britain needed reform, and I was out at the polling station in a sling across my dad’s chest, waving a little Vote Labour flag. My dad’s always been super active in campaigning for the Labour party, and I was his apprentice. I would go from door to door with him, handing out pamphlets and taking surveys.

Every election we’d do it, and Labour won every time. I was his lucky charm. Some of my favorite childhood memories are when we’d go out to post pamphlets through people’s doors really early in the morning and then he’d take me out for breakfast before school. I didn’t really care about the politics back then, I just loved spending time with him. I went through a very brief rebellious stage in my early teens where I claimed to support the Conservatives, before realizing I disagreed with almost everything they stood for.

In 2010, when I was in seventh grade, Labour lost power to the Conservatives. The Conservatives made loads of budgets cuts, slashing benefits for disabled people and single parents and making students pay for university tuition (which used to be free). Much of the public is furious with the Conservatives for cutting welfare in a time of such economic uncertainty. However, people seem to be angry with the whole government system, so there’s really no telling what will happen next election.

I wish I could be there to vote in person, rather than just by post. I wish I could go campaigning with my dad like we always do. But my mum said no because I’ll have finals and stuff.

I would love for Labour to win on my first time voting, but I don’t have high hopes. Labour was the party in power when the country went into recession, so they took a lot of the blame. Honestly I’d be thankful as long as UKIP or any other extremist right wing parties don’t get any representatives elected.

Although I would happily go on for hours about the UK political systems and the manifestos of the leading parties, I’m going to rein myself in. Feel free to ask me about it any time, it’s literally my favorite subject. What I want to talk about is you guys.

The next US election is scheduled for November 2016. That means all y’all juniors and seniors and some of you sophomores right now, in less than two years, will be able to cast your own freaking ballot. Am I the only one who’s so excited about this?

I think the ability to vote is one of the key milestones in proving you’re a legal adult. It’s the government showing they think you’re mature enough to have a say in what goes on in the country. Especially here, where you can’t legally drink until 21, voting is basically the only thing you get when you turn 18.

I don’t understand when people say “Ugh, I can’t be bothered to vote.” It makes no sense. Because no matter how little you care about the government system and economics, trust me, the government is making decisions that affect you.

You need to educate yourself on the Democrat and Republican stances on different issues, whether it be college grants, abortion or marijuana and decide for yourself what you think. Discover what topics you’re passionate about and research the parties’ view on that topic. Find out for yourself which political party you support.

Voting is the legal, socially acceptable form of protest. It puts power in your hands. It’s your way of telling your government what you think of them, without having to hit the streets with a bandana and picket sign. We are the next generation of adults; we have all the control. And we need to use it. You have the power to affect the whole of the United States and, by extension, the entire world. Little ol’ you can change the world. And I think that’s hella cool.


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Katharine Swindells

Senior Katharine Swindells is head online copy-editor of the Harbinger Online. She likes British politics, selfies, feminism, cute shoes and books. Read Full »

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