The last decade has been politically unprecedented. In 2010, the UK elected the Cameron-Clegg Coalition. This was the first coalition government since 1918 and only the second ever coalition in UK parliament. Since 2010, the UK public has voted to decide:
whether Scotland should become independent from the rest of the UK, or whether the United Kingdom should stay united (Scottish residents only);
whether the UK should remain in union with the European Union (EU); and then
the results of the EU Referendum led to three general elections in quick succession (2015, 17 & 19).
This has given UK citizens more opportunities to exercise their democratic right to vote than ever before. Democratic systems are designed to give citizens a voice. Often characterised by freedom of speech, freedom of the media and freedom across all segments of society to vote for elected representatives. Despite a long-standing history of democracy in the UK, the recent spate of political events led me to question its effectivesness:
How easy is it for voters to make a truly informed decision and discern between opinion, fact and misinformation when they are bombarded with content from a range of sources?
Is there enough accountability, coupled with robust penalties, if the media, politicians, political parties or official campaigns purposefully, or as a consequence of poor due diligence negligently, mislead voters during an election campaign?
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Who can forget this big red Brexit bus! The Brexit campaign was rife with concerns about the validity of this claim, unlawful over-spendingand Russian interference. This led toan inquiry into whether there was ‘serious misconduct’ bythe Leave.EU campaign in the lead up to the EU Referendum.
As a professional ‘lobbyist’ my initial thought was how can I campaign to tackle, what I believe to be, threats to democracy in the UK. I quickly found a plethora of campaign groups out there doing important work in this area and I hope that over time the work of ‘I have a voice’ can support those campaigns. But the more I spoke to people about what they think of politicians and politics, as well as what it is about different societal issues that matters to them, I noticed the following patterns emerging:
Most people know that not everything they read / hear / watch will be factually correct, even if it is presented as news.
Most people make a concerted effort to keep upto date with the news, but they do not know where to turn for impartial, factual content to inform their vote ahead of an election.
That even those individuals who have polar opposite political allegiances / ideologies share many of the same motivations, worries and desires.
I’d like to explore these patterns further through ‘I have a voice’ as these are purely anecdotal at this stage, but more than that I want to EMPOWER people to ENHANCE their own political literacy and ENGAGE in discussions about politics from a place of community and understanding - and expect the same of official news sources and their politicians. A lofty ambition - definitely. Naive - possibly. These conversations also led me to reflect on my own ongoing journey towards ‘political enlightenment’. I would consider myself entirely politically ignorant until I was 21 and I found myself unexpectedly learning about social policy during my final year at university. I left university inspired to seek a career in public policy, but knew little about how UK politics worked and so I had no idea how to go about it. I eventually landed an administartive job in a policy and public affairs team - still knowing very little about politics i.e. how to get my voice heard, even though I knew significantly more about those societal issues I cared most about. Now a decade into my career, I know the ins and outs of Parliament and campaigning, but still view politics as a necessary evil to achieve positive policy change. In addition, even though the nature of my job means I need to know what is going on in the news every day, I find the daily news cycle and instant access to commentary on events overwhelming, too opinion-based and overly provocative. So now instead I use official sources such as the House of Commons Library and Hansard to find out what is going on. This takes time and effort. Time and effort that until I worked in the political sphere I wouldn't have known how to approach, and to be honest made a priority. And this is how I came up with ‘I have a voice’ . I can share my experience with others who want to cut through the noise to find information that will help them to develop and use their voice whether that be by voting, campaigning, or even just speaking with their friends, families and communities about the issues they care about. By engaging with I have a voice you will gain the knowledge and skills to:
feel equipped to critically analyse information regarding current events.
feel empowered to articulate your views on subjects that matter and debate constructively when met with differing views.
feel engaged with the political system and understand how to hold elected officials to account
So, that’s what I hope to do. Politics impacts every part and day of our lives. It is important you have a say.