Editor in Chief of Naked Politics
Politics at the moment is absolutely crazy; the referendum result has totally changed the political dynamic. Our future is so impossible to predict. What is deeply ironic is that, despite it’s fluctuating nature, politics has never been so jaw-droppingly uninspiring. If you’re aged 18-24 you know the feeling of political neglect like almost no other demographic group. The recent past is littered with broken promises — the Liberal Democrats breaking their manifesto pledge on tuition fees still stings the most — and continual swipes at the younger generation. There was the introduction of tuition fees by New Labour, the ‘living wage’ introduced by the Conservatives for over-25s only.
Housing benefit for 18-21s has been totally scrapped. Grants for the poorest university students no longer exist. The school system is deeply under-funded, with more money being diverted towards shallow and baseless projects like free schools and grammar schools. The hard ideological Brexit being pursued is likely to not only create a terrible long-term economic climate, but to foster an atmosphere of intolerance of those who are different to us. So it’s no wonder young people feel there is little to vote for.
But we have just as much of a stake in this society as anyone else. We have the power to change things; to have better schools and better opportunities in life. We have the power to create a more sensible Brexit that doesn’t suffocate our economy and reduce our employment opportunities here and in the EU.
There are more than enough of us to turn the tide. So, here are my top three reasons to get registered and vote.
1. If we don’t vote in large numbers, politicians will never care about us.
Politicians do nothing to inspire young people or break their manifesto promises, making young people increasingly apathetic. Young people becoming more apathetic means politicians continue to ignore the concerns of young people, in turn making them even more disfranchised from the political system. Its a vicious, depressing cycle, but one that can definitely be broken.
Ultimately, politicians care about votes and being elected. If young voters turn out in significant numbers, suddenly our vote has more political capital. If we can utilise our ability to be an electoral game changer, all political parties will care an awful lot more about our concerns.
It is hard when most political parties policies are so uninspiring to young people, but unfortunately during an election votes are the only thing that counts in politics. So, if you want your concerns addressed by politicians and to shake up the political dynamic, the best thing to do is hit the ballot box on 8 June.
2. This is no ordinary general election. The type of Brexit we pursue will have systemic long term consequences for young people.
The difference between a ‘hard Brexit’ and a ‘soft Brexit’ is absolutely huge. 73 per cent of young people voted to remain within the EU, suggesting most of us would prefer to stay in the single market and/or customs union, keep the current travelling rights within Europe and retain an internationalist, welcoming outlook when it comes to immigration.
Young people don’t really hold old-fashioned views about national sovereignty, but are open to Britain working in close collaboration with our European partners for our mutual benefit. All of this at risk. We are on an ideological road to isolating ourselves from our biggest markets and become inward looking, desperately harking back to a meaningless trading relationship with former colonies that could never possibly replace the trade that we have with Europe.
If we don’t get an ‘acceptable’ trade deal that magically restricts freedom of movement of workers but still gives us a similar level of access to the European single market, we could be going straight to WTO rules and be at a huge regulatory disadvantage, in turn reducing investment in the UK and job opportunities for young people.
This isn’t just about what sort of a country we are for the next five years. It’s about who we are as a country for potentially the coming decades. The core values most young people share of acceptance, fairness and collaboration over isolation are at stake.
3. Education, Education, Education.
Never has getting yourself educated been so expensive. Politicians who had the luxury of going to university for nothing have imposed larger and larger fees on young people just trying to widen their opportunities in life, in an increasingly competitive job climate. We’ve been sold the idea that ever-increasing tuition fees are a fact of life; if you want an education (and to be able to live and support yourself at the same time) you have to pay for it. The current narrative is that the government spending money to actually invest in young people and this country’s future rather than saddling us with debt up to our eye-balls is ‘economically irresponsible’.
I’d also like to think young people are also concerned about the issues that affect those not quite old enough to vote. The return of grammar schools won’t be doing anyone, apart from the more financially well-off kids any favours. Reams of studies consistently show that grammar schools do very little for the poorest kids and that well-funded comprehensive schools produce better results. Using your vote this June could put real educational opportunity at the top of the political agenda.
So there we have it, three reasons to get registered by the deadline of 22nd May and have your say at the ballot box on 8th June. The politicians generally don’t care about us, and that shows through successive government policies. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The future is ours. It’s time we took ownership.
This article was first published by the progressive blog The Left Foot Forward.