Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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“We are voters too” – Reminding candidates of their electorate and Operation Traveller Vote

Ben Chastney's picture
By Ben Chastney |  May 2, 2017 |

Another year another election it seems.  Whilst we can all sigh and become a little weary, our members usually have more reason than most to be pessimistic each time the ballot box comes round.  Firstly it is usually another occasion to be reminded just how ignored their voices are, that politicians are not seeking their support or offering anything for this.  Rather, our members usually only find elections to be something that happens to them, with any policies about Gypsies and Travellers for the audience of others and therefore consistently hostile in tone and content. 

Let us try and be positive where possible though.  Of course, we can expect many candidates to approach this election in the same fashion as before; where Gypsy and Travellers are at best ignored and at worst used as political football.  However, we can challenge many assumptions and make a clear constructive point; that our members are voters too.  Too often this gets forgotten.  We aim to let politicians know what priorities our members have, if nothing else, we aim to reinforce that Gypsies and Travellers have political opinions and a political voice which they are willing to exercise.


The frustrating point is that so much of this need not be so difficult for politicians; the priorities of Gypsies and Travellers are the same of almost everyone.  This should not be surprising.  We all want good choices of accommodation that are secure, affordable and located near to relevant services.  Even if that accommodation might look different for some and the practical policies consequently different, the wider aspiration is identical in essence.  It is the same for health, education, work; a desire for good choice and a quality service.  To find out what this might look like for our members then a candidate needs only to ask.  It is the will to do so which is too often lacking.


We will try and make this as easy and possible though.  Over the campaign we will be making clear to candidates in our area what some of these key priorities, about accommodation and health, look like.  These won’t of course be a definitive view of every local Gypsy and Traveller, everyone’s political opinions vary greatly, but some basic signposts.  If nothing else, we are looking for engagement on these issues, to get politicians to start thinking about what our members might be interested in.  To see Gypsies and Travellers as voters, as part of their electorate, would be an important step forward for many. 


So over the coming weeks we will again be working to promote Operation Traveller Vote to ensure that interested members are registered and aware of their options.  We will make candidates well aware that Gypsies and Travellers have strong political voices.  Many hopefully intend to use them!

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