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Why it’s important to #VoteIfYouSkate

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Header illustration by Wojtek Smith

It’s not easy as a young person to engage with politics, so the last thing you’d expect to hear at your local skatepark is some high brow political debate. But this actually happened to me the other day and it was refreshing to hear.

There aren’t many politicians in their late teens or early twenties to relate to. There is one MP who is just 21 and she is absolutely a breath of fresh air. Mhairi Black is arguably one of the most charismatic and progressive MP’s out there who holds no bars in giving her elders in the house of commons a hard time, and rightly so. But still, the younger generation have few political figures to aspire to. It’s no secret that young people have previously shown some of the lowest voter turnouts.

Some political cartoons to get you in the mood

images: Peter Brookes & Ingram Pinn

You may have noticed that there’s a general election about to happen. This election has been like no other with a series of devastatingly horrendous terror attacks in London & Manchester. These incidents are still startlingly fresh and our nation is still in shock. This and many other factors have thrown all kinds of issues out into the open from foreign policy to national security and the contrast in opinions is strikingly stark. Jeremy Corbyn says foreign policy and cuts to the police force must share some responsibility and Theresa May stresses that this is the time for her leadership.

Labour have moved more the the left and the Tories more to the right. The UK has become increasingly polarized ever since David Cameron called a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU last year. But its important to remember that although politics in some senses divides people, those that vote or think differently to you are not your enemies. In fact most families up and down the country may include a variety of voters for different political and often opposing parties. I have people in my extended family who vote for exactly the opposite party that I do and hold a variety of different concerns and opinions. But they are lovely people and living evidence that not every person who votes differently to you lives up to the stereotype that you may have for that party. We’ve seen Labour voters turning to Tory and Tories to Labour. What is important is to debate, it’s the only way we will have a society that reflects the values of it’s inhabitants. Spread love and compassion where possible. Needless to say there is a heck of a lot to think about.

Badge designs by the amazing Victoria Topping

Although hearing younger skaters talking politics at my local park was refreshing, I’m sure there are plenty of skateboarders, particularly toward the younger end of the scale who don’t vote, don’t feel engaged and don’t feel its worth their time. Equally I bet there are more engaged now than ever, but still more can be done. It’s hard to explain why you should vote to a young skateboarder (or young person in general). So I’m going to try and cut through the poitical mustard and break down a few key issues which definitely affect you if you skateboard. It’s also worth noting that this particular election is a very important one as our departure from the EU is looming. This is why it is so important to #VoteIfYouSkate !!

THE NHS
Health care – the most obvious one. Being a skateboarder we’ve all spent a good few hours in A & E following an unexpected slam. My most memorable moment would be ollieing over a wall at Bath uni only to slam straight into another wall which was made of glass but painted black. My hand, foot and shoulder went straight through. I lacerated my thumb which was nearly sliced straight off and had to get rushed up to the A & E department with slices out of my elbow, shoulder and foot too.

From what I remember the staff were great, I had to wait a little while but not too long. If I’d have had to wait there much longer apparently the damage done would have been far worse. Thankfully the only outcomes of that little accident were a few scars and me realising how important my thumb is. Now this was about 12 years ago and the NHS was in a better state than it is now. Hey we all know the dangers right? My favourite slam section below, is it me or do we not have these anymore? They always used to be at the end of the VHS skate vids.

It’s no secret that the NHS has taken a pounding over recent years and is in dire need of funding and support. Staff are at breaking point and the current Health Secretary is far from popular with NHS staff. This also links in with immigration as its one of the biggest misconceptions in the deepest darkest depths of the right wing ideology that you can’t get a doctors appointment because there’s too many immigrants in this country. That in fact is far from the truth and the link with immigration and the NHS should be a celebration and appreciation of the amazing people that have immigrated to the UK to become a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse or a mental health nurse. They should be praised and not vilified in this pickled narrative spread by the Daily Mail & Co.

 

Here’s where the various parties stand on the subject.

Conservative – The Conservatives claim that there are record levels of funding being put into the NHS and a heck of a lot more operations in response to the growing population (and immigration). Considering the NHS is well and truly on its arse and members of staff are at the end of their tether with the government, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Tories are in denial of all the problems. In fact it goes deeper than that. Junior Doctors and Nurses have been striking more than ever before and Theresa May has indicated that she’ll implement the Nailer Report which is a significant proof that she intends to sell off parts off NHS buildings that are crumbling and struggling, to private property firms. As oppose to rejuvenating them for the NHS, even though they were originally paid for by taxpayers money. When you privatise a public service financial profit comes into the picture. We could have to start paying for our NHS at the point of service, instead of it just coming out of our taxes. What happens to the people who can’t afford the treatment? In short it’s hard to believe that the NHS is in safe hands with the current government. So looks like you might just need to put that fractured ankle on ice and wait a few days to see a doctor (if you can afford it and if they haven’t all quit by then that is). It’s also worth pointing out that Theresa May claimed at the start of the year to be prioritising mental health care, but for many this seems hard to believe.

