Things you can do to make yourself heard other than voting

Elections tend to pique the public’s political interest, but even though this year’s is over you don’t need to wait until 2022 before making your voice heard again.

Ros Taylor, the editor of Democratic Audit at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), provided some tips for those who wish to remain politically involved between now and the next election.

Think about getting involved in a party

Conservative Party and Labour Party rosettes
(Hannah McKay/PA)

“You need to think about whether you want to get involved in a party,” Taylor said.

“Just after an election is the perfect time to join because if you get involved, if we do have an election in 2022 you could be running as an MP – that’s about the time it takes to work your way through the party mechanism and find out how it works.

“Now is the time to get involved if you feel identification with a party and if you want to go out there and make a difference.”

Join or start a campaigning group

Anti-nuclear protesters take part in a demonstration
(Chris Ison/PA)

Political parties are not to everyone’s tastes. If none align with your views then finding a group campaigning on issues that matter most to you is the next step, Taylor said.

“If it’s a national issue there will almost certainly be an organisation that’s campaigning about it. If it’s a local issue there might be, and if there isn’t then that’s something that you could start yourself,” she suggested.

It can be hard to know where to start a campaign, or imagine the power it can have, but a book like Lobbying For Change is a very practical toolkit, she said.

“I’d really recommend that. There’s nothing else like it out there.”

Supporters of UK Uncut gather outside Barclays Bank
(Max Nash/PA)

Otherwise, joining a pre-existing organisation can be cathartic.

Taylor said: “It’s amazing how powerful it feels if you really care about something and find an organisation out there that is campaigning on that issue. Just joining an organisation will make you feel that you are doing something.

“You don’t even have to give money to them to make a difference, you can just give your time, or get their updates and donate your skills in other ways to them.

“There are all kinds of weird ways you might not expect to do that. For example, I occasionally do a bit of editing for a hospital in London which I’ve been treated at in the past. That’s quite a specific thing because it’s using a skill that I have and which otherwise it would have to pay for, so it makes a big difference.”

She added: “Don’t just hang out on Facebook and Twitter having a whinge, because while Facebook and Twitter are great ways to promote your cause once you get involved you’re just talking in a bit of an echo chamber.”

When the opportunity arises, protest

A science demonstration
(Jack Hardy/PA)

One of the easiest ways to make your voice heard is by protesting. It may not have the same impact as joining a campaign, but it still serves a purpose, according to Taylor.

She said: “It’s a great way to feel solidarity with other people, going on a march, getting out there, it’s a great way to meet people.

“And even though it might make you angrier about the issue it will make you feel like you’re part of a community and that will make you feel better about your political involvement and your ability to change things.”

Make sure you know how our democracy works

House of Commons

Democracy has “all kinds of mechanisms”, Taylor said, that the country isn’t adequately educated about.

She said: “It’s all made very opaque. There are all kinds of things going on and all kinds of mechanisms which are really obscure for influencing policy.

“These aren’t explained, they aren’t even explained in citizenship classes at school, and there aren’t many places where you can just go and find out about them.”

The sun rises behind that Palace of Westminster
(Victoria Jones/PA)

The editor suggested visiting the Parliament website, which has many explainer sections, and booking a tour of the House of Commons if possible.

“It gives you an anchor and a way in, and then you can start learning about the different ways that committees, lobby groups, MPs, peers, academics and all the other people influence what goes on there.”

But if Westminster is out of reach, a council meeting most likely isn’t, she said.

“Not that many people go to council meetings, they think it will be boring, but actually it isn’t necessarily – especially if it’s about something that’s in your area. It’s about things like housing, which a lot of people care deeply about and councils spend a lot of time discussing.”

Features, LifeWeb editor