What's The Point In Politics? By Bukky Olawoyin It would be construed sarcasm to say that anyone hasn’t been interested in politics lately; where should I start: the ousting of the Speaker of the House of Commons; the MPs expenses fiasco where the Parliament is rotten from top to bottom – hitting the highest point with the ‘I forgot I’d paid off the mortgage; MPs falling over each other to repay illegal claims before being listed in the dailies; the supposed resurgence of the Blairites trying to oust our ‘un-elected’ Prime Minister, or him trying to find solace by appearing on the BBC’s Songs of Praise. If I were to continue on this wave, the tide would feed the list for the entire article – but that’s not the desired destination. This article aims to challenge us to become active in the governance of the country since we are always affected by it. I think we have done enough laughing at the series of events that have been unfolding in the past weeks. Its time now to ask the question: What can ‘I’ do about all these? For a while, I have had this saying that “we don’t all have to be politicians, but we’re all in politics”, my point being that we are all affected by what goes on in the world of politics, hence the need to fully participate in whatever shape or form ranging from being an inquisitive voter demanding continual representation from those in office, to actually running for office either locally or on the national platform. I put it to all that we only have two options here: we roll-up our sleeves and dig in or we do nothing. The Bible tells us that God advises us to obey the laws of the land. "Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow." Romans 13:1-2. The part I want to home-in on is the middle bit “There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.” This bit enforces the fact that governments are part of God’s mechanism of interacting with man (since it hails from His kingdom) whilst also reassuring that it’s OK to partake in political activities. For me, it means that however bad the current government might be perceived, it has been ‘allowed’ to stay in power by God, if not it would have been hounded out, even without the electorate doing anything. If we are to be viable instruments in the hand of God, then shouldn’t we place ourselves in a position to be used by him? If God is interested in politics, shouldn’t we also be? I want to quickly state that in no way do I wish or plan to cajole or blackmail anyone into political involvement, but I do aim to challenge all to think about involvement in politics as a God given right of every citizen. I do hope that we would spare a thought on this matter and come to an informed decision to participate and even if we decide not to – have a good reason. It is our way of ensuring that we are ‘getting our money’s worth’, afterall we are footing the bill as recent events have unfolded, so why would we want to be blasé with what we are buying – afterall no-one will knowingly pays for a rotten apple. Page 1 of 2
There is a school of thought that politics is earthly and not godly, but if we have no choice but to be governed, would it not be right to prayerfully select who and how we’re governed? Even if the cabinet turns back on their election manifesto – as they sometimes do – would we not be better positioned to challenge our ‘representatives’, holding them to their words, if we voted them in, in the first place? One picture to view is: what could possible happen if we do nothing – we could end up with a country where those who are never supposed to be in office - such as extremists - get in just, because the turn-out at the polls was minimal and they managed to be elected on a few votes. Another frame is one that elects an incompetent and self-serving candidate into office who has no conviction on any policy but goes with the majority on all debates. I feel the time has come, when every candidate needs to be vetted based on their individual attributes as opposed to the general political party stand. Those days of voting ‘blue’, ‘red’ or ‘green’, just because that’s what we’ve always done are over. We need not cross one box on the ballot paper just because there is no alternative. We need to ask every candidate that turns up at our doors, what they would do if elected into office. We need to ensure that they can demonstrate to us that their awareness of our needs as an individual or as a community and have a well thought-out plan of how they intend to address the needs whether it’s in their power and jurisdiction or they have to influence someone else to effect the change. Revolutionary changes in government have always been documented as happening only when the ‘people’ decide enough is enough. Can we make a change? As our cousins on the other side of the pond have proven – yes we can! This summer the political parties will be holding their annual conferences, I think we all ought to visit their respective websites and see what they intend to accomplish were they to be elected. We need to attend our MPs’ surgeries and visit their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace pages asking those questions on matters close to our hearts. We need to attend the polls next year or sooner (if the election is called earlier), knowing what the candidates and their parties’ policies aim to deliver in terms of the economy, transport, family, education, health, immigration, housing, religion, crime, defence, foreign affairs, environment, welfare or pensions, just to name a few. The time has come for all of us to review our positions in the political arena. Are we going to be participants, umpires, supporters, audiences or are not even going to bother attending the tournament even though we’ve paid for the ticket? The decision is up to the individual but whatever it is, lets all make sure it’s an informed one and we are ‘doing the right thing’!
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Magistrate – A Service to the Community
n last month’s article, “Everyone has a part to play”, my colleague, Lola Adedoyin stated that there were several ways to make your voice heard in an exhaustive list which ranged from voting through school governorship, local councillorship, magistrate to parliament membership. This month we will look at the intricacies of the magistracy.
The Role Magistrates or Justices of the Peace (JPs) are volunteers from all walks of life who deal with around 95 per cent of criminal cases in England and Wales, including many of the crimes that most affect the public, such as anti-social behaviour. This requires being able to commit a minimum of 26 half-days per year to sit in court - good to know that employers are required by law to grant reasonable time off work (mostly paid) for magistrates – as Magistrates are not paid for their services. However, if one does suffer loss of earnings one may claim a loss allowance at a set rate in addition to allowances for travel and subsistence.
