I got involved in politics because I believe that it's about making positive changes which can improve people's quality of life.
In any other part of the world, political parties put issues such as improving the economy, delivering quality public services, tackling social exclusion and poverty, protecting the environment and other quality-of-life issues at the top of their priorities, particularly in the middle of a recession.
In Northern Ireland, however, four out of the five main parties are defined primarily, not by their position on these fundamental policy issues, but by their stance on which flag flies over this region.
Now, I'm not claiming that other parties don't care about policy, but they clearly give higher priority to carving up territory between orange and green than to offering people a real choice between elected representatives based on their policies - as demonstrated by those attempting to create sectarian pacts in recent days and weeks.
At these elections, the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is not at stake, but your quality of life is. Yet in many areas the traditional sectarian battle-lines have already been drawn.
In the best of times, such divisive, tribal politics has a destabilising and distracting impact, absorbing energy and attention which would be better spent on tackling the chaos in our education system and the need to rebalance our economy and grow opportunities for private sector employment.
However, in the current economic climate, this kind of tribal posturing is a luxury we simply cannot afford.
It is clear that, whatever the make-up of the next UK government, there are serious implications for public expenditure and that has serious consequences for us locally for two key reasons.
Firstly, our economy is over-reliant on public sector employment. Swingeing cuts proposed by the Conservatives and Unionists could simply move large numbers of people from public sector employment to the dole queues, creating a deepening of the recession locally across the board and a crisis in delivery of key public services to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, without making much of a dent in the national debt. Secondly, in spite of all of the progress we have made politically, we are still a deeply divided society and one in which segregation is treated as a right and integration as a luxury. In fact, the reverse is true.
Every year the cost of division to Northern Ireland is more than £1bn - or about £1,000 to every household. We need elected representatives who are willing to argue for shared services and work with and support communities and individuals who are trying to build a united community so that we can ensure access to high-quality public services which are shared by all. This election is too important to be a re-run of the tribal politics of the past. It has to be about dealing with the future.
The challenges are clear, but there are also major opportunities: we could harness the wealth of our history, heritage, hospitality and the natural beauty of the region to create wealth through growing tourism, or to harness our innovation and creativity and our natural resources to build the green economy and deliver sustainable employment. These are just two of many examples of the potential for growth, but if we are going to realise those opportunities, then we need to elect positive people who can - and will - work together for the good of all of the people. We need to elect innovative politicians who, instead of being fixated with carving up an ever-decreasing cake between orange and green, can see the potential to increase the cake so that everyone can have a share in a brighter future.
Alliance has a clear vision, a clear set of values, and a clear purpose: to build a fairer, more united community and maximise the potential of Northern Ireland economically, socially and culturally. We have the policies to back it up and the track-record of delivering.
Aside from the tribal carve-ups, recent scandals in Westminster and closer to home have shaken public confidence in politics.
Any Alliance Assembly members who get elected to Westminster will step down from Stormont, but we also want to deal with the issues of MPs working in other careers, doing consultancy work or cashing in on speaking engagements.
We want MPs' expenses' rules to be brought into line with Stormont, so that receipts are required for every claim. We need to re-build public confidence in politics - and we will take radical steps to do it. This society has moved on: people want stability and peace, but they also want progress.
This election is your chance to vote for a fresh, constructive and positive approach at Westminster, with elected representation which works for the whole community and not just one section of it; which works in the public interest - not just selfish or party interest.
You can stop the negativity and end the tribal carve-ups. Send a clear message on May 6. Make your vote work for you by voting Alliance.
Naomi Long is the Alliance Party candidate in East Belfast