On polling day the last blog from our General Election Series is a guest post from Age UK Sunderland. It charts their journey from the Age UK Rally in London to their local hustings in Sunderland.
For us here at Age UK Sunderland, the run up to the General Election has been hectic – we’ve been involved in national campaigns, and things a little closer to home, all with the aim of making sure whoever represents us in the next Parliament helps to make this a great place to grow older.
Our election journey really began on a chilly morning in late March, when I, and five older people, boarded the 6.45am train to London from Sunderland.
Age UK Rally
We spent the day at Age UK’s Rally – along with 250 older people – listening to representatives from the five main political parties and explaining how they would improve the lot of older people if they were successful on polling day.
It was a unique opportunity to get our points across – two of our contingent posed their questions to the speakers, whilst another spent her lunch break chatting with one of the speakers about the issues which are hitting older people hardest.
The sense of purpose in the room was palpable – the conversations didn’t stop over the breaks, and we gained as much from chatting with our fellow activists and peers, as we did from hearing from the speakers.
Local hustings event
We returned to Sunderland pleased to have been lucky enough to attend the rally and be directly involved- but for me, our day in London was only the beginning.
Two weeks later we held a local hustings event, which saw the five main parties’ candidates field questions from a more intimate group of 20 local people.
A whole range of issues were discussed: from universal benefits for older people, to the state of health and social care for those in later life.
BBC Look North sent a representative to ask the audience ‘is it worth voting at the Election?’ This sparked a debate about voter apathy and turnout, which was televised later along with a mock election.
Election debate in Gateshead
Following this media appearance, we’ve also sent members of our network to an election debate held in Gateshead just a week before the election.
There has been opportunity after opportunity for our members to get involved, from the events I’ve described to the campaign postcard which allows older people to write directly to their candidates for free.
As a result, it’s been a really rewarding campaign, with huge levels of involvement. It is obvious to me that the people of Sunderland are passionate about making our area, and the UK, a great place to grow older. Let’s hope the next Parliament feels the same.
Today, we will all vote to choose our future MPs and the next UK Government. It’s vital that once elected our politicians act on the issues that affect older people, today and tomorrow. Ask your Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to become Age Champions