Selection Magistrates can be appointed from the age of 18 but must retire at 70 (However, the Lord Chancellor will not generally appoint anyone aged 65 or over). Selection is based entirely on merit and applications are welcome from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. An applicant does not need legal or academic qualifications to be a magistrate as full training is provided. However, they will need to be able to demonstrate six key personal qualities: • good character • understanding and communication • social awareness • maturity and sound temperament • sound judgement • commitment and reliability Because of the need to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary, employees in a small number of occupations (for example, police officers) cannot become magistrates. Magistrates must command the confidence of the public, have personal integrity and have the respect and trust of others. This means that, for example, it is unlikely that you will be appointed if you are an undischarged bankrupt. Serious motoring offences or persistent offending may be a disqualification. The magistracy welcomes applications from people with disability. However, if your health would prevent you from carrying out any of the range of magistrates' duties, you may not be eligible. Magistrates are recruited by local Advisory Committees. Recruitment takes place at different times from area to area, so it is important to check when it is happening in ones preferred area.
Applying Applications to become a magistrate can be made in two ways: 1. Online - using the interactive email attachment application form. Complete the form online, save it to your computer and attach it to an email addressed to your local Advisory Committee application contact 2. By post - using the printable application form. Complete the form by hand, in black ink, and post it back to your local Advisory Committee. Contact information is given in the 'Advisory Committees and Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales' directory. The first step is to complete the magistrate application form. Once the application form has been reviewed, the candidate will be called back for an interview which, if the first interview goes well, will be followed by a series of more interviews. If these are passed then an appointment will be made to finish up the interview process. This entire process can take six to 12 months.
The Job Magistrates sit in local magistrates' court to deal with a wide range of less serious criminal cases and civil matters. Some of your duties will include: • determining whether a defendant is guilty or not and passing the appropriate sentence • deciding on requests for remand in custody • deciding on applications for bail • committing more serious cases to the Crown Court With experience and further training they also go on to deal with cases in the Family and Youth courts. Magistrates sit on a 'bench' of three (an experienced chairman with two other magistrates) and are accompanied in court by a trained legal advisor to give guidance on the law and sentencing options.
Training Successful applicants undertake a training programme to help develop all the knowledge and skills needed to serve as a magistrate. This is given locally by the Justices' Clerk (legal advisor) or a member of his or her team. Training is given using a variety of methods, which may include pre-course reading, small-group work, the use of case studies, computerbased training and CCTV. The initial induction and core training will normally be for the equivalent of three days (18 hours) and may be delivered over a long weekend, in a series of short evening sessions over several weeks, over three separate week days, or as a residential course. It is recognised that magistrates are volunteers and that their time is valuable, so every effort is made to provide all training at times and places convenient to trainees.
Benefits There are a number of personal benefits to be gained as a magistrate, including: • developing personal skills, such as decision-making, communicating and team-working, which can benefit your career and your employer • developing an understanding of your local community and social issues • gaining a working knowledge of the law • building self-confidence and • improving leadership and mentoring skills There are also benefits to bring to the community as a magistrate: • contributing to upholding the law and making your community a safer place • contributing to the reform and rehabilitation of offenders and • helping offenders to make reparation to those affected by their offences This is another way to make your voice heard in the community, why not take up the challenge and dare to make a difference in your community. For more information on the Civic Awareness group in Jesus House, please contact Lola Adedoyin at email@example.com or Bukky Olawoyin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Becoming a School Governor
n previous articles, we started an informing series on ways to be involved in what goes on in our local communities through school governorship, local councillorship, magistracy to parliament membership. This month we will look at the minutiae of being a School Governor.
Getting more involved in the school could be a rewarding experience for you, and have a positive influence on the school and it needn’t take up a great deal of your time – for example, you could help out on an occasional school trip. If you can make more of a commitment, you might want to consider joining the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or becoming a school governor. Many schools are also considering setting up Parent Councils. Parent Councils enable you to meet other parents, discuss issues and submit ideas to your child's school. By participating you can have a say on decisions taken by the school and have an influence on your child's learning. Parent Councils can be less formal and require a lesser commitment than being a member of the governing body, and all schools are encouraged to consider setting one up. Some schools offer parents the opportunity to help out in the classroom, with after-school activities and with school events or trips. Pupils can benefit from the support offered by an extra adult, and helping out can be a good way to find out more about what your child is doing at school. Depending on what exactly you will be doing and how regularly you intend to help out, the school may ask for your permission to arrange a check on your police records. All schools have a governing body working with the headteacher and senior management team to ensure pupils get a good education. With around 350,000 governor places in England, governors are the largest volunteer force in the country. Parent governor representatives (PGRs) are elected by parent governors to represent the views of parents to their local authority. The roles of the governors and of PGRs are both important, and can be excellent ways to find out more about, and influence, education in your child's school or local area. Becoming a governor could be a way of contributing to your local school and also learning new skills. This is another way to make your voice heard in the community, why not take up the challenge and dare to make a difference in your community. It takes you one step ahead of just being friendly in the playground when dropping-off you ward(s).
