About Us

Contact Us





First Chapterss


Why should you vote?
Catherine Stepney - a new writer for steps up to the plate for the first time.

Exactly, why should I vote? All those other nagging questions loom from the past, such as ‘Why should I tidy my room, do my homework, or finish my dinner?’ Then, as now, you ask yourself ‘Well, what is the point, what difference will it make?’ If you grew up in the Sixties you knew why should eat up your food, because you should ‘think of the Starving Millions’. Even at six years old you realised this argument was as thin as the skin on your Granddad’s bald patch. Where was the connection? Whether the last sprout went in the bin or down your gullet had nothing to do with whether you cared or not about starving people. It wouldn’t make any difference to the child with huge eyes and even larger belly staring at you from the Oxfam advert. It preyed on your conscience. Maybe if you also forced yourself to watch Blue Peter or Newsround on a weekly basis, there was the possibility that you might become a better person. Conforming was part of being a grown-up.

And now, here we are, being asked to cast our vote once again. People have died fighting for their right to vote. Women have only been able to put their cross in that box for less than a hundred years. We pride ourselves on living in a democratic nation. My conscience is pricked. Yet voting ranks up there with eating the last of your greens or the congealed mass of boiled fish on Friday. It is about as appealing and appears to have as much significance. What difference will it make if I vote or not? How much choice or control do we really have? Someone else has stepped into the Dinner Lady’s shoes. You may vote but is it really going to make the slightest sodding difference to the way things are. It may be the government or Starbucks that rules. It all sucks. beg to disagree, they say that making your vote can count, especially if your mission in life is to expunge all Tory councillors from the land. Nothing wrong with that, many of you might say. Worse things could happen. Tactical voter tells us that ‘The 1997 election showed that tactical voting works. Lib Dem and Labour voters rallied behind the local challenger who could topple a Tory MP. There was a Labour landslide and the most Lib Dem MPs since 1918. We want to make sure 2001 is another win-win election for the centre-left.’ Another one down, another one bites the dust, huh. Go to the site and check if changing your vote from Lab to Lib or vice versa really will make a difference.

Doubters amongst you may ask, Blair or Hague, margarine or butter, can you spot the difference? Labour traditionally the Champion of the lower income households has increasingly turned itself into some sort of middle-class designer spread, so now you really can’t tell what you’re getting. Perhaps they are equally bad for you and Labour is no longer the healthy alternative. Your head begins to hurt as ideas and nightmarish images bang their way around your brain. Blair or Hague. Their faces loom larger, you wake up sweating. Oh my God, it wasn’t just a hideous dream.

However, for anyone entering or in Higher Education the government policies on education might bear thinking about and coax you into making that vote. As the voting season approaches, examinations also draw closer. Thousands of students this year face the threat of expulsion for non-payment of tuition fees. No fee. No degree. There are no official figures for the numbers of students involved, a fact the NUS berate, but anecdotal evidence indicates that some universities have individually excluded as many as 200 - 300 students. It appears that it is mostly the newer, poorer, universities that are adopting these harsh measures. We live in hard times.

Just when the government is supposed to be making education more widely available for all, the number of students dropping out is also on the increase. The NUS believe that debt is a major factor in causing one in five students to leave HE every year. With the abolition of maintenance grants and the introduction of student loans, it is difficult to see how this situation will improve. How tragic that Tony Blair, defender of Higher Education for the majority, may be experiencing a significant snarl up in reaching his target of half the people under 30 benefiting from HE by 2010.

The Lib Dems have pledged to abolish university tuition fees and to reintroduce maintenance grants and benefits for poorer students. They have already secured the abolition of tuition fees in Scotland. What a pity they stand no chance of ever being elected here and the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. Why waste your time? So we are back to the original question; if you are going to be poked in the eye with a pointy stick, does it matter who is holding it?

Sometimes we did our homework, sometimes we tidied our room, and sometimes we vote. In the US only 55% of the voting age public actually took part in the elections and where the US leads, unfortunately, we tend to follow. Do we want to descend into a pit of apathy where we stop bothering to vote at all? By not voting we allow the suppression of democracy. Well, if we don’t care enough to vote, why take our views into account at all? Of course, it may be that people are not apathetic, but looking at more effective ways to bring about change. If we lose faith in government and democracy, then we seek out alternatives, but that is a whole other story.

© Catherine Stepney 2001

< Back to Index
< About the Author
< Reply to this Article