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How to be an Activist in Conservative Britain

Since the new addition of “permacrisis” to the Collins Dictionary, many are wondering what they can do to address issues.

“Permacrisis”, which is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity”, is the perfect summary of the UK’s political state. As the roles within government witness change after change, it is no surprise that we find ourselves in this permanent state of crisis. The phenomenon can be cited as early as February of this year when writer Adam Lent summarised: “the state must rapidly adapt.”

The ECPR even argues that the EU permacrisis was offset by the 2008-09 global financial crisis, which expectedly triggered any internal issues across the UK. Whilst representative of the EU’s ability to handle this widespread crisis, the words of Schweiger and Funk perfectly echo the situation we find ourselves in within British politics today:

Member state governments became predominantly preoccupied with resolving the financial instability inside the eurozone. These unprecedented circumstances were augmented by the occurrence of profound external challenges. The EU has shown itself to be collectively ill prepared for these challenges as a result of having neglected the development of its institutional capabilities in the areas of external and security affairs.”

Of the 56 past prime ministers, nine served more than 10 years, while eight served less than a year. Within the last six years, we have seen five Conservative leaders. In the 37 years prior to that (1979 to 2016), only four people held this job. But what does the rapid turnover mean for activists?

Despite the party in power remaining the same, individual Members of Parliament (MPs) have different views on current affairs. Therefore, public opinion remains disordered on what the current PM believes. For example, the Public Order Bill (POB) was in Parliament last month (under Liz Truss’ ruling). The POB seeks to criminalise effective forms of protest and give police greater powers to crack down on protest tactics. This should alert many, not just a few.

Protests are a public expression of objection, so limiting people’s ability to do so restricts people’s freedom of speech. GOV UK argues that the POB will allow the police to take a “proactive approach to prevent [such] disruption happening in the first place.” So what should people who are looking to vocalise their opinion do?

Write to your MP

Following the ‘Great Resignation’/’Big Quit’/’Great Reshuffle’, whatever you would like to call the mess that is the resigning of UK politicians, there has not been a more perfect example of worthwhile addressing your MP (or better yet, your PM). The more emails and/or letters that MPs receive regarding issues, the more likely change would be possible to happen. MP’s inboxes could become inundated with requests to do something about societal issues, and thus more likely to take action.

Writing to your MP is extremely easy and an effective method of activism. The website will show you a list of MPs in your area and how to contact them. Alternatively, you can find out what local events your MP attends in order to gain public attention.

Start or sign a petition

Petitions pop up all the time. They vary from local to national scale and enable you to raise the profile of a campaign you wish to take to Parliament. In addition, starting a petition shows how much you care about a movement. Likewise, if it’s an issue that affects many, you’re likely to have a lot of promotion regarding the petition – likes, shares, and comments go a long way. All it takes is 10,000 signatures for government to respond!

Follow activists who are encouraging and implementing change

There are thousands of great resources online. Similarly, many public figures advocate for multiple causes. By following these accounts and engaging in their activity, you are more likely to become well-versed in their activism.

‘Influencers’ play a significant role in spreading the word on campaigns. They can increase discourse and awareness to thousands of followers who will (hopefully) forward the message on. Furthermore, backing these pages and resharing their content will keep you up to date on actionable activism (e.g. protests).

Attend protests

‘Actions speak louder than words’ could not be more accurate. Despite protests' consistent negative press coverage, these concrete actions will always be more successful than social media activism.

In recent weeks we have seen the Just Stop Oil group repeatedly targeting government buildings in order to gain the public, media and governing officials’ attention. The more these actions can be repeated, the more attention they gain and show the public the precise demands of these groups.

Although protestors are victims of the unfortunate portrayal in the media, they draw attention to the matters at hand. Don’t be discouraged just because someone will disagree.

Get involved in your local community

Never underestimate the power of your local council. Local governments, whilst on a small scale, speak for a large number of people - think of it as a reverse pyramid. They are responsible for a range of services within their community and aim to improve group well-being.

You will have a greater chance of getting your point heard by attending local events and developing ties with your councillors. More importantly, if it is a local issue you wish to address, this will be the most effective way to do it. Likewise, councillors are part of a network otherwise inaccessible to everyday individuals.

Don’t give up

This may sound silly, but given the current state of the government, it is hard to retain hope. Persistence is key. Issues will likely go unresolved if the campaign is abandoned. If you are genuinely passionate about something and are set on implementing change, it is incredibly important to stick with it.

Activism doesn’t have to be what it is portrayed as in the media. In actuality, activists are the pillars of the community who make things happen. Without activism, it’s hard to imagine where we would be today. As I’ve mentioned previously, activism has played a huge role in ending slavery, protecting workers from exploitation, protecting the environment (much to contrary opinion), promoting equality for women, opposing racism and many more. Don’t let the current state of British politics deter you from engaging in what you believe in.


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