The Role The governing body of a school is responsible for ensuring that it is run to promote pupil achievement. Its duties include: • setting strategic direction, policies and objectives • approving the school budget • reviewing progress against the school's budget and objectives • appointing, challenging and supporting the headteacher The governing body is made up of: • parent governors (elected by parents) • staff representatives (elected by school staff) • local authority governors (appointed by the local authority) • community governors (members of the local community appointed by the governing body) • for some schools, people appointed by the relevant religious body or foundation • up to two sponsor governors, or four if the school is a secondary school (appointed by the governing body)
For more information on the Civic Awareness group in Jesus House, please contact Lola Adedoyin at email@example.com or Bukky Olawoyin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Registering to Vote
ou need to be on the electoral register to vote in UK elections and referendums. You're not automatically registered, and you have to renew your details every year. In this article you’ll find out who is eligible, how to make sure you're registered to vote and an introduction to the UK political system.
Electoral Registration The electoral register (sometimes called the 'electoral roll') is a list of the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote. It's also used by credit reference agencies to verify your details and prevent fraud. Once you are registered, you will be able to vote in various types of election, depending on where you are from and where you live: • UK Parliament • European Parliament • local government • Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, or Northern Ireland Assembly, if you live in these areas You can only register if you are a British, Irish, Commonwealth (with a right to live in the UK) or European Union citizen. If you qualify, but do not register, you cannot exercise your democratic right to vote in any election. It is also much harder to obtain credit.
Annual Canvass of Electors The annual canvass of electors takes place in the autumn and the revised register of electors is published on 1 December. Each household will receive an annual registration form in August/September. This must be completed and returned even if you have recently completed a rolling registration form. There are two versions of the electoral register - the full and the edited. You can check the registers at the Council Offices: •
The full register contains the names and addresses of everyone registered to vote and can only be viewed under supervision. Please contact your local Electoral Service Office to arrange an appointment to view this register during normal office hours.
The edited register leaves out the names and addresses of people who have asked for them to be excluded from that version of the register. It can be bought by anyone who asks for a copy, and they may use it for any purpose. The main libraries in Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield have a copy of the edited register which may be viewed without supervision.
Rolling Registration Rolling registration means that changes can be made to the register of electors each month between January and September. If you are not included in the published register, all you need to do is complete a rolling registration form. Each person needs to sign the declaration against their name - someone else cannot do it for you. You will need to tell your Council where you were living before so they can remove your name from that address. When you send your completed, signed form, they will add you to the list of new applications. If anyone objects to your application we will write to you. The register is updated each month and they will write to you when your application is allowed. The 2008/2009 register will update as follows:
Rolling Registration Timetable Application forms received by 10 March 2009 7 April 2009 19 May 2009 9 June 2009 10 July 2009 10 August 2009
Details will be changed on 1 April 2009 1 May 2009 28 May 2009 1 July 2009 3 August 2009 1 September 2009
If you are moving out of the borough, contact your new local authority and ask for a rolling registration form. Your name will only be removed from the current Register of Electors once they are notified by your new council that you have registered with them Now that we’re well versed on the voting registration, its time to have a look at what we can do once we’re registered…
Political parties A political party is an organised group of people who have similar ideas about how the country should be run. Their aim is to get their candidates elected to political power. After a general election, the party with the most MPs usually forms the new government. The second largest party becomes the official opposition, with its own leader and 'shadow cabinet'. Most candidates in elections, and almost all winning candidates, belong to one of the main parties. If an MP doesn't have a political party, they are known as an 'Independent'. The effectiveness of the party system in Parliament relies on the relationship between the government and the opposition parties. The opposition parties contribute to policy and legislation through constructive criticism, opposing government proposals that they disagree with, and put forward their own policies to improve their chances of winning the next general election. Leaders of the government and opposition sit opposite each other on the front benches in the debating chamber of the House of Commons. Their supporters, called the 'backbenchers', sit behind them. There are similar seating arrangements in the House of Lords, but peers who don't wish to be associated with any political party choose to sit on the 'crossbenches'.
Political parties represented at Parliament The UK has a wide range of political parties, including national parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The following parties have members in the House of Commons or the House of Lords: • Labour Party • Conservative Party • Liberal Democrats • Scottish National Party (SNP) • Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales • Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) • Sinn Féin • Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) • Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) • Green Party • Respect • UK Independence Party (UKIP) Many more parties compete in elections. You can access the full register of political parties on the Electoral Commission website. Next month, we’ll continue on this wavelength, looking at what actually happens during an election. Remember its your civic duty to vote, registering is one step in the right direction, stay blessed! For more information on the Civic Awareness group in Jesus House, please contact Lola Adedoyin at email@example.com or Bukky Olawoyin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Common voting & registering myths
by Bukky Olawoyin
Myth: If you pay council tax, you’re automatically registered to vote Truth: Even if you pay council tax, you will not automatically be registered to vote, so you need to make sure you are. Why not register to vote right now.
Myth: You have to have been born in the UK to vote in UK elections Truth: EU and qualifying Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK can register to vote in UK elections, although EU citizens cannot vote in UK Parliamentary (General) elections. A lot of African countries qualify including Nigeria, Ghana
Myth: I won’t be able to vote because I’ll be at work when the polling station is open Truth: Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm for all UK elections, so everyone should have time to fit voting in. Plus you can now take your children with you when you go to vote. If you’re unable to make it to the polling station you can apply for a postal vote or ask someone else to cast your vote for you (a proxy). It’s always best to be registered, so if you change your mind you’ve got the option to vote if you want to.
