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By Jo Phillips

By Jo Phillips

Things can only get wetter

In this weeks blog, Jo Phillips discusses the upcoming general election, the significance of the coming weeks and the importance of voting.

Absolutely drenched, the Prime Minister, in his no doubt expensively tailor-made suit, looked more like a wet seal escaping a sewage outflow than a man to lead the country. Did no one in Number 10 think of an umbrella, or even a raincoat? Drowned out by torrential rain and ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ blaring out at full volume, Rishi Sunak looked desperate as he announced the date of the general election. Over the next six weeks, of what will probably be one of the most brutal election campaigns, thoughtfulness, proper debate and engagement are also likely to be drowned out by speculation, social media, fake news and gossip.

MPs who are standing down and those who expect to lose their seats will be fine-tuning CVs, tapping up anyone who might give them a lucrative new role somewhere. Journalists, commentators and polling experts will be updating contacts, cancelling engagements and packing bags to spend days on the campaign trail with party leaders and trying to find something new to say. 

Too many people say all politicians are the same, voting makes no difference and anyway who would you vote for? Yet people aren’t apathetic – they care deeply about climate change, the state of the health service, lack of affordable housing, the cost of living, immigration, education and transport.  All of us will have had our lives, jobs, studies, incomes and health upended by the tumultuous events of the last decade and to be fair, not everything that has happened is the fault of government and politicians. The war in Ukraine is Putin’s responsibility alone but the impact has been felt worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic, which killed a quarter of a million people in the UK, wasn’t caused by politicians but the way the government reacted was entirely their choice. The Brexit referendum was also a choice made by David Cameron, running scared of UKIP but the way he and his successors have dealt – or failed to – with the result has been entirely political. Hence the chaotic situation where we found ourselves with six Prime Ministers in seven years.  The last two of those, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, were put in power by less than 0.12 percent of the electorate – by members of the Conservative Party in Truss’s case and Tory MPs in Sunak’s. Which means that more than 99.88 per cent of us are governed by people we never had the chance to decide on.

Apathy is the biggest danger for all parties, and the country, in this election. This is our chance, right now and we the voters have more power than any politician. You don’t have to be John Curtice to exercise your hard fought right to vote, but people who don’t use their vote help put governments in power that don’t have the overwhelming support of the voters.

We can choose the politicians who will make decisions that affect all our lives from where kids go to school, how much we pay in taxes, to what hours we work and how much we get paid for it. They can control where and how fast we drive, whether we can protest, where new homes can be built. They also decide where and when our armed forces will be sent to war, how the elderly are cared for and whether we can vote at all.

It’s understandable to feel powerless, particularly after the last few bruising years, and the future is scary. That’s why we all need to shape one that’s better, healthier, fairer and safer.

We cannot afford to turn our backs on democracy – it can be the umbrella that shelters us all.

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