I can still remember the disappointment I felt in 2010, watching Gordon Brown travel to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation. That was it. A Conservative-led government loomed. But it was only five years. We just had to make it through, then we could get it right the next time.
That feeling struck again yesterday as the Tories secured an overall majority, and with it another term in government. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but it had. The result was disappointing to say the least, but the problem isn’t really the Tories being back in government. Politics is more granular than that. The real issue is each new law that leaves our country worse off than before.
There are a few on the agenda already. The UK’s membership of the EU is in jeopardy for a start, with David Cameron’s promise of an in-out referendum by 2017 taking a step towards fruition. Theresa May wasted no time yesterday announcing she’d have another go at passing the Snoopers’ Charter, a chilling piece of legislation that would force your internet provider to store large amounts of data about your browsing habits, just in case the government wants to take a look. Then there’s the small matter of the £12 billion worth of welfare cuts in the Conservative manifesto, which a leaked document says could include abolishing statutory maternity pay, denying benefits to disabled people under 25, and increasing the bedroom tax.
If just one of those is enough to make you remotely angry, then this is your wakeup call. It’s time to act. Democracy only comes knocking once every five years, so if you want more influence, you’re going to have to seize it. We can’t boot out the Tories until at least 2020, so let’s be proactive and fight off the dangerous laws one by one. That means keeping a close eye on what Parliament is up to. Sounding the alarm when something’s not right. Hounding your MP to vote down legislation that’ll only cause hurt.
It may seem like a daunting task, but this country has a proud tradition of fighting back, and a great track record of success, too: extending the vote from a small group of wealthy, male landowners to everyone over the age of 18, regardless of gender or income; abolishing the death penalty; legalising same-sex marriage. Let’s build on that, because it’s only by applying real pressure from below that we can hope to change anything.
So find the causes you care about and make some noise, whether that’s fighting for a living wage, protecting vital public services, or fixing our broken electoral system, where 1,454,436 votes gave the SNP 56 seats while 3,881,129 afforded UKIP just one. Join a campaigning organisation, start a petition, get out on the streets. Even if you’ve never done anything like that before, now is the time to start. Because it’s too important not to.