Myth: There are only elections every 4 years Truth: Although UK Parliamentary general elections only have to be held once every 5 years, there are other types of elections which affect your area and the people who represent you. These include local government elections and European Parliament elections, as well as elections in some parts of the UK to devolved bodies (the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly and the London Mayor and Assembly). Local elections are usually held more often than other types of elections, as not all councillors are elected at the same time. So you may find that there are elections happening almost every year that are relevant to you – that’s why it’s important to ensure you’re registered to vote! You can find information about upcoming elections in your area by entering your postcode on this website.
Myth: You can only register once a year during the canvass Truth: You can register at any time of year. The register is updated each month, so if you move house or change your name or citizenship you’ll need to re-register. That way, if an election is called at short notice, you will be able to vote. Myth: Students have to go home to register and vote
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Common voting & registering myths
by Bukky Olawoyin
Truth: A student can register to vote at their term-time address as well as their home address. You can only vote once in any one election, however.
Myth: You have to live at a fixed address to register Truth: People with no fixed address can register using a ‘declaration of local connection’. You should contact your local electoral registration office for more information. You can find their contact details by entering your postcode on this site.
Myth: You have to be 18 to register to vote Truth: You can register to vote from the age of 16, although you cannot vote until you are 18.
Myth: You don’t have to re-register if you’ve moved within the same local authority area Truth: Whenever you change any of your personal details, such as moving house, you will always need to re-register, even if you are still within the same local authority area.
Myth: If you’re registered you have to vote Truth: Although the law states that you must return registration information when requested to do so, there is no obligation to vote. It’s up to you, but ensuring you are registered means that if you ever want to vote, you’ll be able to have your say.
Myth: You have to register for each election Truth: In Great Britain, your registration lasts for a year. That means that as long as you return your annual canvass form once a year or a registration form from this website, you’ll be registered and you’ll be able to vote whenever an election is called. Don't forget, if you move house or change your details, you’ll need to re-register right away otherwise you won’t be able to vote! It’s better to be safe than sorry – if you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote, you can contact your local electoral registration office and they’ll tell you.
Myth: When I register to vote, my details will be passed on to lots of marketing companies Truth: There are two versions of the electoral register – the full version and the edited version. The full register is used only for elections, preventing and detecting crime and checking applications for financial credit. The edited register is available for general sale and Page 2 of 3
Common voting & registering myths
by Bukky Olawoyin
can be used for commercial activities like marketing. When you register to vote, you can choose to tick a box to opt out of the edited register, which means your details will not be used in this way.
Myth: Registering to vote makes you more attractive. Truth: Obviously, this is not true; but why not register to vote anyway?
Sources: www.direct.gov.uk; www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/
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Vote? - I'm not Bothered...
by Bukky Olawoyin
he next United Kingdom (UK) general election is due to take place on or before 3 June 2010, with voting taking place in up to 650 seats in all constituencies of the UK, to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to seats in the House of Commons and
Local Councillors in different boroughs. The governing Labour Party will be looking to secure a fourth consecutive term in office and to restore support lost since 1997, the Conservative Party, on the other hand, will be seeking to regain its dominant position in politics after losses in the 1990s replacing Labour as the governing party; whilst the Liberal Democrats hope to make gains from votes lost on both sides – although they too would ideally wish to form a government – their more realistic ambition is to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. Up in the north, the Scottish National Party, the 2007 victors in the Scottish parliament elections are hoping to find themselves in a balance of power position whilst to the west Plaid Cymru is seeking more gains in Wales. Smaller parties – United Kingdom Independence Party, Green Party, British National Party – who have had successes in European recent elections will look to extend their representation to seats in the House of Commons. This election is the first to be faced by the unpopular Labour leader Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, having been appointed as party leader in 2007 after the resignation of Tony Blair. It is also the first election to be faced by the new boys on the block – David Cameron of the Conservatives and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. It goes without saying that the electorate (voters) have not only lost confidence in the major parties but also in the entire process altogether with the catalogue of scandals that have dogged the UK politics in the last year. This is in addition to the on-going, controversial wars we’ve enlisted in and the crippling economic crisis, although globally triggered, but felt in every household nationwide even though we are theoretically out of the recession. In as much as it might be more appealing not boycott the polling station in protest, what this means is that the wrong candidate might end up in office with just a few but majority votes. One thing to bear in mind about those in offices, whether elected by the majority based on the potential of what they could deliver or given the office by a low voters turnout; they would end up making decisions that affect all including the boycotters. They’ll make decisions on areas ranging from whether the local Accident & Emergency hospital is kept open, through the number of police bodies on patrol, the amount of funding Page 1 of 4
Vote? - I'm not Bothered...
by Bukky Olawoyin
available to schools, immigration laws, legislation affecting how one can practice ones religions, amount of taxes paid and what it is spent on. Going to the polls this year is not just about selecting a candidate, it's also about making your voice heard, helping in shaping the future of not just the area we live in but the entire nation as a whole; especially at this time when the next set of people who find themselves in power are crucial to the survival of this nation. I for one have registered to vote this year because I need to prayerfully select the candidate who would be conscientious enough to try and deliver a good proportion of their manifesto and think of both this and the next generation. For me, the time has come when the individual I vote for matter as much as the party I give my support to. Are you still not sure why you should register to vote? Still don’t think it’s important? Well for now, please register to vote. At least, you can then decide to vote or not to when the time comes. I tell you, registering to vote isn’t something most people think about outside of election time. Below are some of the reasons why you should consider changing your stance on this matter. •
It gives you a say on important issues that affect you – everything from roads and recycling in your area, to education and climate change – You may think you don’t want to vote now, but if an issue comes up that you want to have your say on, if you’re on the register you’ll have the chance to vote on it. Remember, registering to vote doesn’t mean you have to, it just means you can if you want to.
