If you've been anywhere near the news in the past week you'll know that the UK Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap General Election meaning we're off to the polls again on June 8th to vote for who runs our country.
Due to the success of my blog post last June on the EU Referendum vote I thought I'd come to you again with an impartial blog simply on the who the what and the why of voting. There's a LOT of confusion over leaders, parties, tactical voting and there's naturally a huge media circus so without imparting on words of wisdom over which way I intend to vote, I'm sticking to the facts, showing you the options and letting you work it out for yourself.
Because of the nature of a General Election campaign trail, I'll be updating this post at least weekly as the idea of an election is still relatively new as I publish this and parties are likely to make more pledges, show where they stand on some issues and undoubtedly, things will get thrown up in the media so keep this bookmarked, check back in if you're confused and watch out for more updates and links.
WHY ARE WE VOTING?
Theresa May became our Prime Minister back in the summer of last year when David Cameron resigned after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
She's come under a lot of criticism since then for not being elected by the people as the Conservative Party didn't call a General Election immediately. Essentially, you might remember what happened in that the Conservative Party held an internal leadership contest in which the eventual winner would become Prime Minister as the Tories won the 2015 General Election and hold power. In the Conservative leadership contest Theresa May actually wasn't elected by a vote as all her running mates pulled out and she was the eventual winner, and the only one left. Therefore, the criticism comes that she was never elected, by her party or the people.
Despite saying she wouldn't call an early General Election (our next one should be in 2020), over the Easter weekend Theresa May came to the conclusion that she would, in an attempt to diffuse tension in Parliament, unite the Conservative Party again, hopefully win a bigger majority and end criticism of her post as PM. There is also the issue of Brexit coming up and she said it was fairer and more important to unite the country under one vote before we come to make negotiations on how we leave the European Union.
The term 'snap General Election' basically means we're doing it earlier than the normal 5 year term and we're doing it quickly - a General Election campaign trail normally lasts months and we have a lot longer to decide but as we're going the polls on Thursday June 8th the whole thing will last around 8 weeks from start to end.
WHEN AND WHERE DO I VOTE?
All elections and votes are held on a Thursday with results filtering in overnight and normally results being fully counted and announced on a Friday. Parliament will be dissolved on May 3rd which means Theresa May will still be the Prime Minister but no votes will be taken in Parliament, Parliament won't sit and the campaign trail will begin.
The UK General Election 2017 will be held on Thursday 8th June. This is not to be confused with the local elections which are being held on Thursday May 4th. What you vote on May 4th will have no direct influence and outcome on the General Election in June but is being considered a sort of hint as to what the outcome may be.
Polling stations will be open on Thursday June 8th from 7am - 10pm across the country. You will receive a polling card in the post before the election telling you where your local polling station is. You may have already received a polling card for the local elections in May but this is NOT your card for the General Election. This will be posted to you separately.
WHO CAN VOTE?
You must be 18 or over on the day we go to the polls and registered to vote in the 2017 General Election. If you've voted before you should still be eligible but it's always worth checking you're still good, especially if you've recently moved addresses or if you voted in a different way before (eg. postal voting or voted in your university town as a student).
You can register to vote at gov.uk/register-to-vote which requires you to fill in some questions including your National Insurance number so have that handy.
THE DEADLINE TO REGISTER TO VOTE IS MIDNIGHT ON MAY 22ND.
If you are a student that lives away but wants to vote at home, are away on the day we go to polls, live temporarily overseas as a British citizen etc. you can still vote using the postal vote system. It's a very simple process (I did it for the General Election in 2015) whereby you fill in a form to request a postal vote which you send to your local authority. Once approved your ballot card will be sent to your via post several days before the election which you freepost back to your local authority before the deadline.
Alternatively you can apply for a proxy vote which is where someone else votes on your behalf.
HOW DO I VOTE?
The voting system for UK General Elections is known as 'first past the post'. The party that gets the most votes will win the majority and therefore form the Government (how the Conservatives won the 2015 General Election). If there is no clear majority or the margin is too small there can be a coalition of parties which is where 2 or more parties team up to form a Government (how the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed a Government after the 2010 General Election).
