With the 2015 General Election looming, there are many decisions that hang in the balance. However, one aspect of the election that seems a certainty is that the turnout from young people (aged 18-24) is going to be the lowest seen in many years.
In the 2005 General Election, a mere 38.2% of young people aged between 18 and 24 voted compared to the average of 61.3%. This figure did increase in 2010 but once again, our country must beg the question – why are our young people becoming increasingly disinterested in politics?
The problem facing young people, including myself, is that it is so easy to become caught in a dangerous cycle within the British political system. If young people don’t vote then they don’t get their voices heard, additionally, if young people don’t vote then politicians won’t frame policies to benefit young people.
As much as we would all like to think otherwise, politicians have an objective to get re-elected, if young people aren’t voting then politicians won’t view young people as a section of the electorate that can be “won over” as they don’t vote anyway. The simple solution to this is voting!
You wouldn’t get someone else to order your food at Nandos
Throughout history, people have dedicated their lives to campaigning for the right to vote and yet in modern society it is a privilege that we seem to ignore.
It was less than 50 years ago that black people in America sacrificed their lives in the hope of gaining the vote, similarly, it is nearing 100 years ago that women were first granted the vote here in the UK. People laid down their lives to vote, because having a political voice is a fundamental right.
Granted, it is also your right to withhold from voting but, as Jeremy Paxman asked Russell Brand, “How do you have any authority to talk about politics?”
Similarly, Nick Clegg brilliantly constructed an analogy (while guest appearing on The Last Leg) that you wouldn’t get someone else to order your food for you at Nandos so why let someone else decide on your Government? In order for change to occur then we must become involved within the very system that we seek to change.
Lower the voting age?
There is often a heavy generalisation that all young people are completely disenfranchised with politics. While young people may feel disconnected with politicians and the idea of politics – everyone has political views it’s just some people aren’t aware of it!
The debate and issue over the lowering of the voting age seems to have intensified over the past year; Labour seem to support the notion to lower the voting age to 16 and the Scottish referendum evidenced how young people can get involved in politics (the turnout for 16 and 17 year olds was 80%). It seems unlikely that the voting age would be lowered, unless it was used as a political tool to gain votes for a desperate party, as there is no inclination that younger people in society are fully engaged.
This shows how the problem isn’t young people not being completely interested in politics but how little young people know about politics. Despite the Scottish Referendum involving complicated implications, it was a yes or no decision; a 50/50 choice that involved plenty of passion. The issue is, General Elections aren’t a matter of a 50/50 choice.
Do young people know about politics?
Young people constantly feeling excluded from politics is an issue that faces our society. The problem, however, and the beginning of this perilous cycle is that young people are not educated about politics. The Scottish Referendum turnout, conversations around Universities and Schools and the scrutinising of politicians all demonstrate young people do care about politics. But do young people know about politics?
It isn’t expected for young people to understand all of the archaic traditions surrounding the Commons Proceedings which have recently been broadcasted in Inside The Commons however there is a general lack of knowledge about politics amongst young people.
Change and responsibility
Again, this may appear to be a generalisation as there are many people out there, young people included, whom know a great deal (and a great deal more than myself) about British Politics.
Likewise, there are probably many older people who may know little about the subject. But isn’t it our country’s responsibility to ensure that young people do get educated about the campaigns for suffrage across the world and the very importance of voting and understanding politics?
However much people may distrust politicians, we must consider ourselves thankful that we live in a country where we can afford to actually have a General Election (2013 Election in Zimbabwe couldn’t be funded); thankful that we live in a country that permits all genders to vote (Saudi Arabia) and we should be thankful that we live in a country and a time when we can express our political opinions through a vote.
We may even get recognised
Ultimately, the responsibility lies with all politicians to ensure that young people become aware of politics and its functions, but the responsibility also lies with us…the people.
I now speak to you directly, whether old or young, male or female, right wing or left wing, to practise the right that you have to vote and if you can’t just yet, then take an interest in the Election and start to understand politics as much as you need to because it shouldn’t be left to only a few people to decide what happens to our country.
You never know, if the turnout for the 2015 General Election soars to unprecedented levels then politicians may just begin to recognise the previously unheard political voice.
The BRIT POLITICS 2015 General Election Team - About Jack
Jack O'Neill, 17, is from Devon. He intends to study history and international relations.
With a key interest in international conflict and young people’s participation in politics he hopes to break the barrier of the upper class in Westminster.
Discover more about the 2015 General Election and articles like these through our dedicated election pages