If you don’t register, you can’t vote! – It’s as simple as that. To vote in any UK elections, you have to be on the electoral register. It’s easy to register – you can fill in your details on the web (www.aboutmyvote.co.uk). Then you just need to print the form, sign it, and send it to your local electoral registration office.
Elections can be called at short notice, and if you’re not registered you won’t be able to vote – A UK Parliamentary general election, for example, can be called as late as 17 working days before Election Day.
Because it’s easier than you think!
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Vote? - I'm not Bothered...
by Bukky Olawoyin
Your right to vote You can vote in UK parliamentary elections once you are on the electoral register and provided that you are also: •
aged 18 or over on polling day
a British citizen, or a Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Irish Republic (and resident in the United Kingdom)
not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (for example, if you are in prison)
At a general election, the following people cannot vote: •
anyone under 18 years old
members of the House of Lords, including life peers, Church of England archbishops and bishops, and hereditary peers who have retained their seat in the House of Lords these people can, however, vote at elections to local authorities, devolved legislatures and the European Parliament
European Union citizens - they can, however, vote at local government, devolved legislature and European parliamentary election level
citizens of any country apart from the Irish Republic and Commonwealth countries
convicted persons detained in pursuance of their sentences - although remand prisoners, unconvicted prisoners and civil prisoners in default of fine or breach of 'recognisance' (an obligation to the court or magistrate) can vote if they are on the electoral register
anyone found guilty within the previous five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election
In the UK, there are three different ways you can vote depending on what you find easiest or convenient. Most people vote in person at a polling station. However, if you are not able to go to the polling station in person on election day, you can apply to vote by post or by proxy (someone voting on your behalf). How to vote at a polling station You can vote at a local polling station – usually a nearby school or hall. You'll get a poll card before the election, telling you where and when to vote. Polling stations are open from 7.00 am to 10.00 pm. When you go to vote, the staff will check your name and address and give you a ballot paper. Read the ballot paper carefully. It will list the parties and candidates you can vote for, and tell you how to cast your vote. No one is entitled to see who you're voting Page 3 of 4
Vote? - I'm not Bothered...
by Bukky Olawoyin
for – the voting takes place in a screened booth. When you've marked your vote, fold the ballot paper in half and put it in the ballot box. How to vote by post If you live in the UK or abroad and apply in time, you can vote by post. Anyone can apply for a postal vote – you don't need to give a reason. A postal vote can be sent to your home address or to any other address that you choose. You can apply to vote by post for just one election, for a specific period, or permanently. For security, you'll need to give your date of birth and signature when you apply, and again whenever you vote by post. Complete your ballot paper in secret, seal it up yourself, and take it to the post box yourself if you can. How to vote by proxy If you live in the UK or abroad and you're unable to vote in person, you can ask someone to vote on your behalf, and tell them who to vote for. This is called a proxy vote. When you apply for a proxy vote, you have to give a valid reason. You can apply to vote by proxy for just one election, for a specific period, or permanently. Your application may have to be supported by someone like your doctor or employer. There are different application forms depending on your situation: •
for a particular election (for example, you will be away on holiday)
because of a disability
because of your employment
because you are on an educational course
because you are living overseas
for Crown Servants or members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces
because of a medical emergency
Across the world people have died fighting for the right to vote and be part of a democracy – by registering to vote you’ll be showing that you think that right is important. Think about it this way – in the UK, less than 100 years ago, people were killed during their struggles to get the vote for women. In South Africa, not until the end of apartheid in 1994 were black people able to vote for the first time. Today, many people across the world are still denied the right to vote. You’ve got the right to vote, so please exercise it wisely!
