5 positive things you can do today

By Gem - 11:24:00

I'm holding back tears, trying to not let my anger get the better of me and using the results of the General Election in the UK to propel me to become more involved in politics and my local community. We don't know all the actual figures yet but around 35% of people did not vote and only around 30% of those who did vote placed cross in the box for the party who are going to form the government.

Are you worried about what is going to happen in the UK over the next five years? Does the thought of more cuts and austerity leave you feeling helpless? There is something you can do to make sure your voice is heard and that the people in power are made accountable for their actions. I'm not going to lecture you on my beliefs or just urge you to join the party I belong to but if you want to make a contribution and not feel powerless I urge you to consider the following five points.

Join a political party - If you join a party you can influence their policies, vote for who becomes the leader of the party and much more. For sign up forms click here for Labour, Plaid Cymru, Green and here for SNP. If you don't want to join a party you could attend local political meetings and some councils stream their meetings online so you can see what happens and what type of things are discussed.

Join a trade union - If you want better pay and conditions, a safer workplace, job security, advice and support, legal protection at work and fairness consider joining a union. There are lots of unions for specific industries such as UNISON who represent public sector workers and USDAW who represent workers in the retail, distributive, manufacturing and service sector. 

Check out UK Uncut - UK Uncut is a grassroots movement taking action to highlight alternatives to austerity. They use acts of creative civil disobedience to show our opposition to the Government’s cuts to our public services.

Volunteer at a food bank - The people at the The Trussell Trust want to tackle the underlying roots of poverty in the UK and want to bring communities together to end hunger. 3 million people live below the poverty line in the UK .Every day people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. Trussell Trust foodbanks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK.If you don't have time to volunteer you can donate money and if you don't have cash to spare consider organising a food donation box or helping to sort food at one of their branches.

Don't just moan - If you see inequality, hunger, injustice and despair please do what you can to help out. It's going to be a long five years of ideological cuts and the vulnerable need to know we've got their backs.

If you run/help out at a charity, organise protests and petitions and want to share what you do please leave links in the comments. I hope that we can move towards electoral reform and ensure a future fair for all inhabitants of the UK, not just those with wealth. I didn't know how to get the tone of this just right or even if doing a silly blog post will help anyone but I've given it my best shot.

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  1. Great list. I'm not sure whether joining a party is for me (I'm too disillusioned with most of them) and my workplace and my sector don't recognise trade unions (the joys of charities) - but I'd give a big shout out to the Electoral Reform Society. Worth having a look at their work on changing the current system so that it's more representative of the % vote and of the country as a whole. Link - http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

  2. I applaud your passion, but feel on Twitter you were a bit out of line with some comments towards tory voters with regards to the election. I am from Merseyside, and have always voted Labour in the past, it's pretty much the law here, and I would probably be disowned by my family for voting Conservative this time, though I knew it was a waste of a vote me doing so.

    I have to vote for what suits me best. I am self employed, married (to an Australian), do not want children, lower income but comfortable enough, renting, probably never be able to afford to buy, I get by. I don't feel any party really looks after my needs, but felt I am better off now than 5 years ago (mostly by my own hard work, but not worse off through tax etc) and I think regardless of party, a government that has gotten us through the recession deserves at least another term to implement their policies after spending much time fixing the previous problems. I made the choice based on me, my family and my work, that is my right as a voter, it does not make me a monster or mean I wish misery on others.

    I unfortunately felt the need to post this anonymously for fear of being hounded on twitter or other. I have followed your blog/twitter/instagram for over 3 years and will continue to do so, political differences are not a reason to get excited and start unfollowing blogs read for (predominantly) light hearted fashion/lifestyle content.

    1. I really appreciate that you have left this message and I'm sorry you have to leave it anonymously, I would not have hounded you or started a direct (or indirect) personal attack but expressing an opinion online can be risky and I understand why you have done it.

      I am going to re-read you comment a few times and digest and take something away from it, I want to be a balanced person who considers other peoples views and I can work on this.

