NVRD Table Banner

I’m Dan Lewis, I am 25 years old and I’m a union representative in a call centre. I didn’t believe politics could make any difference to people because I felt all politicians are the same and voting doesn’t make a difference. But then as a union rep I learnt that all the things that happen in the workplace are in one way or another connected to the laws that are made in Parliament, and the only way we can fix the issues with these laws is by becoming active in telling the people in power what we want.

I learnt this through my union. My union also taught me that I could make a difference, I don’t have to rely on some middle aged man or woman who has no idea what my life is like. They explained to me that I could become a councillor or one day an MP which I thought was impossible, because I haven’t been privately educated and I’m not ‘political’. However everything we do is political, from paying a bus fare to earning a wage.

This got me doing something about the problems I had around me. The Communication Worker’s Union (CWU) showed me how I could run for a local councillor position and how by registering to vote and actually voting, we have the power in our hands.

Registering to vote, are we giving in to the system? Are we playing to the game of the rich? Are we represented properly by the people in power? Are the people asking for our votes ‘all the same’? Will registering, and voting make a difference?

Last week I participated in the National Voter Registration Drive. The aim: To get 250,000 young people registered to vote before the cut-off (20 Apr) for the May 7th General Election. Did we do it? Gov.uk confirmed there were over 441,500 online registrations and we are yet to find out how many were completed by hand. So far, I think we’ve done well. There’s still a lot of people not registered and still a lot of people who will choose not to register or even vote. I want to know why? And this is my message to them.

NRVD was a great initiative giving people the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote. Voting is essential in a democracy. By not voting, we may as well allow our country to be run by dictators. Like in life, we can’t agree on everything. A party may have policies you don’t agree with but if you agree with the majority of their policies and those that you disagree with don’t out-weigh the ones you do, there is your chance to give them your vote but make sure you tell them what you want as well, because if they don’t know how can they change to suit the people that support them? This is where you can become active within the party you wish to support and through your trade unions.

Politicians may make promises they don’t always keep but where you have power to hold them to account is through collective action. If government doesn’t stand by what they promise, your trade union can take action. Unions are the people’s power, acting collectively, and withdrawal of our labour through industrial action is the most powerful negotiating tool we have. Being an active union member alongside an active voter is a powerful combination and I just wish more young people understood that.

This week, as a young union member, I took part in a roundtable discussion with the Labour party. The fact that politicians are starting to ask young workers what they want from government shows that this National Voter Registration Drive is getting their attention. They see the potential power young voters have- (the number of young people who didn’t vote, was greater than the majority in many constituencies!) We are scaring them and they have to start taking us seriously! But we shouldn’t forget that MPs work for us and more of us should request to meet with them and tell them what we want!

We will not always agree with everything that our chosen party says they will do, but remember you’re also voting for your local candidate, so if you’re believing your local MP and councillor are the right man or woman for the job then vote for them, they are your representatives. We need to make an educated decision, by this I mean we need to take the time to go to the party websites and read their policies and what they pledge to do if elected. If you are concerned about voting at the local elections, look out for the local councillor’s leaflets in the post or get in contact with the local office for that councillor and ask them what they want to do and support in your area. We can most definitely look at what newspapers are saying and watch TV news reports as well, just remember that some newspapers or media organisations may be affiliated (have connections or even fund) a specific party or they may just have their own interests in mind when reporting. Remember that not all media is impartial and the owners of media companies are regularly at events with political leaders, not to say they are always connected.

Democracy. What is it? The belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves.

Where is the power held in the UK? Currently, the power is held by the Government and the only reason for this, in my opinion is because not enough of us are using our right to hold that power and use it. How do we own and use the power? Register to vote, make sure we vote, Take part, Take Power and Take Over. By registering, we show interest. By voting we display what we want and by becoming involved we take power because a democracy is run on the decisions of those who hold power and right now, we aren’t involved enough and because we aren’t doing this and when we aren’t happy about what is happening, we don’t have the power for them to listen to.

I could display loads of different graphs and figures on how many people voted and how old they were, what colour their skin is and where they’re from and all the rest, but at the end of the day only you know what you want and it’s your responsibility to educate yourself on the issues the different parties are talking about taking action on. You have a right to vote and it is your responsibility to use that vote with an informed opinion.

Many of us want a revolution, we all want change in some way, but until WE do something about it with the powers in place, we won’t change the system that is in place. Register to vote, make an educated vote, get in contact with the people in your area that are asking to be elected and tell them what you want. Go to the polling stations on May 7th and then hold the elected people responsible when you don’t get the result they promised. Through the collective voice and power of your union the potential for power is there but only if we use it. #Vote #takepower

You can contact Dan Lewis on Twitter at @Think_Become or Facebook here