My First Time

It’s a big year for the island: Election year. For some of us, it’ll be the first time we will be setting foot in a polling station. Recently, Gef ran a poll and asked readers if they voted in the last election, with 48% responding with ‘no’. Now I’m not going to lie, this didn’t shock me. Why? Because I am part of the 48%.

I’m 30 and I’ve had the opportunity to vote in two elections but I haven’t. Like most people on the island you either know of, or are related to someone in gov which I’ve always found quite amusing that most people my age have voted for their mates dad or their teacher.

My grandfather, Dr Edgar Mann was a key figure in Manx politics when I was growing up. I remember watching him on Tynwald Day sitting on the hill and turning up to my nativity plays as a ‘special guest’. I’ve also worked in Manx media my whole adult working life so it’s pretty shameful really that I haven’t. Here at Gef, we love politics and for me it’s been a real eye opener. I always look forward to Tuesdays, when Sam and I make a brew and sit down and listen to the dulcet tones of our leaders via Tynwald’s live stream. 90% of the time it’s quite dull, so it’s understandable that most people don’t have the energy to listen in- which is why we listen for you. But occasionally we get some action – a bit of kick off over sewage or someone saying something truly ridiculous setting Sam and I off, as we begin to shout at the computer like we’re listening to a game of football. It’s been interesting to learn how much they do and sometimes how much they don’t do.

All of this got me thinking, why have I never voted?! I’m pretty passionate about our island and my life has been surrounded by local politics in one way or another. I really haven’t got much of an excuse have I? But I have my reasons so I’ve compiled a little list of why I’ve never voted:

Education: I don’t remember ever being taught about politics in school, unless my brain decided it didn’t have the space for the information or I actually just never got taught it. Either way, I had no idea how Manx politics worked or how to vote. It sounds silly but I didn’t know what a polling station was or a constituency or who was even standing. I’d never heard of or spoken to a candidate, social media wasn’t really that much of a thing when I became of age and no one openly talked about it. So, in my own little world, it wasn’t something that needed to be on my radar- especially as no one had made the effort to get onto my radar.

The Secrecy: People are so shady about who they’re voting for like it’s a HUGE secret. As a young person I always found it odd how offended people would get if I asked them. All I wanted was to find out their reasons why, was there something they knew that I didn’t that would make that person a better candidate? Like I saw it a bit like the Grand National, they were betting on a horse and I wanted to know which horse they were going for and the logic behind it. Could they give me some tips or are they choosing them because they’ve got a cool name? Most of the time I got the following responses – ‘My vote is private’ ‘look into it yourself’ which I always found unhelpful.

Campaigning: I’ve discovered most candidates like to knock on doors a bit like Jehovah’s Witnesses (not that I have anything against them). If you’re not my Hermes guy or Dominos Pizza, I’m not answering the door. I have been known to close the blinds and hide behind a sofa rather than open the door to an unknown knock. I also have a social life and a day job so the chance of me being in my house for me to consider answering the door to someone is pretty slim. And then we’ve got leaflets… again if it’s not a ‘sorry we missed you’ delivery note or a takeaway menu it’s going in the bin. Sorry, not sorry. I feel like candidates need to up their game, maybe some guerrilla marketing? Put your manifesto into 10 words and spray paint it on to the side of a building or something? I also believe that manifestos should be no more than 100 words. Bullet points are nice too – think of it like a Linkedin bio but less cringe. No one has time to read several 10 page docs compiled of utter waffle.

Interest – As no one has ever really made themselves known to me or taken any interest in what I want then why should I take any notice of them? I know this is a lazy, self absorbed way of thinking but politicians/ candidates in my mind have always been pale, male and stale who only like old people and how can I relate to that?

So why have I decided that this year’s the year that I’m going to lose my ‘V’? Well the pandemic has brought politics and people in a position of power to the forefront of my everyday life and it’s important to hold these people to account as, let’s face it, we pay their wages. With the unknown of the post-covid world, the climate threat and the economy, I want to know that my present and future is in the hands of those who have the island at heart and not their ego.

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty buzzed and I’m going to make a night of it. The phrase ‘if you haven’t voted you lose your right to complain’ is pretty fair and I love to complain, so get me to that polling station.

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