To vote or not to vote

Written by Jo Carroll.

 Now the deadline has passed to register for a vote in the 2015 General Election - Jo Carrroll confronts those who ask: "Me, go and vote? Why should I bother?"

The other day, as I was sitting in the sun outside a coffee shop and enjoying the chatter around me, I heard a man say, "I’m not going to vote, it doesn’t change anything."

Given that going up to total strangers and disagreeing with them is socially unacceptable, I decided to use this platform to challenge his point of view.  And those who see it differently can, of course, respond with a letter to Marlborough News Online.

Unless you are a man from a landowning family, your ancestors had to fight for your right to vote.  In the mid-nineteenth century Chartists marched on London to demand the right for the working man to vote – and a few were deported or sentenced to hard labour (or even shot) for such beliefs.  A few decades later women chained themselves to railings, were force fed and died in prison.

All so I could put a cross on a piece of paper.

So why did it matter so much to them?  Because what happens politically affects us all.  Decisions taken miles away trickle down to our schools and our surgery and our roads.  While I agree with those who claim that many candidates spout a lot of hot air – statistics that can be used to prove anything, and many promises are nothing but flights of fancy – our representative still sits in Parliament and helps to shape decisions on our behalf.

Yours and mine.

Once elected, they should stand up for us all – whether we voted for them or not.  It is hypocritical to applaud their successes or complain about their failures and then not take the opportunity to register your support or objection when given the opportunity to do so.

Those who died so I could vote understood that.  One cross on a piece of paper might seem insignificant in the scheme of things.  But it is our opportunity, men and women, wealthy and destitute, to make our opinions count.