THE BLOG

Don't Give The Old Elite A Free Hand  - Young People Are The Real Kingmakers In The Upcoming Election

18/05/2017 11:29
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As the weeks went by during the Brexit referendum campaign, it became obvious that the plight of young people was something of a footnote. On Brexit -- or indeed any other related issue -- young people's concerns got the briefest of mentions. Yet it's hard to think of any other demographic group more affected by Brexit than the youth.

Young people are put off by mainstream politics: The political language, the same stale talking points, and politics fueled by personalities instead of specific policies are alienating to a lot of us. This isn't to let young people off the hook. In the EU referendum, 64% of young people did not turn up at the polling station to cast their ballots. The 51.9% to 48.1% vote to in favour of leaving the EU was close -- if the rest of the electorate had voted, it could have been quite a different picture. But low voter turnout among the youth has been the norm for the past decades. In the 2015 general election, the voting among the 18-24 age group stood at a dismal 43%. In fact since 1992, youth turnout rates at UK general elections have been in sharp decline. Meanwhile, around 75% of people in the over-65 age group expected to vote in the June 8th election. People aged 65 and over vote in such big numbers that, for any politician, ignoring them amounts to instant political suicide.

So, in an inevitable spiral, successive governments have made a strategic calculation to stiff the next generation. This is not because of some underlying sinister plot to inflict economic insecurity and perpetual anxiety on the younger generation, but because the youth is simply less likely to vote in large numbers. While older voters are invited to the front of the queue, the young are pushed to the back. We've heard it all before: "Young people don't vote. They'll never stand up for themselves." In turn, this attitude has produced droves of disillusioned youth detached from the political system.

For proof, just look at the policies of successive governments. It's no coincidence that the collapse of the youth voting bloc has come with the freefall in home ownership among young people, the rapid rise in tuition fees, the scrapping of youth services, and an epidemic of low-paying jobs. All in the name of balancing the books on youthful backs in a failing austerity program that has provided fertile ground for the surging far-right.

The young people's reluctance to vote is a symptom of a widening gulf between them and the system. Of course, a lot of young voters choose not to vote because what's on offer by the political establishment rarely connects to their reality. Take for example Theresa May's robotic soundbites -- like "strong and stable" leadership -- that are not reflective of young people's actual lives. For many of us, things are not stable, not strong, and, above all, not secure.

So, what does all this tell us? Inaction breeds this self-fulfilling prophecy.

Only through voting in mass numbers can young people deny the political elite a free hand to chart our future for us. Young people must build a powerful voting coalition that can force politicians to address issues that concern us most, issues like protecting our environment, ensuring access to inclusive education, secure employment, and affordable housing. Through technology, we can transform the political system itself so that it becomes less esoteric and more accessible.

Class wars will only intensify in the post-Brexit political climate. The Tories are already using Brexit as a springboard to create a cruel society that only benefits a few. In their version of Britain, a chance at affordable housing, pensions, and having decent lives is a distant dream for our generation.

But we we have the chance to change this. This is not about left or right tribalism. It's about the fundamentals of our democracy, and the fact that for many of us, something feels broken. We will not solve the woes of our generation by wringing our hands with inaction. We need to understand the power of our vote -- we could stop the waging of war against our future. This is why we must mobilize, vote and prepare to confront the challenges of this most unusual political moment.

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