Labour – Apparently Labour created the NHS in 1946 and its at the heart of their manifesto this year. They say that NHS staff are underpaid, over worked, over stretched and at their wits end. They plan to raise the pay of NHS workers and invest the money that the NHS needs to begin recovering. There have been a number of NHS rallies up and down the country which have a strong Labour presence suggesting they have a lot of support from NHS staff. Jeremy Corbyn also seems keen to recognise the contribution that immigrants make to our NHS. So you might not have to wait as long for someone to stitch up that gash you took out of your swellbow if Labour get in. Labour also plan to reverse the Tories cuts to mental health services and bring in free counselling in every secondary school, which is a great idea if you ask me.

Lib Dems – Lib Dems are claiming to be able to save the NHS & Social care services by putting a penny on every pound of income tax, which sounds like a pretty good plan to me. They also plan to get waiting times for Mental Health Care down to the same as Physical Care (as do some of the other parties), but let’s face it that should be a given and waiting times for Physical most types of care are a fucking joke this doesn’t really sound as revolutionary as intended.

GreenHere’s a clip from the Green Party Co – Leader Caroline Lucas, she was quite impressive on the BBC TV debate the other night and the green party have some interesting ideas and champion the environment which is great considering the Climate Change is the single biggest threat to humanity.

UKIP – UKIP’s current leader notoriously posted on his website that he would like to “Congratulate the coalition government for bringing a whiff of privatisation into the beleaguered National Health Service and that the very existence of the NHS ‘stifles competition’.” So fuck him.

BREXIT:

Every skater likes to travel, and with the outcome of the EU referendum on June 23rd of June last year being that the UK voted to leave the EU, that is now inevitably going to become harder to travel and work in Europe. Also as Wesley Morgan outlines in this Kingpin article, Brexit has already pushed prices of boards and hardware up due to many factors including the falling value of the pound. Member states of the EU get to enjoy tariff free access to the single market. Which means you can buy goods from Europe and bring them into the UK without having to pay tariffs and taxes. Something that a lot of small businesses in the UK did enjoy. Along with other privileges with being part of the EU came ‘Freedom of Movement’. I say privilege as that’s what it felt like to me. We were able to live and work in one of 27 other member states and enjoy skating those countries with relatively low hassle. Friendships and memorable skate trips often came about from people being able to live across Europe in places like Copenhagen, Malmo, Barca & Paris which also have amazing skate events.

We also got to enjoy the presence of skaters from Europe coming to the UK, skating our cities and blending in with our culture. Those European skaters are still here thankfully for now. I regularly go out and roll with dudes from Prague, Barca, Paris and Poland all in one session, and it feels good to me. I like the fact that I can enjoy a skate with those people and enjoy our cultural differences without having to leave my country. But the more hostile we are to the EU and the more anti immigrant rhetoric is stirred up, the less people will want to come here. And the tougher our stance on immigration the less they will be able to come here and the harder it will be for us to go and live in Barca for 6 months working in a bar so we can skate Macba every day.

Here’s where some of the parties stand on Brexit.

Conservative – Theresa May is a self proclaimed champion of Brexit (despite voting to Remain). According to her, she and her party are the only ones who can deliver a ‘good deal for Britain’ on the classic retro national phrase of the ‘Will of the people’. If you didn’t know there are a lot of things to sort out when we leave the EU. One of the most important things being a trade agreement due to the huge amount of business we do with our European neighbours. So far Theresa May has threatened to walk away with no deal and seriously baffled the EU negotiators as being ‘completely deluded’ about how strong a position she’s in. It’s no fable that the Tories have taken a rather confrontational stance with Europe on Brexit. Arguably this could be pushing us in a worse direction? If your anything like me skateboarding has taken you on your travels around Europe. It seems there are quite a lot of relationships in skateboarding that cross boarders and countries. I can name about five of my friends who have girlfriends, wives and mothers of their children from EU countries like Norway, Denmark, Spain & Sweden. The Tories have refused to guarantee the rights of the 3 million EU citizens claiming that it would risk the livelyhoods of the 1.8 million British Nationals currently living in the EU. Their also promising to get immigration down to the tens of thousands which could be hugely detrimental to NHS and the cultural diversity of our country. This is part of an anti immigration narrative inspired by UKIP and embraced by the Tories.
Out of courtesy here is the PM with her Brexit approach. Try not to vomit when you watch this.

