Following the local elections last week, I would like to congratulate the two new councillors Andy Patmore and John Rankin on their election as well as Katy Bourne on her re-election as the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner. I have no doubt they will diligently and effectively represent their wards and its residents, and that Katy will continue to build on her excellent work of the last four years in helping to keep our local area safe, support victims of crime, and lead continued improvements at Sussex Police.
In a truly democratic society it is vital that as much of the electorate as possible play their part to ensure we have “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” as Abraham Lincoln put it so eloquently over 150 years ago.
In the UK we have a long and proud history of democratic participation and sometimes it can be easy to take free and fair elections for granted. Democratic participation certainly doesn’t come about by chance and elections happen because of planning, organisation, hard work and the collaboration between local and central government, the political parties and the electorate – thanks to successful organisation by Hastings Borough Council, last week’s elections ran smoothly and effectively. Elections are of fundamental importance to our democracy as they ensure that transparency and accountability are at the heart of government: that voters are able to make sure that elected representatives and senior officials uphold the highest standards in public life and as a registered voter, that we have the chance to express our political opinions in a which sets the direction of government and holds politicians to account for their pledges and policies.
But, our democracy is missing a lot of voters - particularly students, those of a BME background, people in short-term rented accommodation and expats who are not registered to vote. Regardless of who these missing voters might vote for, they need to be properly represented on electoral rolls and have the chance to formally register their view at the ballot box.
All who are eligible should register to vote and use their democratic rights that suffragettes were fighting and dying for a century ago, and which many in the world are still without and which they may never enjoy.
We have a modernised online registration process that is easier and more secure than ever before. It only takes a couple of minutes and can be done in less time than it takes to boil an egg. So if you aren’t already registered to vote, I would urge you to register by 7 June if you want to have your say in the EU referendum on 23 June (https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote).
Without a doubt, the results of the promised referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will have a tremendous impact on the fortunes of younger generations. Many of you already know my views on the upcoming referendum on the 23rd June - on my website I have put up a statement explaining why I believe that staying in a reformed EU will make us stronger, safer, better off and how jumping into the unknown is not a risk we should take with our national and economic security.
I believe we should be doing all we can to make sure that as many of our citizens as possible can participate in our democracy. It’s about giving everyone the chance to stand in the polling station, to cast their vote and make their mark on our country and its future. So, whatever your views on the EU referendum, make sure you are registered to vote - it could be the most important one in your lifetime.