A MILITARY veteran who spent 42 years in the Army has urged the people of Oxfordshire to use their vote in May’s General Election. Terry Roper, 66, who left the armed forces in 2012 with the rank of Major, served in many countries where democracy has only recently been established.

Terry Roper And he said this year was particularly important for people to remember the sacrifices made that allow them to have the right to vote.

He said: “Last August marked the centenary of the start of the First World War, which we fought for freedom, and this year is the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This year also marks 800 years since Magna Carta was signed.

“When we look back it was the First World War that really got women the right to vote in 1918. There are an awful lot of people who have made sacrifices for freedom so we could get the right to vote.

“People grumble about politicians but we put things right by voting people in or out. Without people in the past laying down their lives and fighting for the right we would be living in a dictatorship.’’ Mr Roper first voted in a General Election in 1970, when Ted Heath became Prime Minister, and joined the Royal Green Jackets the same year. He served with the fourth and fifth battalions of the regiment until 2007 when it was amalgamated with three other regiments to become The Rifles.

His service took him to Lithuania, Ukraine and Macedonia between 2002 and 2012, countries which were part of oneparty-states until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Mr Roper, of Botley, said: “I really think voting is something people will not miss until they are gone. I have seen the aftermath of not having a democracy in other countries where people are using their democratic right.

“They have now got freedom of speech and they can vote for a political party rather than one man or one woman.

“They are proud to have the choice that we have.’’ The chairman of the Oxford branch of the Royal Green Jackets Association said who people voted for was not as important as voting itself.

THE FIRST-TIME VOTER

AT THE last general election in 2010 just 52 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 voted. In 2005 that number was even lower, with just over one in three people casting a ballot.

With almost threequarters of over 65s voting five years ago its has been claimed young people are disadvantaged when it comes to the decisions politicians make because they are less likely to vote a party in or out of power.

Alistair Fiori, 19, is a first-year student at Oxford Brookes University and plans to vote in Oxford East in May. He was only 14 at the time of the last General Election and could not vote.

Banbury Cake:

Alistair Fiori 

He said: “It will be my first. My decision to vote is a pretty recent thing really. It is important to me because it is about what is going to be happening in the next few years, particularly for me as a university student. I think it is very important to get young voters out.’’ Issues such as tuition fees are often seen as major concerns for young voters.

Mr Fiori said: “Fees are a really big issue and I know that some political parties seem to favour some subjects over others.

“I think it is important that other young people sign up to vote and go out and use their vote in May.’’

HOW TO REGISTER

TO register to vote online visit gov.uk where you can fill in an online form and register. You will need your National Insurance number.

You can also call your district or city council and ask for them to send you a paper form.

People with internet access who want to fill in a paper form can email elections@oxford.gov.uk You need to re-register to vote every time you move house.

Under the new system you can re-register every time you move, rather than just once a year.

You can register if you are 16 or above (although you cannot vote until you are 18) and are a British, Irish, Commonweath or European citizen living in the UK. The final date to register to vote is April 20.