'Politics is all Around Us'
By Natasha Prince
Politics is all around us and has a daily impact on our lives. This chapter will explore some common questions and views about politics, show you how you can make a difference, and provide some useful resources to further understanding and involving yourself in the political world around you.
What Does Politics Have to do with Me?
It’s easy to forget how frequently we come into contact with politics and political decisions. Some of the ways politics may affect your day-to-day life include:
- The price of VAT on your shopping.
- Potholes on your street.
- How much you earn.
- New builds in your community.
- Whether you pay for medical prescriptions.
Why Should I Care?
Because you can make a difference. There are currently twenty-nine Members of Parliament who won their seat by less than one thousand votes, showing just how important participation is. When politics is discussed in the media we are often referred to collectively as “the public,” but in reality it is the action of individuals that has a real impact.
At every election each individual gets to choose who they want to represent them. You can quickly find out who your MP is and see how they’ve been voting on important issues at www.theyworkforyou.com. The laws our MP’s vote for or against, impact each of our lives, so knowing whether they supported certain bills is an empowering way to make sure they’re representing you. Most politicians stay with the same political party their whole life, but as a voter you can change your allegiance as much as you like, depending on whose policies most align with your beliefs. It can therefore be useful to keep an eye on your MP’s voting history, so you can decide if they deserve your vote at the next election.
What is the Difference Between the Main Parties?
Political parties are frequently referred to as being on a “spectrum” which ranges from left to right, with mainstream UK politics usually landing somewhere near the centre. Different ends of the spectrum relate to different social and economic beliefs, allowing us to easily compare parties. The four biggest parties currently in parliament are:
The Conservative Party
The “Tories” are the largest centre-right party in the UK. Notable Conservative leaders include Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, and currently, Boris Johnson. Although over time their ideology has evolved, the Conservatives’ policies usually include:
- Limited government interference and increased private ownership of industries.
- A free market (this means that the price of services and goods are determined by consumers, and “free” from government intervention).
- Traditional social values, such as family-life.
- Maintenance of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the United Kingdom.
The Labour Party:
Labour are to the centre-left of the political spectrum, and so their policies often (but not always) contrast to the Conservatives. Some famous Labour leaders include Clement Atlee, Tony Blair, Jeremy Corbyn, and the current leader Sir Kier Starmer. Labour’s beliefs have also undergone changes over time, but they are most commonly known for supporting:
- State ownership of industries such as healthcare, transport and broadband – this is known as nationalisation.
- Workers’ rights, trade unions and an increased minimum wage.
- High levels of economic state support for social care, including children and the elderly.
- Power given to regional branches of government.
The Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dems reached their height of power in modern history after the 2010 election when they formed a coalition government with the Conservatives, with their then leader Nick Clegg serving as Deputy Prime Minister. Liberal Democrat policies include equal opportunities for all, and electoral reform, which would change the voting system used in the UK.
The Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party began to climb the political ladder in 2015. Although they only stand for seats in Scotland, they are (at the time of writing) the third largest party in parliament. It is therefore unlikely for the SNP to form a government alone, however like the Lib Dems, the SNP can be essential to giving the Conservatives or Labour a majority when voting on laws.
These are currently the four largest parties in parliament; smaller parties include the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland, Plaid Cymru in Wales, and the Green Party in both Wales and England. When it comes to election time, you can find out what policies each party is proposing by checking out their political broadcasts on the TV, or by reading their manifesto.
So, we’ve established the importance of voting, and who you might be voting for, but elections only happen every few years, and political activism outside of elections is just as important. At any time you can:
- Sign a petition. Petitions which reach more than 100,000 signatures have to be debated in Parliament.
- Write to your MP.
- Attend your MP’s local surgery.
- Vote in local elections.
- Attend local council meetings.
- Join a political party.
These are just some of the ways to get involved. If you care about an issue, it is almost guaranteed that other people do too, and that they are looking to make real change in communities across the country.
- Find out How Your MP has Been Voting in Parliament, They Work for You.
- GOV.uk, GOV.uk.
- TED Talks, TED Talks.
- Panorama, BBC iPlayer – A current affairs programme every Monday at 7:30pm.
- Open Learn, OpenLearn – Search hundreds of free courses to take your learning further.
- The Week, The Week – A magazine that reports and analyses the week’s politics and news .
- Autie, Kafabee: Youtube – A documentary about Autistic rights and neurodiversity
- Things Not To Say To An Autistic Person, BBC Three – Autistic people describe why common phrases might not be helpful.
- Can you make it to the end?, National Autistic Society – A short, immersive video showing sensory overload.
- Paige Layle – an American tiktoker who uses tik toks to educate people about autism.
- Invisible I – a youtube channel ran by a girl called Katy, who has Aspergers Syndrome, where she shares her life, and her experiences being on the spectrum.
- Princess Aspien – is an Austrailian youtuber and tiktoker who uses tiktoks to share her experiences as an autistic person.
- National Autistic Society – is the UK’s leading charity which supports Autistic People and their families, where you can learn more about autism.