This Thursday you have the chance to choose a new Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. Given that anti-social behaviour and crime are amongst the top issues raised with me locally, this is an important election for people in Barnsley. The person you choose will be responsible for South Yorkshire Police and provide funding to organisations such as Victim Support – who provide essential help to victims of crime.
Yet many people will still choose not to vote or may not even be registered to vote. I appreciate that this can happen because some people are disillusioned with politics and politicians. This is a topic I have frequently written and talked about, so excuse me if I just share my thoughts here once more.
I believe it is vital that everyone has their say about who represents them. Politics does affect your life. For example, I recently voted in Parliament for changes to the Bedroom Tax and am committed to abolishing it. It is an unfair law which has hurt lots of vulnerable people here in Barnsley.
I am also bringing forward a new law which aims to increase the National Minimum Wage – which would again benefit many families in our town, boosting the town’s economic development and creating jobs for Barnsley people.
These are just two examples of decisions made in Westminster which affect people in our town. You must ensure that those who make these decisions, in London, Barnsley or across South Yorkshire, are people you trust to judge wisely on your behalf.
I know some people are critical of the choice of candidates we are offered at elections. I believe it is vital to get more people with real life experience working in politics, so they better reflect those they represent.
Whilst some are former miners, nurses and teachers in Parliament, we could do with many more people who stand because they believe in the importance of public service and can draw on their experience in the wider world.
Indeed, I try to encourage those people I meet who already show commitment to public service through their work – whether it be voluntarily or through paid employment. Sometimes these are people who work tirelessly for our local communities but wouldn’t ever think of putting themselves forward for a life in politics. These are exactly the people we should be encouraging.
Finally, I have also written recently about the importance of commemorating the centenary of World War One. This conflict had a profound effect on our democratic processes. As women took on many of men’s traditional jobs, it inspired them to campaign for equal voting rights.
The subsequent changes, which finally allowed both men and woman of all classes to take part in the democratic process, were hard fought for. In memory of all those who fought on our behalf for this basic right, we must not squander it.
Find out more about this Thursday’s election here.
To ensure that you are registered to vote go here.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Independent on 29 October 2014.