Labour – Labour seem to have a slightly more friendly approach to Brexit, promising to forge a close relationship with the EU. Their first pledge is to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK as an opening sentiment in return for the guarantee of British Citizens residences within the EU. They are keen to stress that they want to open negotiations on a good note rather than the Tories more confrontational stance. One of the most noteable differences between the Tories and Labour’s approach to Brexit is that Tories are more than prepared to walk away with no deal and Labour are definitely gunning for some sort of deal. The two arguments for this are that the Tories claim its a strong negotiating stance and Labour present it as a ‘win win’ negotiation where its in both the EU & the UK’s best interests to come to an amicable agreement. I know what your thinking, this is just more of that political noise and I don’t really care or understand. Well in terms of how this will affect us, and more selfishly how it will affect skateboarding – a worse deal or even no deal would make skate product go up even more in price, that is a given. The more confrontational we are and the harsher the restrictions are on immigration, the harder it will be for us to travel and work within the EU.

Lib Dems – Tim Farron’s party are the only true anti Brexit party promising a second referendum on the final Brexit deal. I thought their Party Broadcast below on the matter was pretty engaging.

UKIP – Ukip stirred up enough anti immigration sentiment over Brexit and since then are not worthy of my time or your attention. So they can kiss my ass.

There are many other factors which could affect you as a skateboarder. The Long Live Southbank campaign saved one of our most heralded spaces in a prime redevelopment spot. You can read more about that here. Politically it’s worth noting that Boris Johnson who is a Tory MP and former London Mayor had something to do with saving it in the final stages. But the people who brought the campaign and applied the political and social pressure were the LLSB campaigners and skateboarders, which from an outsiders perspective seem more in line with the approach of Corbyn and the Labour party. I don’t know the inns and outs so I’m not going to claim to, but needless to say this a great example of how campaigning can really make a difference and we should be proud, as fellow skateboarders, of what the LLSB guys managed to achieve.


photo: David Ajisafe

It’s no secret that skateboarders like to dabble in recreational drugs, creatively, in the name of fun and sometimes in the name of addiction. In recent years one of the main themes to be in the public eye has been the legalisation of weed. In America various states have recently passed legislation that legalises weed for recreational or medical use. Now its worth noting that the argument for legalising cannabis is one of many layers. There are decriminalising issues & medical uses like CBD oil which have been revolutionary in some cases (just check out the clip below).

Then there is the point that weed could be organically grown and categorised in strains and strength so people know what your getting. For example when you buy weed from a street dealer you have know clue as to the strength of that weed and the potential psychoactive affects of it. Some weed can be harmfully strong and adjutate or exasperate any anxieties, life pressures or mental health conditions that the user may already have. So a legally informed choice when purchasing could be beneficial to some smokers. In short Jeremy Corbyn plans to legalise cannabis for medical use and potentially recreational in the future.Theresa May is against the legalisation of cannabis and a summary of all the other parties policies can be found here.

There are a whole host of other issues at play in this election from shifting the balance of the economy, to investment in public services and the current public perception of immigration. This article by no means intends to be some kind of be all and end all for voting, and I am no political expert. Its purpose is simply to inspire the younger generation and anyone else to have their say on June the 8th.

It’s important to note that young people could make a huge difference in this election. Judging by the amount that signed up to be eligible to vote there is a definite change in attitude thats starting to happen. Jeremy Corbyn really does seem to be able to appeal to younger people and the Labour party in general have put a huge amount of effort into inspiring young people to get out there and vote. In contrast the Tories did relatively little (in fact practically nothing) to encourage young people to vote and have targetted young people with a lot in their cuts to government spending and raising tuition fees.

I’d like to finish by paying tribute to the courage of one of our own fellow skateboarders who is still missing following the horrific attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market. Spanish skater Ignacio Echeverria intervened on Saturday night with his skateboard when he saw a lady being stabbed by one of the assailants. An undeniable act of courage that we’d all like to think we’re capable of. He’s still missing and his family are understandably worried. Lets hope he’s found and can make a recovery, my heart goes out to his family and friends.

Life is precious get out there and vote with your heart and soul.

Share this far and wide to encourage engagement.

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