An introduction to British politics

My introduction, that is.

My introduction to British politics has really been the general election this year. Despite posting a link on this blog to the collaborative work of a photographer and the public about the election, despite having a conversation weeks ago with somebody about tactical voting, despite eating breakfast whilst watching BBC Breakfast talk about Motorway Man, it is in the last seven or eight days that I have found myself rapidly gaining interest in politics.

It is something that I have never understood; I still don’t understand it. Often, big or important things enter my consciousness and I give no thought to them until their importance is spoken of more frequently or with more urgency. One example of this is when the volcano in Iceland erupted. I remember hearing about it, but it wasn’t until the scale of the problem was revealed to be a lot of delays for a lot of people that I realised how big an event the eruption was. With the prime ministerial debates, I had heard that, if it happens, it’ll be the first time it has happened. I thought nothing more of it until the night of the first one when I heard somebody mention it and I decided to record it. That first one was 19 days ago, and I still haven’t watched it.

Six days later, I went to the Oxford East Ask The Climate Question and, as described in my previous post, it was pivotal for me because I started to have doubts about who I would vote for. I have been so unaware of politics that I can’t even remember my voting history, except that I voted in the last elections for Green all round. I assumed I would do the same in this election, but the Ask The Climate Question kicked off my interest in politics, I would say. I started thinking about reasons for keeping Labour in (to keep things as they are) and reasons for not voting Green (I doubt the motivations behind their solutions), and I resolved to check out the manifestos of the four main parties.

So, in the last 12 days, I have not looked at manifestos. What I did was join Twitter six days ago. I had been thinking about it for a few weeks; I really disliked the idea of “social networking”, yet I liked how effective it can be when used strategically. In the end, I thought it’d be good to try to get some traffic over here via Twitter, so I joined and I started playing the game. I followed some organisations of interest to me and found that there was a lot of talk about the elections. A lot of links to articles and websites about the elections appeared, I saved shortcuts to them on my desktop with the intention of going back later. I haven’t. I planned to review everything to be able to make an informed decision on Thursday morning. I probably won’t.

I have recorded, in addition to the first debate, three programmes about what is going on in the election race. I haven’t watched them. I will probably watch them after Thursday because I feel scared that it will make my decision more difficult. Yesterday, for some reason, I started downloading some political podcasts. Podcasts, television programmes, web content—all of this has come together, along with general news coverage, to really excite me about politics for the first time ever. Of course, I still don’t know anything about it, so…

My plan is to get through tonight and tomorrow, reading manifestos and thinking about who to vote for as much as I can, vote on Thursday morning, then get some books on how politics works. I find it all fascinating, including the responses that the media have to it all. I will listen to podcasts, read some of the Guardian editorial, watch those programmes and continue to follow responses to the election’s outcome.

Beyond the election, though, I want to become somebody who knows about what’s going on and how it all works, and knows what’s happening right now and the implications of what politicians say, as well as the impact on me.

Perhaps I also have to figure out what I care about, what I want politicians to care about. So far, the only thing I have responded to is David Cameron speaking with Andrew Marr on Sunday. He spoke of a plan to incrementally reduce the benefit of people who can work but refuse to. I shall not be voting for his party. How would he deal with recent graduates who want to take time to get a decent job rather than take the first job that comes along but, at the same time, could do with the benefit money to live on?

This general election has been my introduction to British politics. It’s exciting.


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