I moved to Ossett 18 years ago.
I have always felt happy and part of the community during those years, especially after teaching at Ossett School for seven years, however after looking at the results from last Thursday’s election, I now feel that I am living in a place which does not represent my views.
I am now represented in the council by a UKIP councillor and we now have three UKIP Members of the European Parliament, as well as two Labour and one Conservative MEP.
But how did this happen? How did people with old-fashioned ideals which pander to the headlines in the popular press get into power?
I can see that people would like these ideas that UKIP put forward, yes people are scared about immigration and changes to the system do have to be made.
But do all of their ideas represent your views? Or is it just those headline grabbing views that you agree with?
But perhaps the real reason that UKIP gained so many seats is the fact that so few people voted.
Only 33% of the people able to vote in Ossett actually went to their polling stations and put a cross on a couple of pieces of paper.
So how did we get to this sad situation, where political parties get into power due to voter apathy?
Do we feel so safe in our democratic society that we now feel that we don’t have to carry out our democratic rights?
How would you feel living in a country where you didn’t have those rights in the first place?
I’m sure most of you enjoy going away on holiday, and you look forward to going somewhere sunny in another country to enjoy time with the family or friends. So you will own a passport which allows you to leave the UK and to enter other countries.
While abroad, your passport ensures that you have the protection of the British government. In order to get your passport in the first place you had to fill out the form, get a photograph taken, had someone write on the back of the photograph to state that it was you on the photo and to fill in a section of the form. It was a bit of a pain and people moan that it takes a while for the passport to arrive.
But how would you feel if you couldn’t even apply for a passport unless you had completed a university degree? How many of you reading this would be allowed a passport?
This was the situation in Egypt when I lived there.
Egyptians could only have a passport if they had passed a degree at an Egyptian university, but even then you still needed permission to leave the country.
Most Egyptians try to get married to someone who comes from a different country, so that they can get dual passports, so only then they could leave Egypt. I am sure in the present political climate in Egypt that the situation is probably worse. How does filling a form in feel now? Would you mind if you didn’t have the right to own a passport?
As a Mum I have always told my children how important it is to vote, especially my daughter.
I have told her about the suffragette movement and how they fought for women to have the vote. So as a woman would you like it if men took all the decisions in your life for you? Would you be happy if just your husband, Dad, brother or boyfriend were allowed to vote but you weren’t allowed? Do you always agree with their ideas?
Looking at the votes cast in Ossett, it is clear that UKIP got through on a minority vote. This means of the 4,260 people who voted, only 33.5% voted for and 66.5% voted against UKIP.
However in our electoral system the person who gets the most votes gains the seat.
So looking at all of the people on the electoral roll in Ossett, only 11% of the electorate voted for UKIP. Yet they are still going to represent us on the council, when 89% of us didn’t vote for them.
So if you didn’t vote last Thursday, why didn’t you? Do you work long hours, had to run the children around, had to go to the pub?
It is just a small task to do once a year. Think of it like you need a bottle of milk, so you would bob out to the shop to get some so that you could have a cup of tea, or your children could have cereal for breakfast tomorrow.
It only takes a few minutes to buy milk, well so does voting.
Next year we will be voting in a General Election, deciding on who is our next Prime Minister and which parties ideas will be past into law over the next five years. Whether you are interested in politics or not, these laws will affect your life every day, will affect your job or benefits, how much your mortgage or rent will be, how much food and fuel prices increase and will therefore affect how much money is in your pocket. Does that interest you?
So come on lovely people of Wakefield, let’s show the rest of the country that we actually care. That we care about the schools that our children go to, that we care about our health care, that we care about the state of the roads, buses, trains and the state of our motorways, that we care about our elderly relatives and the care that they get, that we care about our jobs, homes, holidays, savings, shopping and price of a pint. Show that you care by voting.
If you are like me, and have been frustrated by voter apathy and the fact that you are now being represented in the council and European parliament by people who have different views than your own, then I am asking you to encourage your family, friends and neighbours to vote.
My daughter turns 18 this September and she is already looking forward to voting for the first time in the General Election, and I am looking forward to being there when she votes, it will be a day I will remember and a day that I will feel proud of her, whoever she votes for.
So see you at the polling station next year, perhaps bring along your young person who is voting for the first time and I hope you feel proud of yourself and them for carrying out our Human Right to vote.