So, everyone I know is down and beaten over the crappy election result: to say people in the corner of Yorkshire I live in were disappointed is an understatement. Yet, you can’t get away from the fact that a majority of people must have voted the new government in. There must be a hell of a lot of two-faced Tories out there, because I haven’t met anyone who has admitted to voting for them yet.
I’m not what you’d call a political person; by that, I mean I always vote, then quietly mumble over the result once through, and carry on. But I’ve noticed that with the 2015 General Election, something has changed. Feeling angry and irritated when I woke up to the result on Friday morning, I felt a surge of something I’d not felt for a long time. I felt the need to get involved.
Many things have been leading to this over the last couple of years. One thing has been my husband starting teacher training in a less than affluent area of the city. I’ve also got friends whose children are taking SATS in years 2 and 6, and have seen the effect of pointless testing of young children, and the meaningless results tables comparing schools in diametrically opposed areas of a city that is famous for its drastic contrasts in wealth and poverty. A report just this morning has suggested that children as young as 10 and 11 are turning to junk food and smoking to get through their SATS tests. Remember childhood, anyone?
Secondly, my interest and frustration at the inequality in society has peaked over the last couple of years. I’ve always been an enthusiastic supporter of women’s rights, and stupidly assumed that my own two daughters would find that gender discrimination would be a thing of the past. Wrong. I’m constantly worried by the kinds of issues my teenager faces at school: sexting, social media trolling, comments regarding the all-important ‘thigh-gap’ issue spurning an alarming amount of girls with eating disorders. My 8 year old informed me on Saturday morning, after switching on the TV that there was a music video on with a ‘naked man with ladies in underwear.’ At 8am. How are we supposed to police our children seeing this kind of crap?
Thirdly, the overwhelming attitudes of a government who see frailties in human beings as reasons to penalise and punish. If you’re poor or disabled, or have a child who is, or a spare bedroom in your council house not being utilised to their satisfaction, you face a withdrawal of benefits or being forced to take jobs you are ill-equipped to cope with, adding to a rise in mental health issues and more problems for the crumbling health service.
I’ve spoken to my local Big Issue seller, who tells me he’s struggling to buy food for himself and his teenage son, in the same way I’m trawling the supermarket for special offers and trying to put healthy food on the table for my family that comes in under budget. I’ve worked with vulnerable women, who’ve been penalised for bad choices they’ve made, like stealing tampons because they couldn’t afford to buy them. I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t do the same thing in their position.
So where does the positivity come into this post then?
Well, the thing is, I’ve noticed there’s an exciting sense of movement since the election. Many people are talking about taking action and campaigning on a local level against unfair policies. Voters are turning to joining political parties who offer a different way. It seems like an exciting time to be alive and to have an effect on what happens next. There’s talk of a Women’s Equality Party and the Greens got an amazing 1.5 million votes this time around. Fringe parties are springing up and saying enough is enough. It’s not good enough to just sit around and moan about things never changing – sometimes you have to get involved yourself to make that happen.
And that’s got to be worth getting excited about.