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Why I am voting in the UK elections to the European Parliament
by Jon Bryan

I don’t always vote, and I have never voted in any elections to the European Parliament. Things are different at the minute though.

I haven’t always voted for a variety of reasons. Mostly though, I think you have to believe in something to vote for it. I have never liked the idea of voting tactically, or against something. “Vote for this person to stop this person” is not the best way to inspire anyone or to engage them politically.

I first voted in 1987, voting twice for the Labour Party in the June General Election. Once for me, once for my brother (proxy). This was in an area of the country where it didn’t really matter. But it mattered to me, as an activist and representative of the local Labour Party. The Labour Party were hammered in that election, and I sought other political parties and campaigns to channel my efforts after that, not voting again until May 2011. But I can still recall quite vividly when I first became part of the electorate.

I have voted in recent elections, sometimes spoiling my ballot paper rather than staying away from the polling booth all together. I have voted in local elections when I have known the candidates and have had time for what they say and do, but the one time recently when I genuinely felt proud and privileged to be taking part in an election was on 23 June 2016, when I cast my vote for the United Kingdom to Leave the European Union.

It seems hard to believe now, but it was a time when there was some good political debate about EU membership – both in public and in private. I have been looking back at some social media posts recently. The tone, prior to the outcome, was relatively polite and constructive, which is arguably not the case now and certainly wasn’t immediately after the referendum.

I saw my cross in the box as a positive vote – one where I hoped that there would be some real change in politics. I thought it opened up the possibility of real opportunities, which I have spoken about before for The Great Debate: "Brexit: Opportunity or catastrophe for the North East? ".

In most of the constituencies that I have lived in, my vote has rarely counted. The 2016 referendum though, was going to be different. My vote weighed as much as anybody else’s. And almost three quarters of the electorate took part – 33.6 million of us. There was considerable discussion and debate in the run-up to the vote. The government spent £9 million on leaflets that every household received. Famously, this told us that parliament had passed over the power to us to make the decision on membership of the EU. Furthermore, we were told that it was a “once in a generation decision” and that “the Government will implement what you decide”. We all went off to the polling booths to take part in the biggest democratic exercise that this country has ever seen.

Now, almost three years later, we are still tied in with a set of institutions and arrangements that we voted to leave, and we are taking part in elections to a European Parliament that we should have nothing to do with.

The failure of the political class to implement the outcome of the 2016 referendum has been cited by a significant proportion of people as reason to never vote again. There is a level of disengagement with the democratic process which is understandable, but that does need to be challenged and channelled. There are some on the left who are saying that we should abstain from these elections because they should not be taking place. I don’t think that reinforcing negative abstentionism is what we should be doing. Instead, we should make a clear statement about what we think by voting for a party which has only made one manifesto commitment - to implement the outcome of the 2016 Referendum and to Leave the EU.

For that reason, in these elections, I will be voting for The Brexit Party. They are providing a voice to those who not only feel neglected, but to those who feel ignored as well. On Thursday it will be an election that I will remember taking part in – where I will not only be re-stating my belief that we should Leave the EU, but also that we should implement the outcome democratically arrived at three years ago. Make your vote count this week, and vote for The Brexit Party!

Jon Bryan, 19/5/2019

Jon Bryan is Treasurer of The Great Debate. He is a full-time trade union official and also tweets and writes about gambling and poker at @JonBryanPoker

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© Jon Bryan, 2019