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Attitude editor Matthew Todd: Making your vote count

By Nick Bond

As editor of Attitude I’m thrilled to partner with the national Bite The Ballot campaign, which encourages people across the UK to register to vote – and then to use that vote in the general election on 7th May this year.

I’ll tell you why. When I was a teenager I didn’t really understand politics. I listened to my mum and dad’s opinion and read the newspapers they read and tended to agree with what I saw around me. Why wouldn’t I? I was being exposed to just one point of view. And besides, the entertainment coverage in the papers seemed a whole lot more interesting that the political content.

It was only when Stonewall started campaigning for an equal age of consent and asked people to write to their MPs to find out where they stood on the issue and to encourage them to vote for equality that things changed for me. I realised that my local MP did not believe I or people like me deserved the same rights as my straight friends, just because I was gay.

Two years later, in the 1994 age of consent vote, my local MP voted to continue treating gay men as second-class citizens. It was a shocking and life-changing moment for me. I had voted for him at the first election I was able to vote, back in 1992. At the next one, in 1997, I was part of a surge of voters who kicked him out. If I, along with thousands of others, hadn’t bothered to vote then he would have been able to continue and most likely vote against abolishing Section 28 or the ban on gay people fighting in the armed forces.

My vote counted. It was the moment I realised just how crucial it was to understand the issues and who you are voting for because it affected my life in a very real way.

It’s my belief that some of the most powerful people in the world  – those who really run the country – don’t want you to vote. They want you to feel overwhelmed and stupid, as if you have to be super-intelligent to understand the issues and to remain distracted by entertainment and media and not have any say in the way the country is governed.

But we have a responsibility for what happens to us and to others. Do you want to support the MPs who voted against equal marriage, for instance? Do you support UKIP after their comments on HIV and their stance on immigration? Do you wish to support a party that takes the environment seriously?

There are lots of issues that you have to make your mind up about. I’m not here to tell you who to vote for, just to vote. This is your chance to show politicians that how they treat you, the policies they enact, do have consequences. Even if you are so hacked off with the political system that you don’t wish to vote for any party and want to register a protest by spoiling your vote – it only counts if you register and then actually spoil the vote on the day.

If you don’t bother, you are invisible, gagging yourself and essentially saying ‘I don’t care what happens to me.’ If an MP that is against your interests gets in then you have no right to complain because you didn’t bother to take part and have your say. If a government comes in that doesn’t support equality or goes against your interests then you have no right to complain because you didn’t bother to use your vote to influence the situation.

Politicians have an effect on just about everything that happens to us in life –  from employment opportunities, what nurses are paid, the crime rates, how we respect our precious environment which scientists tell us is under threat, to the possibility of you being able to buy a home if we wish. As LGBT people who have fought desperately hard for the rights we have won we know how precious the right to vote is.

If you are not registered, do not put it off another day, do it right now. Tell a friend or ten. Bite the ballot and register to vote today.

Matthew Todd, Editor – Attitude Magazine

You can register to vote and find out more ways to get involved over at Bite The Ballot. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we bring you more info and opinions on making your vote count.