15 April 2015

It’s barely three weeks to go and it’s everywhere. Love it or hate it – either way, you cannot ignore it. 

The General Election is on 7th May, and if you want to cast your vote, your last chance to sign up to the electoral register is by Monday 20th April.

Wendy, David and Wayne are all staying in the hostel at YMCA in Surbiton. They’ve registered to vote – now all they need to do is to find out who to vote for…

A lot of young people are not voting, but they still complain a lot about how the country is run. But if you want to have your say, you’ve got to vote,” says Wendy. She is in her mid-20s and first voted five years ago.

Wendy believes the outcome of the 2010 election might drive more people to vote this time around.

I think in the last election, many thought: ‘How did this happen? How did we get a coalition?’ Maybe it will make people more inclined to vote again this time, to make sure it doesn’t happen again”.

Television debates

However, finding out what the parties stand for and what their policies are, is not easy. Who Wendy will end up voting for on the 7th May, will be determined by how the politicians come across in the media, and especially in the TV debates.

Watching the TV debates in the last election sealed my vote,” Wendy says. “They are so full of drama – it’s like EastEnders!”

David too, thinks the election debates on TV are important.

I have always liked to watch political programmes on TV, I even watch Question Time!” says David. “I like to see the confrontations, to see the politicians getting some hard questions”.

This year, however, will be David’s very first time voting.

I just never felt that it would matter before, no one else I knew voted.  It simply wasn’t an issue. Now that I’m older, I realise that it does matter,” David explains.

He’s always enjoyed discussing politics, however, and he has strong views on the issues highlighted in the election.

Housing and benefits cuts are big issues

Housing, they all agree, is a big issue for them. David’s message to the politicians is to “make a lot more empty sites available for affordable homes, like YMCA is doing with the Y:Cube scheme”.

The housing situation in London is horrible”, David says. “If it wasn’t for places like the YMCA we would be a lot worse off, because where would all the homeless people go?” he says.

Immigration too, is on everyone’s mind, and so are the cuts in benefits,” says David.

Why is it always the poor that seems to get the cuts?” he asks.

The policies always seem to affect the poorest first. Saying that though, we are lucky; we live in one of the best countries in the world”.

Wendy and Wayne too, agree that the cuts seem to affect the most vulnerable in society.

Wendy says: “I wish the politicians would try living on £56 a week, where £30 goes to rent, for some five-six weeks, then they could come back and tell us where they would cut”.

Do the MPs know what young people go through?

Wayne has always voted before, but this year, he is not yet sure if he will use his vote.

It’s come to a stage now where they all say they are going to change things but it all stays the same,” Wayne says.

He adds: “I have so many worries, I struggle financially and I am unable to properly support my children. There’s no help to get anywhere, and that’s why I am unsure if I want to vote this year”.

Discussing the different parties and their candidates, David, Wayne and Wendy agree on some topics and strongly disagree on others.

There’s one thing they all agree on, however: There should be more young MPs, who as Wendy puts it, “knows more about what young people go through”.

Maybe if more young people voted, this problem would be solved?

With the help of Resident Liaison Co-ordinator Joel Shine at YMCA St Paul’s Group, the three of them at least feel more prepared for the election.

Wendy even says: “In the weeks leading up until the election, I will go around ask the other residents if they have decided who they are voting for. I’ll catch them when they are using the computers, then I can show them how to register!

YMCA St Paul’s Group is involved with hustings events in Surbiton on Friday 17th April at 7.30pm at St Mark’s Church and on Tuesday 21st April at 7.30pm at Trinity United Reform Church in Wimbledon.Both events are free and open to all. This is an excellent opportunity to meet your local candidates and get answers on issues you care about.