The UK is divided into 650 constituencies, each with one member of Parliament and you will vote for the MP you want to represent you in your area. If the majority of constituencies vote for a Conservative MP then the Conservative Party will win and can form Government again for example.
Your ballot paper lists the name of the candidate standing in your area along with their Party and logo. If they are not standing for a political party they will be described as Independent. You should put a singular X in the box next to the name of the candidate you wish to vote for but make sure you read the ballot carefully. Your vote is confidential.
WHY SHOULD I VOTE?
Voting is obviously a choice but it is also your right as a UK citizen. Young people are often the worst offenders for not voting but since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 there has been a bigger interest in politics amongst the 18-24 category.
It's important to remember amongst all the scare mongering, amongst the assumptions the Conservative Party will certainly get back in, among the polls (they've been wrong before), among people telling you HOW to vote - what you vote is completely your choice and will make a difference.
If everyone voted with the crowd or didn't vote at all the Government would never change hands as it has always done. If everyone spoils their ballot in a protest vote to the system or doesn't vote because it won't make a change then a change will not come, if a change it was you want.
It's important to do your research, be convinced in who you are voting for and if you don't think you resonate with one party or one leader take your time to read around the subject and see who else is beavering away in the background - they are often the ones I find more inspiring.
WHO AM I VOTING FOR?
There are several political parties you can vote for in the General Election, some of whom are discussed below. You might not have a candidate for some of the parties in your area and you might have more than are listed below but for arguments sake, the ones I have chosen to discuss are considered the main ballers and opposition.
The Conservative Party are the current Government with their leader, Theresa May as Prime Minister. Theresa May, as we discussed earlier became leader last summer when David Cameron resigned during the aftermath of Brexit.
The Conservative Party vision for Britain;
- Aiming for a stronger economy that helps people out with their everyday bills, prosecute people -and businesses- who play outside the system and aim to bring the deficit (the debt Britain is in) down.
- Aiming for a fairer society where everyone has the same opportunities, not just the rich. This includes good school places for all children, new affordable homes and more investment into the NHS.
- Aiming for a united country. The Prime Minister has made it clear she doesn't think a second Scottish referendum is the right thing to do at the moment and intends to keep England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together.
- The Conservative Government have been making headway, and are set to continue, their aim of reviving Grammar Schools . There is currently a ban on creating new Grammar Schools which the Conservatives want to scrap.
The Conservative Party vision for Brexit;
Theresa May has already triggered Article 50 (the process that starts the UK leaving the European Union) so now we have 2 years to negotiate our terms and exit. The Tory government intends to pursue what is referred to as a 'Hard Brexit' which means essentially giving up access to the Single Market (the European trading group) but would allow the UK full control of it's borders and immigration.
The Conservative Party ultimately backed the Remain campaign (except a few rogue few like Boris Johnson & Michael Gove) but now they are fully committed to carrying out the wishes of the people by leaving the European Union. Only one member voted against triggering Article 50.
Jeremy Corbyn has been the leader of the Labour party after winning a landslide leadership race in the aftermath of the General election 2015 in which Ed Milliband was defeated.
The Labour Party vision for Britain;
- Investing 500 billion into industry and into connectivity (broadband, energy and transport) in an attempt to generate good quality jobs and training.
- Putting an end to health care privatisation and bring more stability to the NHS with further investment and integration of social care.
- A plan to rebuild public services by increasing access to sports and arts in the community and expand the national bus service. They also intend to bring the railways back into public ownership.
- Moves to create a fairer society by building a progressive tax system in which the wealthy and highest earners are taxed accordingly and intentions to close the gender pay gap. Labour also intend to tackle human rights of all citizens including violence against women and girls, racism, discrimination based on faith and securing equality for disabled and LGBT people.
