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How Does One Decide How to Vote?

How does one decide whether or not to vote for a politician? That is a question that I have often wondered. Do you vote for their own views on big national issues such as the NHS, tuition fees, austerity and the economy and the environment, or do you vote for them based on what they say they’ll do to address issues closer to home in the community such as crime rates and local unemployment, or do you vote for them based on which party they are a member of, and your own tribal loyalty?

Since Jeremy Corbyn took power of Labour, the Left has increasingly become more radicalised, more socialist, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Corbyn and his US counterpart Bernie Sanders have sparked an interest in politics amongst the young that hasn’t been seen in decades. In the recent general election in the UK, the turnout amongst voters aged between 18-25 was higher than it had been since the 1992 general election. Many voters and many pundits have attributed this to Jeremy Corbyn and the ideals he espouses which have captured the hearts of many thousands of young people.

This is not a bad thing. For democracy to survive and prosper the young as well as the old need to feel like they have a share in events, that their voice matters and that it will be listened to. Young people engaged more thoroughly with the 2017 general election because Corbyn and his candidates in Labour brought up issues that mattered to the young. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats then scrambled to present themselves as also trying to connect with the young, but often fell short.

However, despite this, it is important to remember that Labour did not get a majority. They did not even get enough seats to form a properly cohesive minority government. So, whilst their message might have resonated with the young it did not really clinch them line and sinker. The Conservatives held onto power by the skin of their teeth, or rather Arlene Foster’s teeth, and the DUP have gained concessions for a region badly hit by a recession amongst other issues.

This returns us to the main crux of the article. What or how do you decide to vote for a candidate? There is no certified research, there are no papers published which truly identify voting trends, and it is technically illegal to ask someone how they voted. Still, upon asking several people how they would vote if there was an election tomorrow and why, they all answered either Labour or Conservative, not because of the potential candidates that would be put up by the parties-because of course how could they know that- but because they had either always voted for one of the two parties, or because either party had views or policies that chimed with their personal beliefs.

Now, this is a perfectly reasonable reason to vote, if a party shares your views or has policies you like, naturally you will vote for them, the concern comes in when the candidate that party puts up in your constituency does not necessarily hold true to the key issues that you do, or does not truly spend time within the constituency to try and bring about something measuring accountability or achievement.

Roger Godsiff the MP for Hall Green in Birmingham was elected with a thumping forty thousand majority; against a Conservative candidate whose home base was in Herefordshire. Hall Green has been a Labour safe seat for over twenty years, speak to the average person on the street and they will tell you they are Labour supporters and as one man told me. “It doesn’t matter who they put up here, we’re going to vote Labour, because who else will listen to us in London?” Hall Green is a big constituency it contains affluent and poor areas, but the majority vote Labour, because they either always have done or simply don’t like the other options. This suggests a worrying point. That when there is a lack of credibility for voters, they will stick with the safe choice, even if that choice will end up shooting them in the foot. Roger Godsiff is one such example, he has not attended many Parliament votes, nor has he ever truly submitted anything of note in regards to his constituency. Very few in the constituency actually know who he is.

Similar things happen across the country. MPs are elected for the party they represent, not for what they themselves wish to do for their constituency. The presence of safe seats such as Hall Green, Bromsgrove, Erdington and others suggest this. This is a worrying concern and one that needs addressing. As long safe seats exist, and as long as voters vote on tribal not logical lines, there will be trouble for democracy as someone will always inevitably get left out in the cold, and that’s not very democratic now is it?

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Magnum Live At The Robin 2 Hotel, Review,

IMG_1191.JPGOn Saturday evening, hundreds gathered at The Robin 2 Hotel in Bilston to watch the institution that is Magnum play their hometown gig. Magnum, a band formed in 1972 had a string of hit singles and albums in the 1980s and 1990s, and are currently enjoying a new lease of life that has brought in countless new generations of fans. On Saturday, this was quite clearly on display, as the age range was somewhere between sixteen and sixty. As one concert attendee said. “It’s fabulous seeing so many people here, and of such a different age range as well.”

As the doors opened at seven thirty, a murmur of excitement spread through the crowd, this was going to be the first time Magnum had played in Bilston in a long time, and as such, a lot of people wondered what would be included in their setlist, would they go for a set full of old classics, a set filled with new songs or a mixture of both?

Before that question could be answered however, the opening act in the fantastic Rebecca Downes gave the crowd a lot of bang for their buck.  Rebecca and her band tore through killer song after killer song including a roaring rendition of the Janis Joplin classic “Take A Little Piece of My Heart.’ When they were done there were loud cheers and calls for more.

After Ms Downes and her band had left the stage, the anticipation built up even more and as David, a fan of Ms Downes and Magnum said. “Magnum have got a lot to follow now.” Sure enough when the band got onto the stage, the crowd roared with joy, and that roar only got louder as the opening notes of ‘Solider of The Line’ were played. That was then followed by what could arguably considered one of the greatest songs ever written ‘On A Storyteller’s Night.’

