Inspiring the public is the only way to beat complacency

By Elizabeth Anderson
The forthcoming general election has been called at a time when the polls show that our new Prime Minister has the highest ratings for forty years.  Projections for Theresa May are good, and this morning even Tony Blair has told Sky News that she is bound to win.
My concern, however, is that in doing so, the British public become complacent about the need to get out and vote.  Which is why we need to enthuse the public about politics once again.  In the European Referendum, there was a huge turnout of 72%, compared to a respectable 66% at the last General Election.  We must maintain that enthusiasm, and ensure that people continue to believe that politics is relevant to them.  The Referendum saw such a high turnout because people could see themselves making a direct difference – the decision was theirs.  In a normal election, their vote is somewhat removed – they vote for a local candidate, potentially in a safe seat for any given party – not for a policy, and not even for the Prime Minister.  How many times have I knocked on a door to be told ‘it’s pointless voting’ or ‘my husband will tell me, I don’t pay attention to all that’.  Voting should never be pointless, and is a hard won freedom that should be utilised in every way.
We also know that polls can be wrong – we only have to look at the last few predictions to realise that often it’s all to play for, as disaffected Labour voters and UKIP supporters who feel that the party has served its purpose look at where to mark their cross this time.
People are inspired by Theresa May’s leadership.  She brings definition, focus and sincerity that people want, together with a sensible approach that is backed up by her own values, rather than spin doctors.  And the upcoming manifesto is therefore vital.  Long documents that are only pored over by journalists and policy professionals, it needs to have clear policies that the man and woman in the street can instantly relate to.  People care about their income, their family’s health, the education of their children, about reduced crime and about their living environment and surroundings – and they will vote for the people who they feel are best able to manage these. They also care about Europe, and most want to see a leader who will fight for the best deal for this country – whether they were born here or have chosen to live here.
We know that everyone is talking about the election.  We need to make sure that everyone is inspired by the short campaign, and sees local candidates who can support a national vision whilst working for local people.  And we must ensure that people use their right to visit their polling station, and take part in shaping the future at this critical time.
Elizabeth Anderson is Research Secretary for Parliament Street

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