Don’t forget to use the right to vote

Fiona Onasanya column
Fiona Onasanya column
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Have your say

On the day that this article is published, voters throughout Peterborough and the country will be making their decision as to whom they want to run their local councils.

However, turnout to these elections is traditionally low, which is a concern as local government has a powerful influence on what an area’s priorities are.

Should we encourage more shopping, or try to bring in more industry?

Do we want to emphasise providing public transport or accommodating the car? Do we want to work on projects to enhance tourism, or is basic road safety more important? What about facilities for children, the disabled, and the elderly? This should matter to the public; they are paying for it.

I saw perhaps the most poignant example of indifference when I was canvassing last year.

I knocked on a door with a local election candidate; a young man and his partner met us. He neatly summarised much of the sentiment that lay behind the persistently low turnout: “I don’t vote, it doesn’t really change anything.”

The candidate and I sought to explain that if you don’t vote then you’re casting aside your chance to change anything. Nevertheless, it’s a common refrain heard on the campaign trail: “you’re all as bad as each other”, “voting doesn’t matter”, and “it is always the same”.

It takes hard work to persuade people otherwise. It is often difficult to talk about politics in general: for many, it is a subject that people do not feel is particularly polite.

However, we should talk about it. It is precisely because of the necessity of change that we have a democratic system at all. Systems that don’t have the capacity to change become ossified and often times corrupt.

One of the challenges facing China’s ruling elite as the country grows and develops is finding a way to maintain absolute power yet not succumb to its temptations. In this sense, we are considered better off: we have a mechanism whereby we don’t have to merely accept paying our taxes, we can change those officers who collect and spend it. We don’t have to merely obey rules, we can choose those who make them. If the ones we choose don’t perform to our liking, we can remove them.

I hope that as voters ponder the issues facing their communities, they also take a brief moment to consider how powerful they are, particularly today.

I have often said that if you change nothing, nothing will change. However, if you take the time to go to your polling station and make a choice, it has the potential to make a positive difference to your life and that of your community.

Please consider taking that time today. Please vote.