My Embarrassing Relationship with UK Politics

The title might make this sound like it will be a lot more scandalous than it is, but actually what I want to talk about is how I am embarrassingly uneducated about the politics of the UK. Although I have split the last two years between home and Newcastle because of university, I was born and raised on the Isle of Man. It’s a small island between England and Ireland with a population of 80,000, so most people haven’t heard of us, and even less understand our political relationship to the UK. Confession #1: I was one of those people until recently. In short, the Isle of Man is a Crown Dependency, meaning the Queen is our Queen, but we have our own government. Already you’re probably wondering ‘how does that work?’ and believe me, I had no idea until I googled it myself. I wasn’t even interested in how our government functioned because I just assumed it didn’t apply to me.

On a larger scale, with the 8th June approaching, the media has really focused on the influence that the younger generations could have in the snap election. Brexit brought to light the poor turnout of younger voters, and statistical analysis afterwards suggested that the outcome might have been different had they voted. This is probably sounding like a record stuck on repeat to you now; there’s rarely a day when BBC News isn’t covering the role of millennials in politics. Yes, we know, we need to register to vote, we need to actually vote, we need to become involved in our country… We get it.

Except we don’t.

I, for one, feel unprepared to choose a party to represent me. I almost feel like I’d be more successful doing an eenie-meenie-minie-mo and just choosing whichever colour I land on. Obviously I wouldn’t do that, but you get the idea. All in all, I’m scarily uninformed and ignorant to the way politics works and what my role is in all of it.

Confession #2: I have only just found out that I am eligible to vote. That is how little I’m aware of. As we have our own government here, I presumed that my voting rights were on the Isle of Man, not the UK. And that’s the big issue here: I just presumed. 

I had googled it briefly, just to confirm that I wasn’t able to register and nothing came up to suggest otherwise. Less than twenty-four hours after the deadline on the 22nd May to register, someone posted on Facebook confirming that actually, those rights extended to Manx citizens too. To say I was frustrated is an understatement. I’ve always said that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about government policies because you didn’t contribute your views when you had the chance.

The information wasn’t readily available to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not to blame. I should have tried harder to find out my voting rights and make my voice heard. It extends beyond this one election though. I need to consciously educate myself about politics so that when I talk about it, what I’m saying comes from a place of knowledge and engagement. Let’s put it like this: if I had found out I could vote and registered, who would I even vote for? Over the past year, I’ve definitely made a conscious effort to find out who stands for what, and I have read the manifestos for this election, but I still feel like I can’t align my values with any of the parties that are running. I have a vague idea what the impact would be if we stay Conservative, or if we end up going more left, but I couldn’t tell you what that will do specifically to the economy, education, the environment or anything in between.

I guess that, more than anything, what I’ve learnt from all this is that no one will hand me a concise, comprehensive summary of politics, wrapped up nicely with a bow. The nature of politics isn’t that easy. Saying that, BBC News have put together a brief overview of the various parties’ manifestos, but it only scrapes the surface.

Just look at sensationalised headlines of newspaper which reduce complex policies to a few eye-catching words. Women of the past fought for women like me to have this right and I’m ignoring it. It’s embarrassing to admit all of this, but I reckon there are more people like me who have avoided politics because it’s just easier. Yes, it’s easier for someone else to make the decisions for you, and to not have a say, but that’s not the point: what’s easy isn’t always what’s best. 

I recently watched a video called ‘How To Be Informed {STARTER KIT}’, in which two of my favourite YouTubers, Jean Menzies and Leena Norms break down why it is so important to discuss politics, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is feeling as clueless as me. It showed me that my responsibility is to actively seek out information, to question what the headlines are saying, and to engage. It’s clearly only just occurred to me that if I don’t, it’s not simply a case of not knowing, but denying myself a voice.

Do you get involved in politics? And what do you think can be done to change the way we learn about it?

Best wishes,

Siobhán

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