The 2015 General Election is less than 60 days away. Or let me even more blunt: two months from now, we will wake up knowing whom the electorate have decided will govern the country for the next five years.
While we have known for a long time it was coming, and enjoyed the luxury of knowing exactly when the country would go to the polls, I imagine there are many different readers of this message – some who can’t wait for the campaign to begin; some who are already tired of the electioneering by parties desperate for their vote; some blissfully unaware the election was so close; and some so frustrated by politics and politicians that they do not care the election is so close.
It is easy to be apathetic and to let this moment pass by, but with the next election set to be the closest and most fiercely contested for a generation, I would argue that it has never been more important for the electorate to count themselves in. Ultimately it will be our votes, and the actions of many that shape how people decide to cast their votes, that will decide whether we will have:
- a majority government, a coalition government, or a minority government
- a Conservative-led or Labour-led government
- a coalition government featuring the Liberal Democrats, any nationalist parties, or other minority parties
It is going to be our actions, and our choices that decide what House of Commons we wake up to on Friday 8th May 2015.
And that is why I am using this post to issue a challenge to everyone – to take a next step. Whether you start from the lowest possible base of complete apathy to any kind of politics, or like me you are actively and passionately involved (and most of us are somewhere in between) – there is always a next step you could take – something you either have never done before, or hadn’t planned to do. But in this close election, taking a next step will achieve two things:
- It will be a tangible and visible expression of popular engagement with democracy – it will demonstrate to the parties that there is an active electorate seeking to be engaged and enthused by politics worth their attention.
- It will encourage others to get involved in politics, in however great or small a capacity. The more people involved, the more people who will take an informed decision on Thursday 7th May, and the better reflective of the electorate the final result will be.
Over the next three weeks therefore, I will be starting a campaign called: #NextStep. The challenge is very simple:
- You decide on the next step you want to take – I have listed a whole series of ideas below for all levels of engagement and enthusiasm.
- Post your commitment publicly on social media using the hashtag #NextStep – for example: “My #NextStep for GE15 is to register to vote.” If you prefer, you can say “I’m taking a #NextStep for GE15 today” if you would rather not advertise what you next step is!
- Use either the same post (or a different post if using Twitter) to tag three of your friends and ask them “What is your #NextStep for GE15 …?” Ideally link to this post – because we want each of the people you tag to tag their friends as well!
My hope is that as we follow the #NextStep hashtag over the course of the campaign, we will be encouraged by our friends taking new steps in political engagement. I firmly believe that an engaged electorate is vital not just for the health of our democracy, but for the wellbeing of society as a whole. This campaign is one means of giving our democratic community a shot in the arm, and building enthusiasm for the next election!
Here are just a few suggestions for your #NextStep:
- Register to vote/Check that you are registered to vote at your current address.
- Register for a postal vote and resolve to use it to vote.
- Post the link to register to vote on your Facebook wall and tag five friends, asking “Have you registered to vote?”
- Share a funny political video from youtube (I especially like this one).
- Find out which constituency you live in, and who the candidates are.
- Ask the candidates in your constituency about an issue you care about.
- Write to your current MP and ask them about what they have done in the last Parliament.
- Blog about an issue that matters to you.
- Organise a ‘politics evening’ with friends to chat about the issues that matter.
- Join a campaign event.
- Post a campaign poster or video on your social media feed.
- Join the political party you always vote for.
I will blog on some of these over the next few weeks to give some guidance on how to go about some of these – and of course the list is by no means exhaustive – I’d love to hear your ideas and the next steps you will be taking over the next two months!
The next election is for us to decide, and every one of us can make a difference by taking a next step – why not do so?