Sources: www.guardian.co.uk; www.telegraph.co.uk; www.direct.gov.uk; www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/
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Voting at an election You can vote in three ways. Find out what you need to do when you go to vote on election day, and how you can vote by post or proxy (someone voting for you) if you can't get to the polling station. Registering to vote To vote in UK elections and referendums, you must be on the electoral register (the list of eligible voters). Find out more in 'Registering to vote'. Registering to vote How to vote at a polling station You can vote at a local polling station – usually a nearby school or hall. You'll get a poll card before the election, telling you where and when to vote. Polling stations are open from 7.00 am to 10.00 pm. When you go to vote, the staff will check your name and address and give you a ballot paper. Read the ballot paper carefully. It will list the parties and candidates you can vote for, and tell you how to cast your vote. No one is entitled to see who you're voting for – the voting takes place in a screened booth. When you've marked your vote, fold the ballot paper in half and put it in the ballot box. If you're not sure what to do, ask the staff to help you. Voting in elections for disabled voters (disabled people section) Easy-read guide to voting - a simple illustrated booklet Opens new window How to vote by post If you live in the UK or abroad and apply in time, you can vote by post. Anyone can apply for a postal vote – you don't need to give a reason. A postal vote can be sent to your home address or to any other address that you choose. You can apply to vote by post for just one election, for a specific period, or permanently. For security, you'll need to give your date of birth and signature when you apply, and again whenever you vote by post. Complete your ballot paper in secret, seal it up yourself, and take it to the post box yourself if you can. You can find out more and apply for a postal vote by printing an application form from About My Vote, or by contacting your local electoral registration office. Apply for a postal vote through the About My Vote website Opens new window How to vote by proxy If you live in the UK or abroad and you're unable to vote in person, you can ask someone to vote on your behalf, and tell them who to vote for. This is called a proxy vote. When you apply for a proxy vote, you have to give a valid reason. You can apply to vote by proxy for just one election, for a specific period, or permanently. Your application may have to be supported by someone like your doctor or employer. There are different application forms depending on your situation: for a particular election (for example, you will be away on holiday) because of a disability because of your employment because you are on an educational course because you are living overseas for Crown Servants or members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces because of a medical emergency You can find out more and print an application form from About My Vote, or contact your local electoral registration office. Apply for a proxy vote through the About My Vote website Opens new window Find your local electoral registration office Opens new window Voting from abroad Why your vote counts The About My Vote website helps you to find out more about how to vote and what you're voting for. It tells you which elections are coming up in your area, and provides registration forms and contact details for your local electoral registration office. You'll need to know your postcode or local authority to use the website. About My Vote website Opens new window Your right to vote You can vote in UK parliamentary elections once you are on the electoral register and provided that you are also: aged 18 or over on polling day
a British citizen, or a Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Irish Republic (and resident in the United Kingdom) not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (for example, if you are in prison) At a general election, the following people cannot vote: anyone under 18 years old members of the House of Lords, including life peers, Church of England archbishops and bishops, and hereditary peers who have retained their seat in the House of Lords - these people can, however, vote at elections to local authorities, devolved legislatures and the European Parliament European Union citizens - they can, however, vote at local government, devolved legislature and European parliamentary election level citizens of any country apart from the Irish Republic and Commonwealth countries convicted persons detained in pursuance of their sentences - although remand prisoners, unconvicted prisoners and civil prisoners in default of fine or breach of 'recognisance' (an obligation to the court or magistrate) can vote if they are on the electoral register anyone found guilty within the previous five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election Preventing election fraud There are laws and security measures to prevent electoral fraud. It is an offence to: falsely apply for a postal or proxy vote supply false information or fail to supply information to the electoral registration officer at any time unduly influence someone, even if it does not affect the way they vote Ballot papers have a security mark and a barcode, to enable security checks for lost or stolen postal votes. After every election, a list of who voted by post will be published (similar to the list for polling stations), so you can check that your vote was counted. In an investigation, the police can ask people whether they did actually vote by post. You can apply to observe election proceedings in polling stations, at the issue and receipt of postal ballot papers, and at the counting of votes. Election observers Allowing people to observe elections is an important way of ensuring that arrangements in the UK meet internationally accepted standards. By registering as an impartial observer, you can attend elections and ask questions, as long as you don't obstruct the process. Becoming an accredited observer Organisations and individuals over the age of 16 can apply to the Electoral Commission for accreditation. The Electoral Commission accredits observers and maintains a register of them, which is updated regularly. Once you are accredited, you can attend: the issue or receipt of postal ballot papers the taking of the poll the counting of votes The registers of accredited observers (individuals and organisations) are available from the Electoral Commission below (in Microsoft Excel format - a free Excel Viewer is available from Microsoft). Organisations must nominate members to act as observers. The accreditation scheme covers all observers at UK elections - except for Scottish local government elections, as these are a devolved matter. Electoral observation in Northern Ireland came into force on 1 July 2008. Electoral observers - The Electoral Commission Opens new window How to apply Application forms are available below (for individuals and organisations). You can also get an application pack from any Electoral Commission office - a link to a full list of offices is also below. The Electoral Commission recommends that all applicants read the booklet 'Observers at United Kingdom elections' (available below), as it includes guidance on the application process and provides a code of conduct. The declaration that you must sign states that you have read and understood this code and that you agree to abide by it. The Commission may refuse an application for accreditation if the applicant: doesn't meet the requirements of the application process, as set out in the code of conduct has been reported or found guilty of a corrupt or illegal electoral practice anywhere in the UK in the five years before the date of application
is a person whose status in the UK as a previously accredited observer (or nominated individual of an accredited organisation) was revoked by the Commission You should allow 10 days for the processing of your application. It is also recommended that you don't wait until an election is called before you apply, as accreditation doesn't come into effect until three days after the issue of your observer ID card and your inclusion in the register of observers. Contact details for Electoral Commission offices Opens new window Download 'Observers at United Kingdom elections' booklet (PDF, 369K) Download application for individual accreditation (PDF, 131K) Download organisation accreditation (PDF, 152K) Welsh language versions are also available: Download 'Observers at United Kingdom elections' booklet - Welsh language (PDF, 369K) Download application for individual accreditation - Welsh language (PDF, 70K) Download organisation accreditation - Welsh language (PDF, 136K) Once you are an accredited observer As an accredited observer, you will be issued with an observer ID card and be included in the Electoral Commission's register. You will then be able to attend specified election or referendum proceedings. Observers can tell election officials about any irregularities, fraud or significant problems, unless this would contravene the secrecy requirements. You can ask questions to election officials, political party representatives and other observers inside polling stations, as long as you don't obstruct the election process. You can also ask and answer questions of voters, but you may not ask who or what they voted for. Observers must maintain political impartiality at all times - including their leisure time. This means you must not express any preference in relation to national authorities, political parties, candidates or referendum issues, or on any controversial issues in the election process. You must also not do anything which could be seen to favour any political competitor, such as wearing or displaying any political symbols, colours or banners.