The Labour Party vision for Brexit;
The Labour Party backed the Remain campaign but now agree Brexit should be carried out, providing workers rights and access to the benefits of the single market are secured. It's generally accepted Labour would take a 'Soft Brexit' approach to leaving the EU. Labour have ruled out the idea of a second EU Referendum but want MP's to be able to make a decision on the final say when negotiations have been made. Labour have also pledged that EU Nationals living and working in the UK will be able to stay in the country from 'day one' of a Labour government.
The leader of the Liberal Democrats is Tim Farron who became leader after the 2015 General Election in which Nick Clegg failed to hold onto seats and lost the coalition with the Conservative Government.
The Liberal Democrats vision for Britain;
- The Lib Dems say they are the only party fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. They believe Britain is at it's best when it's open minded and open hearted to the changes in the modern world and the digital revolution. They say they are forward thinking, green and Pro European.
- The Lib Dems intend to fight injustice and stand up for the underdog and the most vulnerable when they are faced with the most powerful.
- They have said they reject divisions in the British society and intend to keep the country united. They wish to break down barriers, whether that be in schools, the workplace or anywhere where people are denied opportunities.
- The Liberal Democrats intend to create united Britain with a stable economy with a strong NHS, good schools and decent public services.
The Liberal Democrats vision of Brexit;
The Lib Dems are very much a Pro European party and have promised to fight a hard Brexit decision. They intend to protect the rights of the European Union such as the single market and the free movement of people. The Liberal Democrats also want a second referendum, this time based on the terms that are negotiated between Britain and the European Union. They are hoping this will win them seats in predominantly Remain constituencies.
THE GREEN PARTY:
The Green Party for England & Wales have two co - leaders in Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley who took over from Natalie Bennett in 2016. They run the party as a job share arrangement.
The Green Party vision for Britain;
- The Green Party will prioritise action on climate change. They aim to work with other countries to make sure the global temperature doesn't rise, to phase out fossil fuel energy and invest in more renewable energy generation.
- The Green Party intend to scrap tuition fees for universities, stop running schools as businesses and promote local schools offering mixed ability teaching. They believe the current education system stifles children's creativity and promotes exam factories.
- The Green Party, like Labour, intend to stop privatisation of the NHS and restore it to a publicly funded system. They want to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which provided the most extensive reorganisation of the NHS to date. The Green Party also intend to make mental health more of a priority.
- The Green Party want to reset the balance between the most wealthy and the poorest people in the UK. They want to end austerity and restore the public sector creating jobs that pay at least the living wage and pay for it with a new tax on the 1% most rich people in the UK. They also pledge to raise minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020.
The Green Party vision for Brexit;
Co-leader Caroline Lucas has expressed as desire for a second referendum on the Brexit deal reached with Brussels on Britain's exit from the European Union. The party have also promised full opposition to the most extreme Brexit deals.
Nicola Sturgeon is both the First Minister of Scotland and the leader of the SNP (Scottish National Party), the first woman to hold either of those positions. Sturgeon ran unopposed to become SNP leader in 2014 after Alex Salmond resigned when Scotland voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom in the Scottish Referendum.
SNP vision for Britain;
- The SNP naturally focuses it's attentions on Scotland but it's important to read about what they want to achieve, particularly for voters in Scotland but also because it's widely anticipated if the Tories didn't win a majority in June, the SNP would be a major pawn in creating another coalition government.
- The SNP aspire to Scotland being independent from the rest of the United Kingdom because they believe they should be in charge of making decisions that directly affect the Scottish people. They also want democratic reform, planning to abolish the House of Lords and change the first past the post system of voting and replacing it with proportional representation.
- The SNP want to develop businesses in Scotland, encouraging them to grow both in the UK and abroad. They have pledged to introduce a £40 million fund to provide investment to smaller businesses. They also want to push for devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament over jobs, taxes and wages so they can make the best decisions for the Scottish people.
- The Scottish National Party intend to start tackling the environment on a local level in an attempt to change it globally. They intend to introduce a new Climate Change Act intending to reduce emissions by more than 50% by 2020. They also plan to increase the Climate Justice Fund (the fund that helps some of the world's poorest communities tackle climate change) to at least £3 million a year in the next five years.