      I don't think the government have got us through the recession, a lot of people aren't feeling better off and on a personal level a acquaintance with a terminal illness, limited movement and who has lost the ability to speak had benefits sanctioned because they were deemed fit for work and they were not. I think a lot of sanctions and cuts are ideological and not simply about getting us out of the recession. In 1997 Labour inherited a deficit of 3.9% of GDP and by 2008 it had fallen to 2.1%. The deficit was then exacerbated by the global banking crises after 2008, I don't agree that one party was to blame for a global economic crisis.

      You definitely have to vote in your own interests and do what you feel is right. I could never vote for any party who wanted to erode workers rights, cut funding in areas like mental health provision, increase tuition fees again, promise to cut £12bn in welfare but not say where this is coming from and scrap the human rights act. I will always find it difficult to justify balancing the books over the needs of people who are suffering. Even if voting for another party would mean my family was better off I would always want to vote for fairness for all.

      This post was meant to turn my anger and frustration into something positive and I hope it has done that. I don't want to be an angry person.

    2. Really appreciate your reply, and of course do not want to turn your positive blog post into anything negative. Of course we can only base our opinions/votes on our personal experiences. I am in a very fortunate position to have my health, be employed and be self sufficient and I have voted for what suits me right at this minute, but would not count myself as a definite tory voter for life or anything.

      I didn't mean to imply it'd you who'd do the 'hounding'! Twitter is a bit heated right now with many people not getting an outcome they'd hope for.

      I absolutely admire your passion, your reply, opinions and this blog post have given me something to think about also, in my fortunate position to think of others more. Thanks :)

    3. I just wrote another really long reply and it's disappeared. Nightmare. I've just read this which has some interesting points http://clothescamerasandcoffee.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/a-few-thoughts-on-general-election.html I think reading more about the fallout of this election, generally being more informed and consuming all types of news right wing, left and independent will help inform me and be a good base for all future opinion.

  3. I agree with the previous Anon comment. I have felt that I could not possibly mention or even imply on social media that I voted Conservative yesterday for fear of being hounded and called selfish and cruel. I would like to believe I am neither of those things.

    I saw a tweet earlier that just said 'selfishness V empathy'. Yes, my vote was selfish in that I personally believe I will be better off under a Conservative government. That in no way means I lack empathy or do not care about people worse off. I believe very strongly in a free NHS and other issues that I know are important to you. I volunteer at a local school and donate to food banks - I believe that if you met me you wouldn't be able to tell my political affiliation unless it was specifically mentioned. Essentially what I'm trying to say is - I'm not a devil, or a cruel, heartless person.

    I fully appreciate there are certain policies and ideals that mean you could never vote Conservative. For me, there are ideals that both parties hold that I most certainly do not agree with. I think it's unfair to state that anybody voting Conservative supports all of their policies and condones everything they may do. For me, and I imagine a lot of people who voted, they were essentially the best of a bad bunch. I do not believe in any current party enough to consider joining them or being involved to any extent beyond voting - however I believe voting is extremely important and would not give up my right and choice to vote on the basis that my perfect party isn't an option.

  4. It's incredibly tricky for me, I do understand that I can't make sweeping statements but I would always put others before myself so I can't 100% retract what I said. I'm scared for the vulnerable over the next five years and I hope this post has given people from all political standpoints something to think about. I'm definitely going to become more involved in my community and do what I can do to make sure nobody is left without hope. Anger isn't the way forward for me, getting involved is.

  5. Hi Gemma,

    I'm so pleased that you have put your obvious passion and vigor for what you believe in into something which looks like it could be very productive for both you and the organisations you're thinking of getting involved in. 100% credit to you for that.

    I'm sure you'll recognise my name from Twitter last night. It honestly saddens me that both you and Sarah decided to unfollow me due to the fact that I voted Conservative. I don't remember tweeting any disgusting views or condemning anyone else for voting for who they wished (even though I may not agree with it). I can't quite put into words how I feel that after around 3 years of being on Twitter, following your blog etc and interacting that you felt a Tory vote reflected on me enough to make a huge generalisation to say that I was automatically selfish and mean.