Everyone has a part to play. The worldâ€™s political landscape is very exciting right now, with the election of the first black man as the 44th President of the United States â€“ hopes are high and everyone wants to get involved. The United States, which is (perhaps sometimes unfairly) known as a nation of apathy when it comes to elections produced a turnout that placed it firmly as the leading democracy. The United Kingdom is perhaps at a different place; statistics on political participation can be confusing at best. Whilst many people show a distinct distrust for the political system, they participate actively in their local communities informally. An even higher number volunteer their time for charity work. Clearly people care about the society in which they live, but perhaps a significant number are not aware of ways in which they can become the actual decision makers and/or influencers. The newly formed civic awareness group in Jesus House hopes to provide signposts to people who have an interest in participative governance and also encourage civic renewal and awareness. It is time to regain civic pride and certainly time to get involved and be the salt of the earth. There are several ways to make your voice heard and below is a list which is by no means exhaustive:
1. Vote The most important civic duty you can exercise is your right to vote. This is your most basic voice in society â€“ you choose your representatives; people who represent your values, ethos and principles. Who: You are eligible to vote if you are 18; a citizen of UK, a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland. How to: You must live in a constituency and be registered to vote. The electoral roll is updated annually; if you are not sure whether or not you are registered, a call to your local council will verify this. Further information: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk
2. Community Groups You can harness the power in your community by forming or joining local groups (like residents associations) to tackle local issues. By doing this, you build social capital, form a strong voice and are recognised by the authorities, i.e. the council, the police etc.
Who: Almost anyone can form a residents association; the starting point is that you reside in the community. It is vital to work together with others, so it is of little use forming a residents association when one already exists. How to: Begin with your neighbours – it can start with two or three homes, however it will take a lot of effort and time but the results will change lives. Further information: www.communiygroup.co.uk
3. School governor Becoming a school governor is an important way to get involved in the education system in this country. School governors set the strategic direction and serve effectively as trustees for schools. Who: No special qualifications are needed. You must be 18 or over at the time of appointment. There are different types of school governors: parent governors (elected by parents) staff representatives (elected by school staff) local authority governors (appointed by the local authority) community governors (members of the local community appointed by the governing body) for some schools, people appointed by the relevant religious body or foundation up to two sponsor governors, or four if the school is a secondary school (appointed by the governing body)
How: You could be a parent governor in your child’s school by running to be elected when there is a vacancy; you could also register an interest with your local council to be considered for school governor positions. Further information: http://www.sgoss.org.uk
4. Magistrate Magistrates, also known as Justices of the Peace, make an invaluable contribution to the legal system at the local level. Magistrate Courts deal with less serious offences like minor theft, public disorder and motoring offences. Who: No special qualifications or legal background required, just common sense. People between 27 and 65 years of age are eligible to apply. How: By application to the Ministry of Justice.
Further information on application and duties: www.dca.gov.uk/magistrates
5. Local Councillor Local Councillors represent people at the local level by making decisions at the borough level. Councillors are elected every four years and their duties cover areas such as education, social services, and the local economy. Who: You could be a councillor if you are 18 or over, a Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland or EU citizen and you have lived or worked in the area for 12 months or more. How: The main way would be through any of the main political parties – this would involve joining the party and going through their selection process. However some councils welcome direct applications. Further information: www.councillor.gov.uk; www.conservatives.com; www.labour.org.uk; www.libdems.org.uk
6. Member of Parliament Members of Parliament represent the people of their constituency (area) in Parliament. The scope of an MP’s duties range from voting on legislation and deciding on policy, to dealing with individual concerns raised by their constituents. Who: Almost anyone can become an MP; the basic requirement is that one is a UK, Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland Citizen and over the age of 21. How: The most likely route to succeed to becoming an MP is through any one of the three major political parties’ selection processes. However, there are MPs representing the other smaller political parties and a handful of independent MPs. Further information: www.conservatives.com; www.labour.org.uk; www.libdems.org.uk These are just a few ways to make your voice heard in the community, why not take up the challenge and dare to make a difference in your community. For more information on the civic awareness group in Jesus House, please contact Lola Adedoyin at email@example.com or Bukky Olawoyin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Become a Local Councillor I’m sure (or should I say I hope…, pray…) you’re already thinking about doing something in your community. Continuing with our theme of encouraging you to take up the challenge and doing something, we move on to getting involved politically at the lowest level – The Local Council. Local councils are run by elected councillors, who are voted for by local people. Councillors are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the community about local services, like rubbish collection and leisure facilities, and agreeing budgets and Council Tax charges. There are two main ways that local government is organised, depending on where you live: one-tier or two-tier systems. In most of England, there are two levels: a county council and a district council. These parts of the country are known as shire areas. County councils cover large areas and provide most of the public services, including education, social services, public transport and libraries. They are divided into several districts. District councils cover smaller areas and provide more local services, like council housing, leisure facilities, local planning and waste collection. District councils with borough or city status are called Borough Council or City Council instead of District Council, but this doesn't change their role. In the larger towns and cities of England, and in some small counties, there is just one level called a unitary authority or a metropolitan district council. They are responsible for all local services. Some towns also