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Let’s Build a Bridge, Not a Wall – (EU Referendum)

Today everybody in the UK woke to find that we had voted to leave the EU in the Referendum yesterday. Like many, I am shocked and quite frankly fearful of the ramifications of this result. Yet I know my parents feel the exact opposite and voted, just as I did, for what they felt was the best for our country, even though we both voted for opposite sides. So where does that leave us, as a family and as a nation?

For weeks the country has felt divided, with opinions and gut reactions leading many of the arguments rather than clear facts. It became almost impossible to find information backed by research from a variety of sources, and combined with the high emotions felt by a disillusioned electorate, it seems understandable that the nation would vote based on almost instinctive reactions.

I mean, let’s look at the polls leading up to the referendum. Most of them showed very distinct patterns with, for example, the younger generation generally voting in favour of remaining in the EU and the older generations voting to leave. Both sides believed they were making a sound decision. For instance, I spoke to someone at work who told me she was voting to leave because she felt it best for her grandchildren, yet I was voting to remain because I felt that was best for my child.

I know that this is how referendums and voting in general works, you always vote for what you think is best, but it seems to have been so polarized this time around. You just have to look at the end results to see that – the Leave campaign may have won with the “majority” of the votes, but that majority was 51.9% of those who voted… 48.1% voted for the exact opposite outcome and that’s a very small margin, just over 1 million votes in it. So clearly, the nation remains divided in its reaction to the referendum result – half are ecstatic and half are entirely disappointed.

It was pretty clear all along that this was going to be the case, as it’s been a closely run battle from the start. Whichever way it had swung, half the population were going to be disappointed. I’m not even going to try and pretend that if the Remain side had won there wouldn’t have been similar feelings this morning – the only real difference would have been that finding a new way to work together in harmony, bringing the two sides together once more, would have played out on a UK-only stage rather than the world-stage as it is currently doing. So again, I ask, where does this leave us?

Well, I don’t know. But one thing I do know is that amongst all the comments I’ve seen this morning across social media, the ones that stand out the most are the ones calling for unity. Those that are asking for us to come together, even in a time of division, because change is hard on anyone. And the next few years are going to be full of uncertainty and change, and we’re going to need to come together and find our common goals in order to make it through as best we can. And I do believe that we have common goals, that we all essentially want the same thing, don’t you?

Let’s build a bridge, not a wall

Deep inside the heart of me
there is a place of truth,
A place that wants the best for us
it’s what I’ll always choose.
But life is never black and white,
there is no right and wrong,
Let’s put aside our differences
together we stand strong.

I know I made my choice today
based on a heartfelt truth,
And you, I know, did just the same
your heart helped you to choose.
So many feelings, good and bad
were thrown into the fray,
Love and fear went head to head
and logic fell away.

So let us all remember now
that feelings hold the power,
We cannot let our fear win out
this is the crucial hour.
Let us instead choose love to win
and with it hope and peace,
And promise to our children now
that love will never cease.

For we have chosen what we thought
was best for them and us,
So let us all unite today
and make sure that it does.
Don’t let our actions at this time
go down in history,
Filled with anger and regret
and marked with misery.

So come together, side by side
let’s work together now,
There’s got to be a better way
and we’ll find it somehow.
For you and I, we’re just the same
we want the best for all,
So let us build a bridge between
our sides, and not a wall.


I’ve written another post over on Spirit Kid Network, inspired by Little Man’s beautiful words, “I love all the people” that he shared with me Friday night before bed. Let’s nurture that loving acceptance of all people!

Activism: 10 ways to create political change today

Activism: 10 Ways You Can Create Change!

In light of the #budget2015, Amanda has asked me to write a blog post about getting involved in politics. We are doing a swap of skills… she’s my social media guru and I’m giving her a few politics lesson!

Activism: 10 ways to create political change today

How to get involved…

  1. Get involved with a political party. Decide which one best suits your personal beliefs and get involved. Not sure which best suits you? Try this quiz…

Have a look on their websites, explore their policies. You could go all the way and get involved as a candidate, like Susanna Rustin, who provides an excellent tongue in cheek review on becoming a politician.