Rip roaring rocker ‘Sacred Blood Divine Lies’ followed, and the crowd kept going, jumping and singing along. This continued through another series of classics and newer songs such as ‘Blood Red Laughter’ and ‘How Far Jerusalem’, and on it went. Bob Catley, the lead singer for the band at one point between songs smiled and said. “You’re a rowdy crowd tonight Bilston!” And that they were.

Magnum finished off their set with four classics. “Les Morts Dansant’, ‘All England’s Eyes’, ‘Vigilante’ and ‘Kingdom of Madness’ and when they were done the crowd was cheering, roaring and in one or two cases crying. It was a fantastic show, and a brilliant reminder of why rock and roll is the greatest type of music around.

 

 

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Why We Should Listen To the Royal Family More.

Britain is one of those oddball countries that is a ‘modern democracy’ but also has an unelected head of state in the form of the Queen who represents the larger institution of the monarchy.  The Queen and other members of the royal family serve a ceremonial role, and are usually used to open buildings and be patrons of charities. And to a large extent it seems that the British public is happy with this. A recent poll put approval for the British monarchy as a whole at  68% with the Queen’s individual popularity put at 83%. Yet, should the royals stray into territory that does not seem to be within their remit, there is often a mixed response amongst the public.

In June, Prince Harry sat down with Newsweek to give them exclusive access to his life and to speak about a number of things. Topics included how no member of the royal family was actively seeking the crown, how he wanted a normal life and finally how he handled the death of his mother Diana. Whilst the interview was eye opening, there were those who did not fully approve of what the young royal had to say. On the part of being not wanting to be King and wanting to balance a normal life with royal duties, there were those who accused the Prince of “crying wolf, despite living in a life of luxury.” There were those such as the group Republic, stated that perhaps it was time for a discussion about a ‘head of state who was actually willing.’ These were all comments that drew on the negatives of what Prince Harry had said and even seemed to be accusing him of crying wolf. It is the opinion of this writer that they missed the point completely.

The Royal Family live in palaces and often have the best of everything, whilst there are countless numbers of their subjects living in poverty or struggling to find were their next meal is going to come from, let alone their next trip to the shops. It would be very easy to cast aspersions on Prince Harry when he speaks out about the grief and the mental health issues he suffered after his mother’s death and serving in war, it would be easy to lambast him for wanting to live a normal life and not wanting to dilute the magic of the monarchy. But with the monarchy there is no easy way to treat them. They are part of the glue that holds this country together, and when they speak we should listen. Prince Harry alongside his brother Prince William has led the younger generation of royals in modernising the monarchy. They are behind the charge on establishing the monarchy on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and they are trying to live as normal a life as they can with all the attention and scrutiny they get with their position. In this writer’s opinion, they should be commended for this. It cannot be easy trying to live as a normal person, but also knowing that you represent an ideal that is much bigger than any one person. That they have done so for as long as they have shown just how dedicated they are to ensuring the monarchy continues.

The Princes are patrons of numerous charities and both Princes have done their best to ensure that Wounded Warriors and Veterans get fair treatment in life after service, with Prince Harry having started the Invictus Games as a means of giving soldiers and veterans a chance to maintain their spirit and camaraderie. Prince William and his wife Kate have done their best to ensure that young families are not ignored with the Duchess constantly speaking to many noteworthy figures about the issues of post-natal depression. Then there is Heads Together, the mental health charity that the three royals set up to encourage a more frank and open conversation about mental health and its effects on people. Both Prince William and Prince Harry have spoken about how they were affected mentally after their mother’s death and how they coped with it in different ways, some not always positive.

When I interviewed Alison Kerry, the Head of Media at Mind, the mental health charity partnered with Head’s Together she had this to say. “Since Their Royal Highnesses got involved and shared their stories of mental health, the number of people who have got in contact with us has increased significantly. Many have admitted that seeing the royals talking about mental health made them far more comfortable talking about it with their loved ones and others. I think their involvement has been crucial to starting the conversation we so desperately needed.”

I believe that says it all. The royals have ensured that more people feel comfortable talking about mental health, an issue that was previously considered a taboo subject in Britain, despite the alarming number of suicides that took place each year. In my opinion they did this by being more open than previous generations of royals might have been, they removed the air of invulnerability for a moment and allowed the people a chance to see what they were like. To show the people that yes, it was okay to say “I’m struggling here , I need help.”  A realisation that has subsequently made all three main parties take mental health far more seriously and actually formulate serious policy proposals to address the growing mental health concerns in this country.

To conclude, whilst there might be some disbelief amongst certain parts of the population when the royals speak about their worries, they should be listened to. For their worries are often not that different to our own, and if it helps make the royal family seem more relatable and helps address issues such as mental health that were previously not even on the agenda, then surely that is all for the good.

