On Thursday 3rd May, Manchester will have a referendum vote. The decision will be in the residents of Manchester's hands as to whether they would like the council to elect a Mayor or for the current system to stay the same, with a board of council members. Along with this there is the local election across the UK - which MP we'd like to see taking a seat in parliament, and what party we want to see responsible for key changes in our areas.
I don't claim to know a lot about politics, but I do make sure to vote. What does shock me is that 35% of the population don't bother with general elections, and even less turn out for the local elections. The reasons? 'I forgot to register,' 'There's no point - it doesn't make much difference,' or 'I don't know anything about politics'.
The latter two reasons bother me the most. Increasingly the younger population are not registering to vote. Perhaps they are disillusioned with society - the expenses scandals and tuition fees hikes have clearly not helped this. Another problem I have identified is that (from my own research) there is not a clear and impartial resource for people to go to if they are not familiar with politics, and are trying to decide who they want to vote for. Newspapers generally have a political agenda, and those that don't, such as the Independent, are perhaps written in a more 'dry' style which is less eye catching than the red tops' blaring headlines.
Where is there a website or resource that just tells the facts - the policies of each party, information about what's going on in your local area, and the impact that their policies will have - both good and bad? Surely this information should be taught from a young age anyway. Religious studies is compulsory in school - why not political or cultural studies? If this was the case across schools, we'd have get more people passionate about making a change in society and a wider cross section of backgrounds taking seats in Parliament - rather than the usual Oxbridge graduates taking up the majority.
As obvious as it sounds, as soon as people stop voting, we stop being a true democracy. I do think that people should take accountability and vote, both locally and in the general election - but there are also fundamental changes needed so that the electorate feel that their decision matters - and that they have been given enough knowledge to make an informed decision.
'Politics' is not something separate that doesn't affect you - it is our culture, the laws we live by, the fees you pay for higher education, the taxes imposed on your living - and so much more. The less that people vote, the more that changes will be decided by a smaller representation of our population, which does not reflect the best interests of the majority. So wherever you are, do your best to get to a voting station on Thursday - your opinion does count!