ELECTION COMMENTARY: Outside the ‘bubble’ inhabited by the evangelistic political activists, ‘ordinary’ voters are often left unmoved by all the campaigning. With two weeks until election day one Croydon voter, KIRSTIE SMITH, remains undecidedThere’s a General Election coming up.
You can’t have failed to notice. On June 8, we get to decide who runs the country for the next term.
Early polls suggested that it’s a one-horse race with Tories in the lead, but polls can be misleading and I think there are many people, like me, who are undecided how they will be voting for this time.
I consider myself working class but Middle England. A family of four; two adults, two children, homeowners, both parents working full-time and having a complicated childcare arrangement consisting of nursery, pre-school, grandparents and flexible working arrangements. We are privileged in that we can (just about) afford a family holiday each year, but we work hard and life is a constant juggle.
A few weeks ago I tried to find out who our candidates were in Croydon Central and what our choices were. There was Gavin Barwell. And that was it.
Not much choice then.
He was confirmed as the Conservative Party’s candidate for the constituency (though had already been campaigning strongly before this was announced – I’m not sure how that works) but there were no other candidates.
That has now changed with representation for Labour, the Green Party, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and an independent.
There’s lots of information flying about but we have only had direct campaign material from the Conservatives and Labour through our door and they are the only presence I have seen on the street.
There was a noticeable difference in the campaign material, with the Conservatives stating what they would do for us, Gavin Barwell having a five-point plan. Labour, on the other hand, have been very good at telling us what the Conservatives are bad at, how they have let us down and why Barwell shouldn’t be re-elected. That’s all very well, but I want to hear what you will do for us. The public are quite good at keeping a tally of MPs’ and governments’ failings on their own.
What do I want to see from a government? Top priorities are (in no particular order):
The NHS. Forgive me for banging on about it (Inside Croydon’s loyal reader will know that I have previously been on my soapbox about this) but it is being failed by the current government. It is underfunded, underresourced and staff are working dangerously long hours. They are expected constantly to be on top of their game and literally make life or death decisions on 12-hour shifts – and that’s before they start working overtime to make up for lack of staff.
Education. With funding continuing to be cut and university fees unaffordable by many, our young are suffering.
Taxes. A fair system where individuals and companies pay what they owe and what is fair. The end of loopholes for the big corporates and fairness for working families where household income is taken into consideration.
Housing. A government that encourages affordable housing for all, whether it’s a first-time buyer or those looking to move up the chain (a two-bedroom new-build apartment in Saffron Square is listed at £770,000).
Homelessness. The number of people now living on the streets is a national disgrace. In Croydon alone there are many empty properties – residential and office blocks – and yet homelessness is not being addressed and more homes are being built that only the rich can afford.
Crime. Giving police the powers they require to tackle crime effectively and supporting them for doing their job instead of vilifying them when things go wrong.
Some of Barwell’s five-point plan matches my top priorities, but some of Labour’s manifesto does too. The Green Party has surprised me and Caroline Lucas was very vocal and supported her constituents in the Southern Railway debacle. These are the things are good MP is remembered for.
On this issue, when the Southern Railway fiasco was debated in Parliament, Barwell could not represent his constituents because, apparently, he is not allowed to speak in Parliament on anything other than that in his ministerial remit, housing. So how can a minister really represent their constituents on local issues?
The recent Leaders’ Debate on ITV was quite an eye-opener. May and Corbyn were notable by their absence, though their parties were trying to get involved via their Twitter accounts. The LibDem Press Office responded to the Labour Party brilliantly:
Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood, the nationalist party leaders in Scotland and Wales, came across well. I’d quite happily have either of them in my corner if they were representing the country I lived in, as they both spoke a lot of sense and are passionate. Nuttall? Well, he is just Nuttall and while I do agree with some of what he says, there is a lot that I don’t and he definitely doesn’t have leadership qualities. Lucas came across well too (power to the women here!), while Tim Farron got right on my nerves repeating himself like a broken record going on and on with only one answer.
So, where do we go from here? There’s two weeks to E-Day though I fear I will have to make my decision earlier, as for the first time ever I need a postal vote. There is definitely something to be said for actually going to the polling station and putting a cross in the box. Emmeline Pankhurst fought hard for my right to vote and, while right now I genuinely have no idea where I will put my cross, I do know that I absolutely will vote and it will not be wasted.
With the clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right, I am stuck in the middle, confused.
- Kirstie Smith commutes into central London for work each day and is a mother of two. She is not a member of any political party
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