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A Visit To An MP

Jack Dromey is the Labour MP for Erdington. He’s a nice man, with good intentions, he wants to make Erdington a properly functioning region once more, he recognises there is potential in the area and he’s been kind enough to do an interview with me for The Phoenix Newspaper. However, today, my opinion of his staff has taken a great blow.

During an event celebrating Jack’s re-election, I spoke to his secretary to discuss the possibility of me doing some work for Jack, and to shadow him as he was out on constituency business, as well as potentially doing some research work for him. At the time, Jane did not have his diary before her and she advised me to phone her the following week to discuss what I wanted in more detail. I took her advice and the next week I phoned her and reiterated that I wanted to come in and see what it was like in the constituency office, to see Jack handling constituency business and to do some research work for him as well, at that point, no issues were noted or problems pointed out. We agreed that I would come to the office on Friday 7th July to observe and see what I could learn. All good.

However, a few days before I was due to go to Jack’s office, I spoke to Jane to confirm that I would be going to the office on Friday, and was told that they had expected me on Thursday and that there was no point in me coming in on the 7th as Jack would not be in and there would be nothing for me to do. This annoyed me slightly, as I had thought it had been made clear that I was coming in on 7th, but I put that to the side and agreed to come in on 14th. All good, right?

Today, 14th July, I arrived at Jack’s office. Jack was out of the office, with a work experience student on constituency business, so his secretary, social media organiser and caseworker were in the office. I sat down and was asked what it was I wanted to get out of the experience, and I once again said, I wanted to see how the constituency office functioned, I wanted to see Jack handling constituency business and I wanted to if possible do some research work for Jack.

I was told that doing research work for Jack would not be possible because they already had a researcher doing work for Jack in London. I was also told that I should have mentioned this before, that surprised me as I remember mentioning it quite clearly!  However, I was then asked if I was a member of the Labour Party, I replied that I was not and was told that it would be very difficult to get any position as a researcher for any MP regardless of party if I was not a member of a party. I was then given a website to go onto to explore this further.

Jane, Jack’s secretary then explained what happened in the constituency office before talk turned to other matters. I was asked what my political leanings were, and not being an idiot,  I said that I agreed with Jeremy Corbyn and his policies- I don’t really- though I disagreed with my local MP, as he had not attended a great many votes in the Commons and didn’t seem to really represent the constituency. Jack’s social media handler replied that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, as there could’ve been a whole host of reasons for why my constituency MP had not been able to attend the vote. Jane, also said that voting against the party just because of an individual seemed bizarre to her. I said that I had voted Labour, as I got the feeling saying anything else would’ve been madness and also made an already apparently hostile environment even more hostile. However, I was left wondering what the point was in having an MP for a constituency if everyone thought that the wider thinking was for the government as a whole and the country as a whole. Surely it would be better just to vote for a party and that would be that, not some MP who does shit all for his constituency.

I was also told that as I was not a Labour party member and not a resident in Erdington, Jane wouldn’t even bother trying to help me with Jack or with the Labour party. Which, is a fair enough comment, but one she could’ve made before I made a treck to Erdington. That really pissed me off. And I said a few choice words in my head about her and the entire situation.

There was a silence than before talk turned to the West Midlands Mayoral election. I mentioned that Sion Simon the Labour candidate had not really been a presence in the election and that he seemed to only appear toward the end. This, I realise now was a mistake, as Katie, Jack’s social media person, came out quite defensively saying that she had managed his diary during the race and that he had spent a lot of time speaking to actual residents of the West Midlands rather than the businesses that Andy Street had. The others chipped in saying that the press couldn’t always be believed as they were for the Conservatives. I felt like asking if all the press were, considering many of the papers had effectively grovelled before Sion Simon because he was a Labour man, not for anything else. Katie then concluded that discussion by saying that it was the ordinary people not business that made the West Midlands. Whilst this might be true, business also bring jobs and money to the area, and it’s one thing to claim the media is behind the Conservatives and another to actually try and bring them to your side, to get them to cover your side of the argument, which it seemed had not been done here

All in all the experience was a disheartening one, it was frustrating as I felt a lot of what I came for could’ve just been told to me over the phone sparing me wasting an hour and a half of my time and energy. Furthermore, the attitude of the staff in Jack’s office to me seemed to be one of hostility, I was not one of them and therefore not welcome. This seems to be an attitude that a lot of Labour voters are adapting, especially in light of Momentum actually threatening MPs with strikes and physical harm if they do not toe the line of their beloved messiah Corbyn.

Labour is turning into a version of the Stasi from East Germany, especially with the hard left of Momentum threatening anyone who doesn’t agree with their Corbyn. It is a shame and a frightening thing, and something desperately needs to be done about it. Otherwise, expect the Tories to dominate for the next fifty years.