Does BLM have the potential to revitalise political participation in the long term? – Conservative Article
George Floyd’s murder sent shockwaves across the Western world. It triggered the momentum surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to soar beyond belief. Sadly, this is not the first death stemming from institutional racism in the United States. Nor even the first this year, with there being 88 Black deaths by police brutality so far as of June 4th. Because of this, political participation is on the rise.
The current surge in activism, whether online or in the streets, has sprung from all political levels. Even from self-regarding ‘non-political’ citizens who previously had chosen to refrain from the dogmatism of politics. The New York Times reported how, in the last two weeks alone, American voters’ support for the BLM movement increased almost as much as it had in the preceding two years.
In the UK too, people have started to connect the dots and recognise that ‘the UK is not innocent’. Many protest signs have stated this. In fact, official figures show that police in England and Wales were three times more likely to arrest a Black person than a white person. They were also five times more likely to use force in 2018-19. A series of marches were held over the past weeks. This was not only to express solidarity for those fighting for justice in America but also to incite change in the UK.
This sudden spark in political participation is enlightening to observe. Our democracy is finally being utilised as intended. Ran ‘by the people, for the people’. However, UK politics has not always been able to benefit from such heightened interaction by the electorate.
For over a decade now, participation by the public in UK General Elections has remained poor and stagnant. A third or more of those voters registered to vote simply never make it to the ballot box. Only 38% in 2005, and 34% in 2015. A clear silent majority.
Voter turnout is reliant upon a whole host of factors. For instance, the type of voting system, voters’ place of residence and other idiosyncratic factors. Nevertheless, many abstain from voting due to politics’ inaccessibility. Party politics clouds the system. We now have the potential to change this because of the awareness stimulated by BLM.
The UK’s Black population is small, accounting for only 3% of the UK’s total population (2011). Yet, this has not hindered support for the movement. The issue of racism is one that has few complex ideas or terminologies to hinder the general public’s understanding and involvement. Instead, the issue is hinged upon morality and is therefore accessible at all levels. Those members of the electorate who previously felt alienated by politics are now able to speak up and share their opinions, whether good or bad!
In all, I feel that the positive effects of the movement will echo well beyond 2020. The public has been reminded of their responsibility and importance within politics. A sense of ‘political efficacy’ is important in keeping our democracy alive and functioning well. Otherwise, politics would just be left to the politicians.
Hopefully, once BLM has achieved its desired goals within the government other issues are given the same public support to move onto the formal agenda. For instance, constructing policy to aid those 12 million children in Yemen currently in danger from war, disease and hunger.
As for the UK elections specifically, many members of the electorate choose to not-vote either due to misinformation or a lack of will. Hopefully, now they will reimagine their role within the UK electoral democratic system. They will choose to research and ‘get stuck into’ the debate so they’re able to vote for a candidate of whom they trust. Or, to instead choose to actively vote NONE to show they want better politics.
Either way, society is set up for a progressive and accessible widening of the political spheres. One that paves a positive path for the future of UK politics with a more transparent and interactive system.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Emily Taylor
Point of Information
The potential is there but there’s still a long way to go – a Liberal response
The Black Lives Matter movement is sweeping across the globe. However, I fear that at this point it is merely becoming an empty slogan. Yes, you hate racism, we all do, but what are you actually doing to stop it? Tackling systemic issues requires so much more than just posting plain black squares on Instagram.
As the social media posts died down, the conviction for change did too. I am no longer seeing the police brutality victims’ names trending on Twitter nor people actively protesting or signing petitions. The BLM movement barely touched the surface of achieving any of its desired goals, especially in the UK. I am not hearing about any talks of reforming the curriculum within schools. I am not seeing the outrage for the controversial powers of Stop and Search. We have merely touched on the topic of removing contentious historical memorials which our own government doesn’t even agree with.
Of course, it is positive to see a surge in political participation. However, let’s not forget that lockdown is the main cause of this. The lack of usual distractions of day to day life fuelled the engagement. Because of this, I don’t think there will be any long-lasting results. Opinions and perspectives are shifting but there’s certainly still a long way to go. Black Lives Matter needs to become much more than a hashtag and an occasional protest in order to cause meaningful change.
We have to ask ourselves the question of why so little has changed since the BLM movement was created in 2013? Purely because it’s a short-term outrage during times of heightened awareness.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Veronica Legiec
Protesting is powerful. So why have politicians been so insensitive? – a Labour response
The massive wave of activism that we have seen over the last few months should be an immense source of pride for our society. Especially for all those who got up and got involved. Whether you’ve been a longtime advocate for those oppressed by the current system(s) or you found yourself newly awakened by the tide of information on social media, you should commend yourself for taking a stand.
However, it’s absolutely essential to note that any and all of this positive engagement has occurred in spite of, not because of, the political system. On the topic of BLM, Boris and co. have been about as enthusiastic as the statues about to be torn down.
Dominic Raab’s pathetic comment showing he thought to take the knee was a reference to Game of Thrones was at best wildly insulting, and Bojo’s attempt to launch yet another review on the issue (instead of implementing any of the numerous measures already suggested) was equally out of touch. Even Starmer’s response missed the mark and could have been a great deal more enthusiastic.
So now that our feeds are returning to normal, is it any surprise that the only victories the movement has seen have been overwhelmingly superficial? Our stagnant politicians have no real interest in upsetting the system which put them in their current positions.
If Emily really wants to see the energy of activism translated into increased political engagement, she should take a leaf out the protesters’ playbook and replace any blind optimism with a clear list demands to level at those in power.
After all, there are myriad ways to actually improve our struggling democracy: introducing automatic voter registration; replacing the broken first-past-the-post system with proportional representation, and washing away the stain of entrenched privilege inherent in institutions like the House of Lords.
I think my Conservative colleague would find these suggestions to be far more effective in helping achieve the changes I know we all want to see. She should remember that the real legacy of these protests is that nothing changes by itself.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Evan Saunders
I am a first year student reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. After completing my degree, I wish to go on to study Public Policy at a postgraduate level.
I’m a third year University of Manchester student, currently studying in Lyon on my Erasmus year (by sheer coincidence I’m writing this hours after parliament has voted to end British involvement in the 30 year programme, so just to be on the safe side I promise not to use the NHS/European Declaration of Human Rights/anything at all anytime soon).