“I’m not into politics. I don’t understand it. It doesn’t affect my life. Why should I vote?”
Those words were blurted at me after the very mention of ‘General Election’ to a random young passer-by. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the level of apathy towards politics and its workings is sky high amongst younger people and unfortunately it is the majority of my age group (18-24) who feel this way. Yet when we consider: Tall ‘privileged-looking’ men in suits, jargon and a tip off from mum that none are worth listening to (as they all break their ‘promises’), we can hardly complain that it makes anything other than a recipe for disillusionment. And it is the direct link between those men’s decisions and our everyday lives that has been smudged as a result. I mean, ask a younger person whether they look forward to the prospect of going to university or even if they’d like the goal posts in the park all year round and you’re likely to get heartfelt responses. Yet when this is put into the context of supporting the party nationally or locally which is championing these ‘policies’, the enthusiasm is almost instantly sapped.
It’s something I attempted to overcome with varying success when I hosted my constituencies’ first ever youth hustings (16-24) a couple days ago. Quite tellingly getting the prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) from the three main parties to attend and agreeing a date took less than 24hrs, whereas getting normal young people to come took the best part of a week. (‘Normal’ – being the young lady who offered us the title of this piece, for example).
The challenge that presented itself was to convincingly pitch the notion that these politicians don’t have a clue, you’ve got to tell them how to improve things and if we want change you have to be it. It was well received; I exchanged phone numbers with all of the 8 people I approached on a single journey into town. However, despite the recognition that it’d be nice for ‘change’, I found through the conversations a recurring admittance, when pressed, the people I approached simply did not know what they would like changed, improved or even removed.
The urgent desire for reform is not there and it goes to suggest that young people even lack the capacity to imagine things worse off. Though whether something such as tax credits are abolished or not means pretty little to myself (and I’m considered ‘clued up’) so not being able to relate to the significance of particular issues as a young person is understandable.
At the same time, this is the very reason it’s essential for us young people to speak up, as if we fail to the issues directly affecting us will be left off the agenda and politics will seemingly have an even lesser relevance to our lives. The interaction of local young people and the PPCs proved beneficial in bridging the gap between and improving trust as I received positive responses from both sides. Whether this will prove as positive when there is a single MP accountable for the pledges he made that evening leaves me with some doubt.
Nonetheless, a breakthrough was made yesterday when one of the attendees approached me on road and asked for the contact details for one of the PPCs (a lawyer by trade), for simple legal advice – recognition local MPs are here to serve the community and can be relied upon!
One small step for young people, one big step for democracy.
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