Or you can become a member and help to fundraise and campaign for candidates. Members also help vote for the leadership of the party. Like the Labour Party but disliked Ed Miliband? Join the Labour Party and vote for the next leader and deputy leader.

  1. Write to your MP, MEP or counsellor. I have done work experience with MPs, they get very few letters. So when they get a few letters from constituents on an issue they get worried, if they get a lot of letters they get very concerned. After all, they know they need to get re-elected in a few months or years. Even better, get your friends and followers to also write letters. Think how worried they will be if they get a hundred letters the same.

Find your constituency: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies

  1. Interested in a particular policy area or issue? Then research, find and join a relevant society or charity that are actively campaigning about that issue.

For social justice, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is a good one. 

Again, get involved. Charities in particular will be grateful for any help they can receive.

Most of us will never influence national policy directly but we can make a difference by volunteering for a charity. The big charities and societies are experienced lobbyist and often consulted on relevant legislation changes. By supporting a national charity you are helping to support a charity that has a stronger voice than yourself be heard.

Even donating your old clothes can be seen as a form of activism.

  1. Join a local campaign group, these can be political or single issue. If you have a local concern, it is likely others do too. Find them, join them. The best way to find information about these is to look at the noticeboards and piles of information sheets in your local library or independent café or shop. Otherwise, google them or look in the local newspapers.

    I’m actively involved with my local history society, as that is an issue I feel strongly about and it also which cuts across political parties.

A list of Lincolnshire charities (where we are based) can be found here. A quick search online should help you find a similar list for your own county.

  1. Join in a local or national march. These will be advertised in the local media. Your local trade union will promote the big national marches.
  1. Concerned about workers’ rights? Find the main union in your work place and join a trade union, become involved as an officer or steward.
  1. If you cannot find a group you like, form your own. Organise, advertise, campaign.
  1. Otherwise use your skills… many of you will be active bloggers or twitter users. Read and re-tweet and re-post reliable sources of information, such as the board-sheet newspapers, charities, societies, academics or expertise. Don’t just re-tweet attention grabbing posts that you cannot verify the source of information, this will weaken your reliability. Opinion posts are good but must be have reliable sources of information.
  1. Write a blog post, link to relevant parties, charities, societies. Start a debate, encourage others to get involve. Set up a group to promote information and ideas. Pitch ideas to your local magazine or newspaper to promote information – make it entertaining but informative.
  1. The government website has other suggestions which you can find here. The ones I like are getting involved with consultations or signing petitions.

I am a member of the Labour Party because I believe in the constitutional declaration that ‘together we can achieve more than we can alone’.

However, you can often achieve more by deciding what your area of expertise is and utilizing those skills.

The government gets away with blaming the poor, the ill and those receiving benefits by playing on people’s stigma. Helping to remove that stigma by promoting the facts and your own experiences in an accessible but informative way helps to remove the strengths of these stigmas and the strength of the government lies.

So I am a teacher, I am a member of local and national history societies, I am a member of a political party and charities. I have also started to write and blog about my experiences. These are all forms of activism.

I think the best form of activism I can achieve is by helping my students to understand how our political system works, to think for themselves, to question everything, to seek out reliable information, to be independent thinkers who make up their own minds and become active member of society.

(Sadly some have chosen to vote Conservative after my lessons but that is fine as they have reasoned for themselves.)

Find one (or more) method that suits you and get involved and have fun.

 

About Debbie

historytiglet

Debbie is a self-confessed History-Geek, who thoroughly enjoys spending her days passing on her passion and enthusiasm in a post-16 educational environment. She uses her own experiences of overcoming disabilities and difficulties (such as dyslexia and chronic health conditions) to help support and encourage others to reach their potential. Her new blog can be found at historytiglet and she is also on Twitter

(She also happens to be my sister!)

Finding our Voices and Helping Each Other (General Election 2015)

Finding Our Voices and Helping Each Other (Reactions to the General Election 2015)

Like many others, I have spent a lot of time over the weekend reading commentaries and conversations about the General Election, the plans of our new government, and British politics in general.

My initial reaction to the results still stands – I am saddened that we are facing another 5 years of further cuts that will damage our NHS and make life immeasurably harder for those already struggling so much to simply make ends meet. However, as I have digested the words of others and seen conversations taking place on various social media platforms, my focus has changed somewhat.

