The state of politics in the world today can seem, at best, murky. It can be difficult to know who to trust or which party really upholds women’s interests. With the government calling on us to vote again on 8 June, we need to make some sense of the chaos and fast.
So, where do we start? Last month Theresa May announced a shock snap election (despite promising to not hold one until 2020), in which she was arguably driven by her party’s poll lead over Labour. An election win would enable the Tories to more easily pass their favoured Brexit related legislation. The announcement provoked Gina Miller’s progressive voting drive, with Green tactically pulling out of crucial election seats to help Labour topple the Tories. This is in the context of the UK’s unrepresentative electoral system, where the total number of votes cast for one party does not determine a win. No wonder many of us are suffering from ‘world-whelm’! It’s enough to disaffect us from politics altogether, which is what we saw with the sense of ‘Bregret’ from voters who cast a protest ‘leave’ vote in the EU referendum, then later claiming they didn’t expect to make a difference.
If there is one thing we must learnt from the UK’s political turmoil, it’s how powerful every vote is. With 57% of 18-24 year olds not voting in the 2015 election, a huge proportion of our population are not having their say, allowing for a minority Conservative rule. As 2018 marks 100 years since women were granted the right to vote, and with women’s rights at the forefront of activism today, we must recognise that every vote makes a difference. It’s important now more than ever to make the right decision on June 8. So, here are 3 ways that you can vote towards gender equality:
Vote for a party who have historically supported issues that affect women. You can find out exactly how the UK’s political parties have voted on policies here. From voting on issues including decriminalising abortion and authorising demonstrations, it is easy to gauge the interests of parties in relation to gender equality. As a snapshot, the Tories and LibDems voted against increasing free childcare for working parents whereas Labour and Green voted for. The Tories and LibDems voted against abolishing the tampon tax whereas Labour and Green voted to remove it. Reading the raw facts can help you to determine who to vote for without influence from ideological campaigns… or the style of the party leader’s shoes!
Vote for a female MP, regardless of party, to increase female representatives in parliament. Currently, women make up 51% of the population, but only maintain 28% of seats in parliament. There is a disproportionate gender imbalance, meaning the opinions voiced in parliamentary debates are overwhelmingly male. Whilst Labour and Green seem to vote in support of women’s interests, more so than the Tories and LibDems, some view an opposition win as unrealistic. Voting for a female MP, regardless of party, could support equalising parliament’s disproportionate gender imbalance. However, it is important to recognise that being female does not necessarily infer that that MP will uphold women’s interests. For example, when voting on equal pay transparency Theresa May voted against this policy whereas Jeremy Corbyn voted for it. Research your local MP’s and ask them about their stance on gender equality. Whilst voting for female MP’s may contribute to women’s voices being heard in parliament, it cannot be guaranteed that their viewpoints will be in the interests of gender equality.
Vote Women’s Equality (WE). Founded in 2015, WE have achieved fledgling success by gaining over 350,000 votes across 4 areas in their 2016 election campaign. They have 7 MPs standing in areas across England for their 2017 election campaign, in the hope of gaining the first WE seat in parliament. The party is founded on the principles of equality, with objectives on ending violence against women and equalizing opportunities, representation and education. If you are fortunate enough to have a WE MP standing in your area, you can be reassured that their interests are fundamentally rooted in gender equality. Find out more about WE here.
Ultimately, how you vote is your choice. Whichever route you think most effective, between tactically toppling the Tories or backing your local female or WE MP, don’t let the bewildering landscape of British politics deter from having your say. Register to vote by 22 May, do your research and use your vote on June 8.