You saw all the tweets linking you to the online form; you’re registered to vote, you’ve got your polling card* through – you’re all set for May 7th. Slight problem – just who do you vote for? Your dad’s banging on about how politicians are ‘all the bloody same’, your sister’s read Russell Brand’s book and is waffling on about being a ‘Revolution Activist’, and your mate’s practising drawing an elaborate cock and balls in preparation for spoiling his ballot. But you? You don’t know. You haven’t got a clue who’s who, what’s what and most importantly, where to mark your X.
You’ve got just over a week for a crash course in British politics and to make your mind up. Here are a few things out there that can offer you some impartial help, without all the complex jargon that comes with politics:
(*Don’t worry if your polling card hasn’t arrived yet, you don’t actually need it to vote. So when Russell Brand claims people “are free” when they rip theirs up, he’s wrong.)
1) Verto An online tool perfect for first time voters. Answer a series of questions by swiping left or right if you agree or not (think of it like a political Tinder) and Verto will help you find where you stand on the political spectrum
2) Who Should You Vote For? If you’re a bit lazy (guilty) and want an even quicker answer, these 20 questions, where you rank how strongly you agree with a statement, will give you a (very) rough idea of who you should vote for in under 5 minutes.
3) Rick Edwards If the former T4 presenter ever fancies a career change, I suspect plenty of students would be very keen to hear him lecture about government policies and prime ministers as a politics teacher.
The fact that Rick would have a packed classroom isn’t just down to the fact he’s one handsome devil (although it doesn’t hurt) – it’s due to how he’s successfully engaging young people in the seemingly stuffy and boring world of politics.
If you’re a quick reader, Rick’s book None of the Above, is the perfect unbiased guide to everything you need to know before heading to the polling station this May. Think British Politics for Dummies but funny. And not in the slightest bit patronising. It covers everything; from benefits and broken promises, to coalitions and celebrity involvement.
But what happens when you learn about all the parties yet feel no one is worthy of your vote? Spoil your ballot! Don’t just stay at home and let the government think you’re apathetic and lazy – still turn up at the polling station and make it be known you’re not impressed with what’s currently on offer. As Rick Edwards says – Your vote is your voice, don’t stay silent.
I’ve interviewed Rick last month (you can read it here but be warned, I do go on). Here are some best bits:
Rick on Russell Brand
While Rick is on a one man mission to get the missing millions to vote, Russell Brand has been very vocal about how he feels voting doesn’t change anything. In None of the Above, throughout the Celebrity Involvement in Politics chapter, Rick praises Russell’s foray into the political world but, unsurprisingly, has some concerns about his reluctance to vote.
“He’s galvanising people in such a positive way. I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of what he says but never the less, he’s widening the political conversation and that needs to be applauded, totally.
I read Revolution excited; I wanted to know what he suggests we do if we want this revolution, not that I necessarily do, but I was interested in what he had to say. I felt I didn’t really get any answers.
I obviously disagree with his views on voting – I feel they’ll do more harm than good towards young people and that’s why I feel it’s important for me to say the opposite.
I have very briefly mentioned None of the Above to him, and the idea of spoiling your ballot etc, but I don’t think he buys into it unfortunately. Even though, deep down, I think he would like a NOTA option on the ballot paper and recognise it as a revolution from within, if you like. I feel it could sit with his principles but I don’t think he’ll come out in favour of any of that at the moment so I’ll just be the one to keep banging on about it. (Laughter)”
Rick on Pop Star Politics
Are you old enough to remember Britpop? Back when Noel Gallagher sipped champagne with Labour leader Tony Blair at 10 Downing St, pop and politics mixed – “Cool Britannia” and all that.
Nowadays you won’t find many acts willing to stick their neck out and risk damaging their brand with a mention of politics – apart from Paloma Faith, who’s taken left-wing columnist Owen Jones on tour with her.
“I think it’s great. It’s all about getting people talking about politics – especially those who wouldn’t normally speak about it. Having a political journalist speak to your audience before a gig, some of who will be politically engaged and some who won’t, is obviously a positive thing. Even if they disagree with everything Owen says, and they go away angry and speak with someone about it; that’s engagement and for me, that’s key. It’s really brilliant and I’ve said it to her – a great thing to do.”
Rick on Politicians
It’s become quite fashionable to declare that all politicians are the same: corrupt and evil. Surely some out there are good?
“I strongly believe a lot of politicians get into it for the right reasons and are trying to do good things to help people. I really do. I know this is not a view shared by everyone, by any means. I’ve met a few politicians over the last couple of years who I have really liked and respected and felt that they were genuine. I find that encouraging. If I took the view that they’re actually all pricks and self-serving then it would all be too depressing.”
Rick on LFC
Okay, so technically this isn’t related to politics but I have always wondered how Cambridge born Rick came about supporting Liverpool.
“I support Liverpool for a very pathetic reason; when I was a kid, my dad loved all sports but he was especially keen for me to play football. We’d watch it on TV, but whereas I loved live games and playing, I found watching it on TV boring. When I was about 6, he was forcing me to watch the ‘86 Cup Final and I was bored. He told me to pick a team to support and that way I’d enjoy it and I happened to pick the red team. That is literally it. I have been a Liverpool fan for a long time now and there is no link whatsoever. Purely random – all because I liked red at the time. It could have just as easily have been Everton!
Regarding the Hillsborough Justice Campaign; the work and dedication they have put in for getting justice for the 96 killed is just incredible and I’ve got nothing but respect for those people. It just shows what can be done if you care about something and don’t let things lie. It demonstrates just what people can achieve if they keep going – even with some serious obstacles in their way.”
Remember to vote May 7th. Find out where you polling station is here.
See also: Interview: Rick Edwards