The vote makes every single person equal regardless of wealth, class, religion, creed or education because each vote has the same value. The system needs tweaking but power has transferred from the wallet to the ballot box. The power over our political destinies is no longer in the hands of feudal lords, the church or a monarchy. Parliament is sovereign and is led by representatives that we elect. The most revolutionary act of anytime has been the introduction of a system that works towards democracy.
Some people in growing numbers are deciding that they will not vote. They believe that their vote will not change anything. That simply isn’t true. Things have changed a lot since voting began in Britain 109 years ago. The ballot box has brought enormous benefit to the lives of ordinary people and shaped policy. Life was barbous and bleak before the NHS was created in 1948. Taken for granted today, it is a flagship example of how ordinary people changed society through voting. Those changes continue today and by voting we decide the direction those changes should take.
As a woman, had I lived in 1950’s Britain I would have been without a bank account and not allowed to have mortgage. The 1960’s saw the people voting for social change that liberalised society. The Race Relations Act, abortion and gay rights were introduced and the death penalty was abolished. It was voting in Ireland that led to Irish women finally being able to own their own homes outright in 1976.
Voters elected Britain’s first female Prime Minister in Britain in 1979. Arguably a cheap political gimmick, the Right To Buy introduced by Mrs Thatcher in 1980 attracted a great number of voters. It was the voters who supported the policies for the privatisation of the utility companies and British Rail. The neo-liberal economic policies of Mrs Thatcher were supported by voters who returned her to office twice more. Perhaps the election of a female Prime Minister lead to the change in 1982 when women where able to spend their money in pubs in England without being refused service.
Voters in 1997 elected 101 female Labour MP’s to Parliament. This has had a monumental effect on the quality of our society. Women MP’s have pushed to the heart of the political agenda such issues as child protection, sure start, rape, domestic violence and equality. It was Dr Mo Mowlam who began the successful Northern Ireland Peace process.
The first Green MP was elected in 2010 but the influence of green policy has been a central feature of mainstream policies for considerably longer. In the 1970’s green issues were dismissed by the main parties. That has not been true in the last few decades as the number of votes for Green candidates has increased. The effect of green policy can be seen in recycling, air pollution monitoring and in the high profile climate change holds on the world stage.
Overseas It was only in 2009 that American legislation allowed people to sue companies for pay discrimination even if more than six months have passed. President Obama, who signed the Act was the first elected Black President of the USA. Two significant changes that resulted from voting.
A short term look at history shows how voting has changed the world we live in here and abroad. It is we the people that have shaped modern politics and if we the people don’t participate then we the people will lose the progress we have made and the opportunity to shape the future. Your vote counts for something. Don’t throw it away.
Think of your vote as a penny. Imagine you want to buy your lunch and you are short of a penny. The shop won’t let off because you don’t have enough money. That penny dictates whether you have lunch or starve until supper time. That’s how powerful your penny is. That’s how powerful your vote is.