I have been absolutely astounded by the attitude of some which suggests that because the Conservative Party received a majority of seats, those of us who didn’t vote for them should simply accept this and shut up. I’m not sure how to express my concern that there is this idea in our society that we all get a chance to vote once every five years and other than that we leave the politics to the politicians. It doesn’t end once the votes have been counted and the winners announced, in fact it’s only just beginning…

There has been a lot of outrage expressed about the fact that the Tories won a majority in this election, and it is all too easy for those who voted for this outcome to believe this is just a case of “sour grapes”. And, of course, there is a part of the response which is simply sheer disappointment that “the other party” won. But let’s not be under any pretences that this very same response would not have occurred had Labour won the majority.

However, the bigger issue that a lot of people are trying to speak out about is the fact that we no longer live in a society with two main Parties battling for their chance at leading the country. Our system of First Past The Post (FPTP) is seriously outdated and no longer representative of actual votes cast. The Conservatives may have won a small majority, but that same percentage of votes would have massively lost them the election in previous years. And this is because votes are being cast for smaller Parties, like the Green Party and UKIP, who under Proportional Representation would have gained far more seats than they did.

Don’t get me wrong, I am personally very glad that UKIP didn’t get more seats. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they should have done, that millions of votes have gone unheard under the current system. It’s no wonder people feel like there is no point in voting!

But instead of getting disheartened, instead of giving up, instead of doing what people expect us to do and simply accept our fate, we are starting to realise that we do have a voice, we just have to find it.

Finding our Voices and Helping Each Other (General Election 2015)

For me, as a writer, this means using my voice through the written word. I have never really blogged about politicial things before, but you can be sure that I’m going to from now on. And I shall be watching out for others who are using their voices online, and sharing their thoughts with you too. Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, finding common ground and supporting each other so that we can achieve greater things than we ever could alone. If you don’t already follow me on Facebook or Twitter, please do considering joining me over there as I’ll be able to share things via social media much more frequently than I can here on the blog.

I’ll also be looking for ways of supporting those in my local community, building up connections so that we can enact change right here on our doorstep. This is the time when our communities (whether online or off) are of utmost importance, because with so many cuts in our future, so much uncertainty facing us, it will be the people around us who hold us up and remind us what “we’re all in this together” really means.

I’ve started a new page with links to articles, comments, and organisations which may interest you. This will be the easiest way to keep on top of anything I link to in any of my blog posts on this topic, and you can find it here.

#GE2015 Where do we go from here- The Family Patch

Thoughts on the Election: Fear for the Future and a Passion for Change

Along with so many others, I watched the election results this week in stunned disbelief. Never in my worst nightmare did I ever imagine the Conservatives would win a majority, which again seems to be a common reaction to the news. In the weeks leading up to the election, I had spoken to many people and heard just as many opposing views and, along with the debates, this had given me the strong impression that we were heading for another hung parliament. How did we go from that, to this?

#GE2015 Where do we go from here- The Family Patch

I know that many people feel that there is very little difference between the parties, and therefore there was no real choice in this election. It is the very reason many non-voters give for choosing not to cast a vote this time. A few days before the election, I posted a link to this article along with the words, “I strongly believe that casting your vote is a big part of how we engender change, working with politics and politicians to focus light on the issues that matter most. It isn’t going to change overnight, but not voting is like accepting it “as is” and allowing it to go on unchallenged.” And I still do believe this… but our system is so flawed with its First Past The Post (FPTP) that it feels incredibly disheartening to realise how very little our voices are heard.

Somehow, as a nation, we have ended up with a majority Tory government, with more votes than they had last time, despite all that we have been through in the past five years. I can’t, of course, blame that completely on the FPTP system – people have clearly (and rightfully) cast their vote for the Conservative Party. But in many ways that makes me lose faith in where we’re heading as a society – do we really value the lives of others so little that we’re happy to ignore the fact that under the previous Tory government the rich got richer and the poor got poorer? Austerity measures were the worst thing to happen to our economy, and yet so many people believe the Tory Party rhetoric that they need time to finish what they started! But when you begin to really look at what we’ve voted for, it makes for an extremely depressing read.