    Having said that I'm pleased that although you haven't retracted your comment you obviously have come to see that maybe it wasn't the right thing to do. Being on Twitter I found it difficult to justify why I voted as I did but I will explain now:

    Andrew Percy (Tory mp in my constituency) has done nothing but good in my area, he's a very visible and hands on MP who is an active member of the community first respondse team (who get there before an ambulance might be able to as we are in quite a rural area), he's tirelessly campaigned to get defibrillators installed in various places in the area, during the recent flooding we experienced he was a huge help and also helped to get funding for better flood defences. To name but a few things he's done over the last 4 years; He's just an overall great guy I think and I believe he is the best candidate for our area.

    As for the conservative govt as a whole, I'm self employed with no children and I run a pub with my husband and I can honestly say that we are much better off now than we were even before the banking crisis. Labour brought in a lot of rules, regulation and taxes which crippled the pub trade so I couldn't possibly give them my vote.

    I understand that you think I'm selfish, and I would agree to an extent but I'm most certainly not mean and my vote doesn't mean that I don't care about those who are struggling. No matter which govt we get in there are going to be those that struggle and I honestly think that if labour had got in we wouldn't have a business by the end of the term so I'm sorry but it does make me think of number 1.

    I'm going to wrap up now but please Just consider how you would have felt if I had made a sweeping statement about those who earn very little (if anything at all). You wouldn't have been happy (and quite rightly so!) so please understand why I was so angry at your tweet last night. I wish we could be mutual Twitter 'friends' but maybe not, and that's fine, life will go on.

    1. Hi Jade,

      I didn't unfollow you because you voted for the Tory party, I didn't want to become more angry. You don't need my anger and I don't want those feelings and I didn't want to say something I regretted when I was so upset about the struggle vulnerable people will face in the next five years.

      I follow people with mixed political views, especially people voting for the national parties. I wouldn't not engage with someone because they have different views. It's essential that I speak to as many people as possible to get a balanced view.

      I'm in full time employment, my family shop owners and small business owners. Even though some business rates and policies of the Tory party would be beneficial for them we have always voted for fairness for all. I feel like I have to voice my opinion against a silent majority because the press is so overwhelmingly right wing. For me biting my tongue would not be a very moral thing to do. I want to be more active in highlighting injustice.

      My statement was not about how much people earn, being rich doesn't make someone a mean person, being born into privilege doesn't mean anyone is automatically going to vote one way or another. Tony Benn being a good example of that. People like Iain Duncan Smith refuse to meet food bank charity and accuses them of 'scaremongering' doesn't really know about struggle. The party have cut funding for victims of domestic violence and cut legal aid so people can't get justice. I find it hard to accept that people who vote for a party with that agenda are caring but if more people like you chat to me then it will help me understand why people think differently to the way I do.

      I'm sorry if I upset you. I'm happy that lots of people I only ever talk to about fashion and beauty have now said they want to help out in their local community and take more direct action.

    2. I wasn't going to comment because I didn't know if you'd want me to but honestly I'm so glad I did. It's as important for me to chat to you as it is for you to chat to me because I don't know everything (obviously!) and although I might not see the struggles first hand it's imperative that I know exactly what's going on rather than relying on heavily biased media (which in my opinion is a large part of the reason why the election has gone the way it has).

      I'm honestly so looking forward to seeing what you do in your community and in the wider community, fighting for what you believe in.

      P.S. Apology accepted, I was upset but I definitely understand your point of view and why you were so angry and exasperated at the time x

  6. Thank you for writing this, I needed it! I've just written a post about the fact that I now feel I need to make more effort to protest and make a difference. Your post is much more eloquent and purposeful though! So I've linked to it :)

    Personally I don't feel like I'm in a position to join a political party at the moment, because there isn't one that I have 100% faith in. That said, there are definitely a couple that I have 0% faith in. Unfortunately one of them is now running the country.