SNP vision for Brexit;
Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union during the 2016 EU Referendum and remain very Pro Europe. Nicola Sturgeon is pushing for Scotland to have a special status in Europe even after the UK leaves which includes remaining in the single market. Sturgeon is also pushing for a second Scottish Referendum before the final deal for Brexit is decided so Scotland has the chance to devolve from the United Kingdom but the Government widely condemn that.
Leanne Wood is an AM (Assembly Member) in The Senedd; The National Assembly in Wales and has been leader of Plaid Cymru since 2012.
Plaid Cymru's vision for Britain;
- Much like the SNP in Scotland, Plaid Cymru is the National Party for Wales and much of it's policy making and pledging focuses on Wales. They are marketing themselves as an alternative party for Wales but if they were to get into power, many decisions would impact the UK and shape how the United Kingdom and the devolved nations work together.
- Plaid pledge to recruit 1000 doctors and 5000 nurses to Wales creating jobs and making the Welsh NHS a more robust and safer place to be. They say they'll save 10,000 lives between 2016 and 2026 through a variety of measures including earlier diagnosis. They also intend to radically change how the NHS is run by fully incorporating primary, community and social care.
- Wales has a different system of university fees where the Government currently covers fees for students after around £3500 a year. Plaid believes this is unsustainable and has pledged to replace it entirely with a system of their own creating. They plan to pay students who work in Wales after graduation £6000 a year up to £18,000. They also intend to focus on apprenticeships with a goal of creating 50,000 new ones and want to increase the amount of free childcare parents can claim.
- Plaid Cymru plan to improve access to the M4 around Newport and the A55 in North Wales, two of the main roads in Wales which are prone to massive delays and congestion. They aim to revamp the South Wales transport links to London, keep Cardiff Airport in public ownership and abolish Severn Bridge tolls for people that live in Wales.
Plaid Cymru's vision on Brexit;
Leanne Wood has said that whilst Plaid Cymru campaigned to the stay in the European Union, the party accepts that the results of the vote must be carried out. However Plaid think Britain should opt for a softer Brexit and should negotiate to remain members of the single market when we exit the European Union in an attempt to preserve Welsh jobs, lots of wish are subsidised by, or imported to, Europe.
UKIP (UK Independence Party) leader Paul Nuttall was a Conservative Party candidate before joining UKIP in 2004. He was voted leader in 2016 after Nigel Farage left after the EU Referendum last year.
UKIP's vision for Britain;
- UKIP's intentions for Britain focus mainly on a new integration policy which includes intent to ban on face coverings in public. They say they cause a security risk and are a barrier for integration into British society. They have also suggested that any school found promoting Islamic ideology should be shut down until evidence has been shown of intent to integrate Muslims into British society.
- UKIP also want to change parts of the democratic system including the ability to postal vote. They want postal voting on demand (the current system) to be scrapped and a new policy to be introduced in which a new demonstration of need is granted in order to vote by post. UKIP have said the ease in which you can postal vote has lead to electoral fraud and vote stealing.
- UKIP also believe that the UK has one curent system of law, a system that is for everybody living in the United Kingdom and therefore there should be an explicit ban on Sharia Law and courts. They have said the UK law system should be the only one in place in Britain as Sharia law undermines our legal system, presents itself as a rival and abuses women's rights.
- UKIP's women's rights spokesperson has called for a school based check on girls at risk of suffering from FGM which should take place annually and sooner if they have returned from being abroad. Failure to report FGM would become criminalised and anyone with knowledge that it has taken place will have committed a criminal offence.
UKIP's vision for Brexit;
UKIP were one of the biggest campaigners for Britain to leave the European Union in June 2016. Leader Paul Nuttall has pledged to 'hold the Government's feet to the fire' whereas former leader Nigel Farage has said he would return to politics if the UK Government does not uphold the Brexit vote.
- Guide to the UK Independence Party (BBC)
USEFUL LINKS & ARTICLES FOR FURTHER HELP:
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