Let me tell you something – as a family we will be hit hardest by the Tory Party plans. We’ve already suffered under the previous Tory government, but it will be even worse this time around. In the past year alone we have seen: our tax credits cut so much that we could not afford the childcare we needed, leaving me in a very stressful and unpleasant situation in my previous place of employment; my inability to claim JSA despite being made redundant, due to having not paid enough NI Contributions during the two years I stayed home with Little Man and returned to work in a part-time capacity only; and an increasingly difficult battle to receive the medical care and support TJ needs for a debilitating condition due to lack of funds in the NHS.

As a family with a disabled father, a young child, and a mother who has chosen to put her career on hold (consciously choosing a lower level and therefore lower paid role) in order to meet the immediate needs of her family, we are going to be hit the hardest by the coming government’s plans. We will struggle to make ends meet, and fight an even harder battle to receive the care we need from an NHS that is crumbling into ruins, no matter what the Tories say. Far from the “benefits scroungers” that they would have you believe are the cause of the problems, we will battle on regardless with almost minimal support from the government.

TJ will continue to work as hard as he can, despite being so sick that he had to miss 40 days of work last year due to being unable to even get out of bed. The days he works are days filled with immense pain, clouded by a fog of mental confusion caused by his medications and side effects nobody would wish on their worst enemy. He will do so, because we cannot afford for him to even consider reducing his hours. And I will continue to work fewer hours so that I can balance childcare, caring for my husband, and providing for my family in a way that doesn’t kill me. But more than that, we will rely on family and friends more than ever before, and we will fight for change.

Because whilst we will be hit hard, we are still incredibly blessed. We have a roof over our head and food on our table – some people are not so lucky. How crazy is that? How can I even be sitting here, in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, mentioning food poverty and homelessness? It isn’t right!!

Thankfully I am far from alone in feeling this way. My absolute horror that, as a nation, we voted in a Tory government that cares so little about the most vulnerable in society, has been reduced significantly over the past 24 hours as I have read the reactions of others across the UK. Let’s start with the fact that, despite getting a majority vote, the Tories received a significantly smaller percentage of the votes than the losing party in previous elections! Again we come back to the flawed FPTP system, and the fact that:

“In real terms, this means that Cameron’s Tories won the support of only around 24 per cent of all those who could have voted. The ‘none of the above’ party of non-voters totalled 34 per cent, finishing a close second this time. Millions of those who did vote will feel no more represented than those who did not, notably the almost five million UKIP voters who ended up with one MP between them.” – Did the Tories really win? 

This gives me hope, more than anything else, that we are not alone in feeling so utterly disappointed in the result of this election. Our electoral system is far from representative and therefore millions of people throughout the country feel just as passionate about creating change. But how do we do this? How do we engender change when our voices are vastly unheard, at least when it comes to politics?

I think Russell Brand says it pretty well in his recent video calling for us to live with compassion.

“One thing I know for certain is there’s going to be no shortness of meanness… we’ve got to find new ways of being compassionate and new ways of making change.” – Russell Brand

Compassion is something we can all strive to live by. It comes in so many guises and every single act of compassion, no matter how small, can all add up to a far greater life for us all. It could be as simple as stopping for a few extra minutes to talk to an elderly neighbour who may cherish those few moments of friendship with you, or buying an extra bag of tea during your weekly food shop to donate to the food bank. Or it could be as dedicated as volunteering for a local cause or speaking out about injustice on a local, national or even global scale. Whatever form compassion takes for you, know that it will make a difference.

The last thing we want or need right now is for the news of the past few days to throw us all into a state of apathy or a belief in hopelessness and helplessness. We can create change, indeed we must create change, it’s just we have to find new ways of doing this.

And on that note, I wish to leave you with a song by one of my favourite artists, Damh The Bard, entitled “The Sons and Daughters of Robin Hood”. Damh wrote this following the 2010 election and shared it again in light of the results from the 2015 election. The chorus line has been running through my mind since last night and I invite you to join me in singing along and finding your own way to make that change.

“If you thought that we would do nothing, You’ve misunderstood! For we are the Sons and Daughters, of Robin Hood!”