I shall be using my vote in this year’s election. I have very carefully weighed up policies. The past 5 years under this coalition government have not been happy times for a lot of people. Personally, the government cuts policies undertaken in the name of “austerity” have affected me. Back in 2010 whilst working for the council, massive departmental cuts meant that jobs were re-evaluated. This caused stress, redundancies and changes to working hours and conditions. My husband has had his pay frozen for five years and his pension terms dramatically changed. The teacher's national pay and conditions agreement was ripped up by the former education secretary Michael Gove. There have been cuts to funding in the local council which means our library hours are under threat and activities for children are limited in our area.
I suppose these last 5 years I have “got away with it” compared to some. We are neither rich nor destitute. We just tick over and get by – there are many people who have been affected massively by austerity. In the first year alone council tenant evictions rose by 12%, and latest figures show that food banks were used by almost a million people in the past year.
Great Britain is the 6th richest country in the world. So what on earth this austerity is and who it benefits is beyond me. Call me stupid, but if cuts so deep damage society at its core, hitting the young, disabled and disadvantaged - putting people off education through the fear of the cost, leaving people homeless and without food, zero-hours contracts - affecting the standard of living of so many citizens...Why are these citizens paying for austerity? And what for? Once the deficit is reduced do we get rewarded for all our "hard work?" No. We don't. We only have one life - we are on this earth a very short period of time, and we should all have the opportunity to live it to the full, whatever walk of life we are from.
Once upon a time my situation was different – I was a lone parent, paying a mortgage, working full time and keeping up with all the other bills. I was badly paid and worked all the hours that I could to stay afloat. Labour saved me. The tax credit system was brilliant because it worked. I know that they over-spent, I know that the country is in debt. However, I was entitled to “welfare” and this is what me and my daughter needed. Childcare was provided free of charge, which meant that I could go out to work. The low wages I earned were topped up “by the taxpayer” to make my wage a living wage. (Incidentally I am also a tax-payer.) Without this childcare, and without the top-ups, I would have lost my home. I don’t really know what else to say about it. New Labour saved me.
Incidentally, did you know that the term “Welfare State” was initially coined by Hitler and was used as a derogatory term to describe the Weimar Republic (the previous one to the Nazi state), as being weak – hampering to the needs of its people. It was Britain's "Welfare State" that brought us the ever-pioneering National Health Service in 1948. Looking after the welfare of the people in my eyes should never be seen as a weakness, or a burden.
A Wasted Vote?
My own views are most in line with the Green Party. I believe in caring for our environment, and a good quality of life for all. However, I have some reservations regarding their policies. They seem to be an embryonic party in many ways. Very left, without enough consideration to economic provisions. They lack experience. And perhaps, rightly or wrongly, I know in my heart that they will not win the election. They are just too... left for Britain at this moment in time. The more votes that they get, the more left-wing the country will be pulled - there will be a shift. However, is a vote for the Greens a wasted vote if you absolutely categorically want an end to this current coalition government? I can't answer that. I don't know.
In my ward I have two options. Labour or Green. It is two weeks until the election and not one leaflet, not one appeal poster, flyer or representative has landed on my door-mat or knocked at my door. We are based in Kirkby, in Knowsley. Labour's seat is the strongest and safest in the country, with all 63 seats taken by Labour. Our town and its residents more than ever need to have confidence in its council. Only recently Tesco pulled out of re-development plans, having already bought-out the land and began reconstruction. When I walk through the town centre with our girls, passing the food bank along with way - all I see is rubble, mess - there is an air of despondency and inevitable acceptance - that this is "our lot."
We have not been informed of any changes. Certainly there is work going on, the whole town is dug up. Where are the promises from councillors? Or the plans? We don't have anything to hope for - there is no improvement. Kirkby is like a ghost town, a vast building site - half done; a mess. Where are The Green Party representatives telling us they will make changes? Where are these safe Labour representatives? Did they even bother to print any leaflets to win my vote? The message I am getting is that they simply do not care. It is no wonder then that people are apathetic, let-down and aggrieved by politics; both locally and nationally.
So yes, I am voting. A tactical vote, if you like. Will a Labour government change anything? Certainly not locally - Labour have safely been in power here for years, and what has changed? Land has been sold, houses knocked down, and for what?
And nationally? In my eyes, my vote for Labour is a vote to get the Conservatives out of power. I have a burning hatred for everything they stand for, and always have. It is not my intention to influence your vote; just use your vote as you see fit. What you read here is just a normal mother's opinion. I want my children to grow up with a government that cares about their welfare. I want my children to have opportunities open to them no matter what - education for all, jobs, confidence in their government, with kept promises and hope for the future.