This year, the company I work for, London Cyrenians Housing (in partnership with Westminster Mind), held a series of election hustings events for those with mental health issues in Hammersmith, Westminster & Kensington. The main aim of our campaign were to ensure that people living with mental health issues (who often state they feel marginalised when it comes to politics) are politically empowered, educated, and engaged when it comes to voting on May the 7th.

Today, I’d like to extend this campaign to all of you. If you feel that politics is boring, too difficult to understand, or too time consuming, I’d like to share some resources with you to show you that you can be informed, and use your voice on May the 7th.

“I don’t understand politics.”

Politics can be quite difficult to grasp, especially if this is your first election. Not everyone has time to Google every singly puzzling word they hear on the news, and a lot of political procedure is based on actions that are shrouded in tradition, and can seem rather over complicated.

This guide, written by Liz Atkins at the University of Exeter is a great explanation of parliament, and the different types of election that occur within the UK.

“But I don’t do politics.”

You may not concern yourself with politics, but politics concerns itself with you. Governments:

– Set rates of tax on the money you earn, the money you save, the fuel you put in your vehicles, cigarettes you smoke, the alcohol you drink, and lots of other products you buy.

– More recently, have discussed laws/ideas regarding internet censorship and the content that you can see online.

– Set the rate of minimum wage.

Essentially, governments say what you can and can’t do, and set laws that become enforced. And if they’re going to associate with your life that much, is it not prudent to have a say in the approach they’re going to take?

One of the best ways to see what your MPs are doing in parliament is to see their voting record on TheyWorkForYou. Just pop in your postcode, and see what your local representative has voted for or against on the issues that matter to you, and see just how much of an influence government has on your life and the laws you live by.

“But I don’t know who to vote for!”

Finding out what each party stands for and proposes can be quite tedious. But don’t fret – you don’t have to read every single word of every single party manifesto to find which candidate you should vote for on May the 7th.

Verto is a wonderful app/website launched by BiteTheBallot, and allows you to find the political party that fits your views using a ‘swipe’ interface – similar to apps like Tinder. Similar (but slightly less swipe-y) sites include VoteForPolicies and VoteMatch.

Mencap have done a great job of creating some ‘easy read’ manifestos – so you can find out what each party intends to do, without reading every single word of each lengthy document.

“But I don’t like any of the party leaders!”

Well, firstly, you’re not voting for a party leader. Your voting for a parliamentary candidate in your local constituency, so have a look at your local candidates as well as  the party leaders.

In the event that you still don’t like any candidates, I urge you to make a statement of it. Show that you’re still using your right as an empowered citizen by making your way to the ballot box and spoiling your ballot paper (and no, that doesn’t mean taking your ballot paper out for dinner, drinks, and a night on the town). Just write “none of the above” or cross all the boxes on the ballot. By spoiling your ballot paper, your vote will still be counted in the “turnout”, but you will not be voting for any party. More information on this and definitions of some statistical/counting terms can be found on the Electoral Commission Website.

People like Russell Brand have gone around and, seemingly, attempted to glorify the concept of not voting. In fact, he apparently hasn’t even registered to vote. As a result, he’s been lampooned by Jeremy Paxman and Dr. Brian May [Yes. That Brian May. The one who wrote We Will Rock You]. Sitting at home portrays you as apathetic, while going out and spoiling your paper shows that you’re an empowered citizen who feels that there’s no candidate/party that suits you.

So there you have it. Some resources to make sure that you’re ready and raring to use your voice on the 7th of May. If you know of any other useful resources in the run up to the election, I’d be happy to hear them.

This post has been a bit of a ramble, but if there’s one takeaway from it, I would like it to be this: GET YOUR VOTE [or spoilt paper!] OUT INTO A BALLOT BOX ON THE 7th of MAY. This is forecast to be one of the closest elections in a long time, and make sure you use the full weight of your voice.

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