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One student's u-turn on politics

Chloe Scott is a social worker in Manchester. While studying music at Oxford University, she met some other students passionate about God and social justice, and became a founding member of Just Love, an organisation which seeks to inspire Christian students to engage in the world around them.

This article was written prior to the 2015 General Election

My relationship with politics has been a rocky one. Voting was optional – and I just wasn’t interested.

I am the daughter of a family who have never taken kindly to the Tories. To disagree was absolute treachery, a betrayal of the family values – as I discovered when I tried to bring home a Tory boyfriend to meet my parents (he made it out alive, but never called me again). So, armed with no understanding of the political system, I followed my family and assumed that I too hated the Conservatives – a questionable foundation for my shaky teenage political stance.

Aged 17, I was sure that having an understanding of politics was just something to put on your UCAS form, to convince the universities that you’re the passionate and worldly teenager they’re desperate for. As a music student, I declared myself exempt – politics has no part in piano playing. But deep down, I was just confused, overwhelmed, with no understanding of politics and no idea how to change that. I even struggled through half an episode of Question Time, but after battling with an onslaught of mysterious political terms (‘electoral commission’?!) and unknown white middle-class males, I gave up.

I decided that politics just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t going to vote – and if that meant losing my opportunity to say what I wanted to change, then that was my decision. The only person losing out would be me.

…right? Well, wrong. In my second year of university I joined Just Love, a social justice group with a passion to see students across the country seeking God’s perfect justice for the poor and the oppressed. I was so excited to see hope flow into the lives of the destitute, but soon became increasingly frustrated to see that despite our best efforts to make change, millions continued to starve, corruption triumphed, and AIDS continued its merciless stomp across Africa. Whatever we did, poverty always won. The problem was bigger than me, and needed a force beyond me. And then, FINALLY, I realised why I needed politics.

My political voice is also the voice for a world of broken and impoverished people, who have little hope of being heard themselves. Whilst I may not be interested in MPs’ expenses or stamp duty reforms, the government also has great influence in areas such as climate change, international aid and tax avoidance, all of which need to be addressed in order to lift people in the developing world out of the relentless cycle of suffering.

Politicians have the power to reform, to revolutionise, to make change at a fundamental base level which is deep and long-lasting. Your political voice is what drives this change. In 2013, the Enough Food If campaign gathered tens of thousands of political voices, all putting pressure on the government to address global malnutrition. As a result, the Chancellor committed to spending 0.7% of the UK’s national income on life changing aid, a historic achievement.

Equally, poverty thrives in this country. I am a social worker in Manchester, and the families I work with rely on benefits to feed and clothe their children. Benefit cuts throw these families into a spiral of emergency food parcels, debt, and repossession. With food parcels come shame; with debt comes stress; with repossession comes homelessness. Benefit cuts don’t affect me personally, but to ignore political debates about the cuts is to ignore the desperate need of those families directly affected by them.

Don’t think of your political voice as something that belongs to you, to take or leave at your will. It is shared, between yourself and the billions of people living below the poverty line. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the ins and outs of the House of Commons, but I do understand that God’s heart is broken for His people suffering in poverty, and my political voice allows me to be an advocate for them.  One day, we’ll see God’s justice rolling like a river; we just might have to fill in a voting card first.