    I need to make a much bigger effort to protest and make my voice heard. If one good thing can come out of today then I hope that it's that it will spur people into action.

    Let's do this!

    1. Just read your post (here if others want to read it http://distractmenowplease.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/moaning-isnt-enough-anymore-my-election.html)

      I think a good way to get involved without joining a party is speaking to your MP, MEP or councillors if you have any issues of concerns. Asking to be signed up to their newsletters is always useful too. There are also lots of local groups not affiliated to parties like this one http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk

      We can do this!

  7. You've said everything I've been thinking in this post, it's great. Just because we were defeated at the election does not mean we are defeated, there are myriad ways to have our voices heard. Together we are stronger!

    1. Very true Louise, if we are unhappy we have to let it be known and do something about it. Only 33% of the 66% of people that voted wanted the government we have so we have to make sure we speak up, they are not the voice of the majority.

  8. A fantastic post Gem, something to focus on in light of the horrifying result yesterday. I was already spurred on to join a political party last night and will definitely be doing some volunteering in the summer when I have my life back a bit (after being a chronically overworked and undervalued teacher!). I've really admired your passion and eloquence all through the campaign and this post and your responses above have made me respect you even more.

    1. Thank you for you kind words Lucy. I know whichever party you join will be lucky to have you, knowing what issues are impacting on teachers is always valuable information.
      I hope that even if people don't want to join a party they will speak to their MP more. Been sanctioned unfairly? speak to your MP. I'm going to have a chat to mine about what we can do to help women in NI who are not legally allowed to have an abortion for any reason at all which I think is a basic human right. I'm also going to try and read the minutes from council meetings or attend some if I can so I get more of a grasp of what is going on in my area.

  9. Another thing I missed, take a look at the Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk

  10. Growing up in South Africa, a country that did not allow a certain amount of the population to vote for so many years has made me so grateful for being able to vote as it's such a gift, luckily due to dual-nationality I was able to take my son to the ballot boxes this time and make our vote count. It's really sad to see such a large percentage not doing the same

    Laura x

  11. This is a great post. It's important to remind people there's always other things you can do to be involved outwith an election, especially if it's a result you don't agree with.
    It's difficult not to be emotional, but as you say turning that emotion into something positive can really make a difference.

  12. I used to be a member of a party. I always think it's good to vote, so you get to have your say in who you want to be in charge. I know plenty of people who refuse to vote, yet complain when they don't like the way the government is running things. I always say you had your chance to vote and you didn't, so stop moaning and do something about it x

  13. Hi Gemma,
    This is a great post, not a silly post and the more people that say it, the more people that might do something. I've read yours and Janet's now and I am thinking of things to do.x

  14. Super post Gemma, a lot of this worries me too. I donate at the local food bank whenever they collect at our local supermarket, but last time I posted about how people should help on Facebook it sparked a massive row among my friends and family who have opposing political views! It didnt help the people who need the food, let's put it that way, it just became about Labour v Tory, which is a debate that I wasn't intending to start because it's pretty pointless, I really think politics needs to see past these two parties now and start embracing the Greens, Plaid and others. As for the future, I've been reading lots about the implications for us all. My friend says we should all get private health insurance and befriend disabled people to get through the next 5 years. She also says we should all find out what the EU actually does - here in Wales we've benefited massively from EU funding, and the Human Rights Act benefits everyone, why would we want to lose it? It's really quite scary. We had the choice to vote for alternative voting in 2011 but hardly anybody bothered to vote and it's tough that now people are feeling bothered about it! 4 years too late!! Lots to think about anyway x

    1. Totally agree about the EU, Wales receives £70 more per person from the EU budget than we put in, equating to a £120m surplus. The EU is good for business. UKIP MEPs often say that 75% of our laws come from Brussels. In reality this figure is more like 8-10%. Laws are not "imposed" by Brussels but agreed by UK Government ministers in the Council and MEPs in the European Parliament. The European Union only has full legislative powers in certain areas - for example the single market, competition policy, agriculture and fisheries and therefore it's actually quite difficult for the EU to "meddle" in UK law.