have their own directly elected mayor. In London, each borough is a unitary authority, but the Greater London Authority (the Mayor and Assembly) provides London-wide government with responsibility for certain services like transport and police. Unitary authorities may be called Borough Council, City Council, County Council, District Council, or just Council. In some parts of England there are also town and parish councils, covering a smaller area. In Wales, they are called community councils. They're responsible for services like allotments, public toilets, parks and ponds, war memorials, and local halls and community centres. They are sometimes described as the third tier of local government. Councillors are elected by the local community and are there to represent its views. Each councillor represents an area called a ward, serving for four years. There are more than 20,000 elected councillors in England and Wales, representing their communities in 410 local authorities. The work of a councillor includes holding surgeries to help local people, supporting local organisations, campaigning on local issues, and developing links with all parts of the community. Councillors are not paid a salary or wages, but they are entitled to allowances and expenses to cover some of the costs of carrying out their public duties. They are not council employees. The elected councillors provide the policies, and then paid employees (council officers) put them into practice. To get more involved with your local community and help to make a difference, you might consider becoming a local councillor. To stand for election, you must be aged 18 or over and have lived or worked for more than 12 months in the area you want to represent. Most councillors are members of political parties. Candidates must be eligible on both the last day for nominations and on polling day, and be a British citizen, a qualifying citizen of a Commonwealth country (this includes most countries which were previously British colonies), a citizen of the Irish Republic, or a citizen of another member state of the European Union. In a local election, you vote for the councillors who run your local services. Councillors are elected for a term of four years, though in some areas they're not all elected at the same time, so elections may take place more often. Local elections take place at least every four years. Local elections are held on the first Thursday in May. There are several types of election, because local authorities are organised in different ways, depending on where you live. Either: • all of the councillors are elected every four years • half of the councillors are elected every two years • a third of the councillors are elected every year for three years, with no elections in the fourth year Certain people are disqualified from becoming a candidate at a local election. These include employees of the council where election is sought, employees of connected organisations, and subjects of bankruptcy restrictions orders or interim orders in England or Wales. People who have served a prison sentence of three months or more within the last five years may not stand as candidates. This is yet another way to not only make your voice heard in the community but to be empowered to do something about it, why not take up the challenge and dare to make a difference in your community. For more information on the Civic Awareness group in Jesus House, please contact Lola Adedoyin at email@example.com or Bukky Olawoyin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finger on the plough...? By Bukky Olawoyin
Do you know that there’s never been a better time to be involved in political activities? Most of the political parties are trying to clean-up there acts post the ‘MPs Expenses’ era, coming up with new policies and regulations, extending it to been seen as being inclusive of all races, ages and sexes. Spicing up the world? As salt and lights of this world, we have been in church and listened to enough sermons to have enough to contribute to the world of politics. We are needed, more like ‘sought after’ for this era in politics, it does not matter how much involvement we desire – being a campaigner or a potential parliamentary candidate. The most important bit is to be part of the movement. We would never know if our opportunities to evangelise are stored up in the political community. What a mammoth of opportunity missed it would be if we are trying to minister to our colleague at work to no avail only to find out that our ‘congregation’ are in the local political party hall just up our road. Is politics for you? The answer to this question is personal and you will never know till you try. As the saying goes: “you’ve got to be in it to win it” Its easy for one to discard something without actually knowing the intricacies of what’s being discarded. The easiest and most common mode is to look at what others are doing or just merely saying and draw up conclusions from “the perceived”. I challenge you with this – you might have what they do not or did not have that made them get the result they got – swung another way, it means that you might get into it and find that you are in you element and that it was rather meant for you and not them. There’s a lot that’s needed in this area of our communities and different personalities, experiences, talents and skills are required to sustain the sector and progress, some have it others don’t. Some are naturals, some can develop it, and others can’t make it at all. The question for you today is – which bucket do you belong? Could God be counting on you? Can you imagine David coming up with all the apparent excuses when prompted by God? Oh, I’m sure we can fill the catalogue on his behalf – I’m too young; the job is too tasking; I’m not experienced enough; my superiors are already on the job; I’m not qualified for the job – this can go on. Rather than do or say the aforementioned, he plucked up courage and knowing the kind of God he served, he got stuck in it and the rest is history. What about Gideon, yes he was a soldier, well trained, experienced, but he was used to a big army and I think he must have believed in numbers. What do you think must have gone through his mind when God said: “you’ve got too many men”? I guess he must have thought, if not muttered:
Someone else is covering that end. Could we find ourselves in a state where everyone is saying: “someone else will do it” only to find out that “no-one is doing it”? On a football pitch, the fact that there’s a defender does not stop an attacker from covering the goal post. If an army is being attacked, the medical personnel are trained in firearms to be able to at least defend themselves. Can you imagine what would happen if the We have to jointly own the country and feel responsible for all aspects of it. Political activities affect every aspect of our lives, sometimes dictating the way we live; what and where we can go, what and how we do things. This is the more reason why, it can never be over emphasised, how critical it is for us to have a say in what affects us this much. Next month, we’ll continue on this wavelength, looking at what actually happens in the political parties. Remember it’s your right to partake, registering with a political party is one step in the right direction, stay blessed! For more information on the Civic Awareness group in Jesus House, please contact Lola Adedoyin at email@example.com or Bukky Olawoyin at firstname.lastname@example.org.