A disengagement in politics

student march

Written by Jasmine York

Although I have noticed an increasing interest in politics among young people, and while it is refreshing to see a diminishing ignorance in public affairs, it seems that the younger population are still the most unlikely to vote: in 2010, 44% of people aged 18-24 voted in the General Election (UK Political Info). This is the lowest percentage out of the 6 categories, with those over 65 being the most active voters. I believe that an undoubtedly present apathy among young people contributes to the neglect from politicians – they are past caring. Goodbye, EMA. Hello pensions.

There is a lot of work to be done in order to attract young people to politics and with the General Election coming in just a matter of months, I hope to see the parties working particularly hard with this age group. I believe that the absence of politics from the National Curriculum is a fundamental flaw that has contributed significantly to young people’s indifference. Without being educated on political parties, how the government works and the significance of voting, young people are confused when confronted by the choice of who to elect. This is without mentioning the petty, child-like point scoring between party leaders which only results in further hesitation and reluctance. I feel that young people are hugely neglected by politicians because we feel young people have nothing to contribute. But how are we supposed to engage when we are not taught, advised or listened to? The more the politicians choose to ignore us, the more distant from politics we become. I feel it is partly up to the political parties to make a conscious effort to break this cycle, however, we must play a decisive role. If we are not proactive, then be prepared for an ongoing rise of travel costs – train ticket prices have increased by on average 2.2% (The Guardian). Those at university will already be feeling the impact of the atrocious £9000 tuition fees and maybe experiencing doubt in whether a degree education is even worth it. Once young people are enlightened of what social factors affect them, I believe they will become more concerned with who runs the country. The Green Party are for scrapping university tuition fees. Labour plan to improve citizen education in schools in order to encourage young people to vote. They also plan to bring voting to the 21st century by allowing individuals to choose online.

I think it is important for politics to be tailored to young people because it will evoke interest and encourage debate. Russell Brand has identified this and by using his comedic, authoritative demeanour, he has stimulated debate. His conviction that voting is pointless will be appealing to those who are lazy and ignorant, who are therefore easily convinced. However, it also appeals to those who did have an intention to vote but have become disillusioned by his ideas. While I enjoy watching him destroy American media and while I can just about see some logic behind the idea of not voting, I feel it best to educate viewers on policies so that they can form their own opinion. Brand profusely points out that media channels have their own agenda. Well, so does he.

A new wave of interest in politics is evident and I believe it to be, at least in part, provoked by the Scottish referendum campaign. Thousands of 16-17 year olds were engaging and getting involved and their votes and contributions made a difference. This shows that young people can be political. Notice the uproars on social media when a member of UKIP makes a discriminatory comment. Notice the number of young campaigners who are involved with Greenpeace. Notice the reactions to news stories on Tumblr. Notice the noise we are making. I vividly recall the fury in the debate when deciding to legalise gay marriage. Voting is a right and we should take full advantage of it.

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