      I spent a lot of time delivering leaflets and campaigning in 2011 for AV and I was shocked by how people just didn't care. There are elections in the Assembly next year and I think everyone should be thinking about what their AM does for them and what we want from Wales.

      I know the Human Rights Act will stay in Scotland because it's part some some legislation they drew up in 1998, would be nice if we could have the same in Wales.

  15. Gemma, you say you 'could never vote for any party who wanted to... increase tuition fees again'. You no doubt understand why, as someone who went to university shortly after the 2001 election, I don't share your faith in Labour's (or anyone's, to be fair) election promises then.

    1. My post isn't about Labour. It was supposed to turn negativity into positivity and encourage people to become active in anyway they like even if it's being more involved in their community on a really small scale level.
      I've seen a lot of moaning pre and post election from many people including myself and that really doesn't achieve anything. You don't need to share my faith in anything or the political system but I don't think that by encouraging people to be more active/vocal/engaged I have done anything out of line. If no party truly represents you that doesn't mean you can't write to your MP to complain about their party, ask them to resolve a problem in you area or ask them to raise a point in the Commons.

      I was not a member of the party in 2001 but I am now and hope that if members are vocal we can influence the direction of the party. I went to university from 2005-08 and it was free for me through a mixture of WAG grants. When it was proposed that the fees should be hiked to £3,000 per year, it created a bigger backbench rebellion than any other controversy, including the Iraq War. Not everyone in the party agreed with it and if members are vocal enough hopefully we can influence things. I may be naive on that point but I would like to give it a go.

    2. You've done nothing wrong in encouraging people to get involved in any way they see fit, and I apologise if that's the impression I've given. You are quite right to promote political involvement and I applaud that about your post

      But with respect, I never said your post was about Labour, although I think you're being a little disingenuous there. The quote was from your reply to the first anonymous comment. I'm glad university was free for you, I sincerely am - I'd have liked it to have been free for me too, and I'd like it to be free for all who attend, although I'd like attendance to vastly reduce in favour of vocational training and a move away from seeing a degree as a the final step in the educational conveyor belt. That's why I marched, all those years ago, in protest.

      I'm glad that you're sufficiently motivated and involved to be a member of the Labour party, I admire anyone who is that active. I would have considered myself a Labour supporter before the tuition fees debacle (I was too young to vote too) and have never naturally identified as a Tory voter but I have never been able to get past the complete 180 they did and I guess to see you mentioning tuition fees as a reason why you could never vote Tory both tickled and frustrated me.

    3. Had to google disingenuous then... It really wasn't my intention.

      Totally agree on your point about vocational training, I was pushed into University and was sold the untruth that it is the ultimate goal and aspiration. Vocational training schemes need an overhaul so they are seen as a viable and prestigious alternative that lead to secure employment and gaining useful skills.

      I don't know where I stand on tuition fees in regards to eduction being completely free because I don't have enough knowledge about the funding of HE. I think it should be free and it works in Scotland so in theory it should work here but I've skimmed things like the Browne Review that recommend not capping fees. I had a free education and wouldn't want people to be put off pursuing education because of the fear of debt but I don't know how goverments pay for it. It seems odd that the current scheme will mean that only 45% of student loan debt will ever be repaid. There must be some shuffling and change that can be made as the current system doesn't seem to suit anyone. I'm sure the cost of nonsense like Trident (not toeing the party line there) would cancel it out and mean that fees could be scrapped.

      I guess my poorly explained point about tution fees was in relation to proposals to put them up again so that Russell Group Universities could charge £12-20k for degrees and create a two tier system. I am very much against that.

    4. 12-20k per year, not for the whole degree.

  16. Thank you for this, I cried when the results were announced but I am determined not to be broken by this but rather use it as a catalyst for change!

    Maria xxx


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