I have just got back from a magnificent trip to Belgium, where I visited Brussels, Ghent and Brugge over 5 days of pure fun, chocolate and ten percent Belgium Beer! Although it wasn’t only calorific pleasures that were being consumed this week… The aim of the trip was to enhance BU Politics/Media students’ understanding of the EU elections and also to gain an insight on the disengagement of Britain to these upcoming elections. We were able to talk with Conservative MEPs Julie Girling and Ashley Fox about their thoughts on the topic, as well as the young public who, after interviewing, shared many beliefs with clarity, that only enforced my stance that young people do engage and should be voting (which I will talk about further in my next blog).
Although, as my main concerns and interests lie with human rights, I was struck by how little the EU correlates with (specifically) LGBT rights or at least, seemingly, the lack of LGBT presence amongst EU media coverage. However, the European Parliament has expressed support in regards to action in developing an ‘LGBT roadmap’ amongst seven EU Member States, including the UK, so there certainly is grounds for discussion on the EU’s involvement.
I would first like to say that as a Universal issue; Equality, in my opinion, should be one of the most important reasons for liaising with Member States. It seems that we are constantly talking about produce, supplies and the economy, but when that is the main reason for the UK to stay in the EU, it fills me with little hope that young people will take an interest in voting. But what I am constantly being reminded of via generation Y’s playground (facebook, twitter and social media sites) is their ongoing interest in human rights. With the rise of media publishing sites such as ‘Upworthy’, young people are becoming more educated in identity politics that explore topics such as Gender, LGBT, Race and Disability rights, sharing articles, videos and opening up engaging public debates like, maybe, never before! This sudden explosion of interest may suggest a recognition of oppression within humanity, amongst young people- and the forum to become educated and to publicize their beliefs is of course, the internet… A Network.
Since gaining my own learning development over the last few years in LGBT and Human Rights, I am becoming more and more aware of the power that connecting has, whether it be through the internet or via person. Too often, there isn’t reason for one to try and understand or accept an LGBT citizen, until they recognise these people in their lives, on their TV screens and amongst the horrific or touching articles they read online. The real saviour in this case, is the connection being established amongst a Network. Why then is the young public interest in identity politics being somewhat ignored amongst the EU (and parties whose policies involve stances that could be benefited by young voters) and why, given that awareness and support for human rights is increased through connections and networks, isn’t this a key factor in the debate regarding the UK leaving the EU?
To those who are slightly oblivious to what the overarching debate involves, in short (sort of); It is believed amongst the UKIP party that we should leave the EU, which will benefit us by bringing power back to Britain and putting major control on the European/British immigration system; Labor are against the move out of the EU and claim that our economical connections are too important and we are benefitting from our ties; and the Conservatives… well… they are just banking on the fact that they have the ability to create a referendum if in power, but would wait until 2017, annoying the EU and concerning voters who, in some cases, don’t believe that the Conservatives will win the majority vote in the UK general elections 2015, which sort of defies the point of voting for them if you are in fact wanting a referendum.
One problem for these elections is that the amount of voters who are planning on giving their protest vote to UKIP is far more substantial than it is wise. If UKIP do succeed in the upcoming elections as well as the frightening but absolute possibility of getting the majority vote in 2015, it is likely that they will have the power to remove us from EU laws that protect very important regulations, that for me, as someone who travels around Europe quite a bit and is very concerned with the effect that this vote will have on human rights, include the unanimous support from the EU to the UNGA policy that condemns discrimination, execution and violations against persons on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights and also several progressive measures that have been adopted by the Council of Europe to put particular emphasis on combating discriminatory laws and promoting equality.
Now, this all sounds like a hoot and I’m sure that there is a lot being done in the EU in regards to human rights but where is the publicity for these plans? I still don’t know exactly what the EU does and does not control because there is barely any coverage that talks about the effect that the proposed move will have on us and our rights. As much as I recognise the economy as a valid and important topic, there is a real lack of understanding of what we are voting into here and with the rise in UKIP becoming extremely apparent, there are less than eight weeks before the elections and less British citizens than ever, expected to be voting come May.
Attempting to connect the dots for you young and old who, like me (let’s face it), are desperately trying to grasp what the hell is going on over in Brussels, since what little coverage there is in Britain tends to publicize quarreling children rather than the effect it will have on the people of Britain and in some respects, the people in EU Member States, I am struck particularly by UKIP’s policies that first claimed to oppose Same-Sex Marriage and later changed it’s mind, despite David Silvester, UKIP councillor recently blaming the flooding and climate change on the Government’s Same-Sex marriage bill. Apart from their predominant stance to free Britain from the EU, where can we hear about the rest of UKIP’s policies once we are free and no longer under the protection of the European Union’s laws including policies against discrimination and hate crime? It is not enough to just consider at this moment their fight to get us pulled, but to also consider, what they will enforce once they are in power and how it will directly affect us (Since presumably those voting to leave the EU will also be voting UKIP in the general elections 2015 for any major action to take place).
I won’t lie, I am slightly worried and also intrigued of what will come of Britain under a Government proposing independance, which will, for the meantime, lesson our economy substantially, enforce great restrictions on immigration and who believe that global warming is just part of a natural cycle so refuse to create wind energy in fear that windmills will look “ugly” and “ghastly” in Britain.
I went to Belgium with a fantastic group of people who were really engaged and offered up many perspectives to the ongoing EU in/out debate but I feel confident in saying that not once did we link Human Rights to this EU election and it remains to be seen as a separate entity entirely (from the election and politics in general) for many people, despite the well being of minority groups potentially being affected in the future by this vote.
My point here, and my point for every blog that I will write about this election is to vote! This election is surrounded by Euroskeptics that in some cases are not weighing up the full consequences once free from the EU. Do your research, find out what will change! I will be the first to agree that this information is hard to find, but start by taking a look at Sunday Politics, which you can find on BBC iplayer… sure, it is mostly a charade of Politicians banter, but there are some great points being raised.
Lastly, I want to go back to this idea of network and how we can really change things; the broad spectrum of people over Europe is not being represented at the moment among politicians and it is not being represented by voters, especially in Britain, yet the Brits will be the first to complain about about the outcome. What we have at the moment among particularly youth groups, is this fantastic engagement via the internet for the kind of issues that are very human to us and recognizable… if politics and these issues don’t directly correlate for the public, they are not going to feel the urge to vote as they feel the urge to share articles and talk about issues that they are passionate about. But what fueled their passion in the first place was the information via their network that was casually consumed.
So… ‘POLITICS’, let the general public from all walks of life know about exactly what will affect them, share it through social media, tell us about the economy, tell us about your policies through a platform that doesn’t just have a target audience of middle class people over 50 and please tell us our rights in the EU and what will change, what regulations will no longer apply if we leave and let us make up our mind about this whole thing by providing a plethora of information in a language that all British people from all social classes, intellect and minorities can understand and relate to!