Whether it's from Russell Brand or someone else there's been a lot of discussion lately not only about whether young people will vote but whether we even should. In a system which seems to constantly let us down, where politicians promise us one thing and then do something else, why on earth should we participate?
At Liverpool Hope Students' Union we recently finished a survey of our students' attitudes to voting. There were quite a few people who, when asked why they were not planning to vote, told us that they were actively choosing not to participate. Here's what some of them said:
"I think the current system is inherently corrupt. Whichever party is in power. I refuse to waste any of my time supporting any of them."
"I believe that non participation in a system that divides and segregates us, destroys the earth, causes pollution, famine, poverty and war is the only moral choice I have."
It's certainly a compelling argument. When a system seems inherently biased against you, when you see older generations taking decisions where you will have to face the consequences, not them, participating in it can seem like tacit consent.
However, I still argue that we should vote. Yes, I am an idealist but I'm a pragmatist as well. We certainly need a new system. We have an unelected upper house and head of state. We have a method of forming governments where, when the majority vote against austerity, we get the most savage cuts agenda this country has seen in decades. But how can we realistically get this change?
Well, young people have long voted in worryingly small numbers so I'm not exactly clear how more low participation from young people will achieve a different result this time. After all, doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result has never been a successful technique.
So let's try something different. Let's recognise that politicians are relying on our votes to get them into office. Let's see that issues that affect over 65s (over 75% of whom voted at the last election) are constantly debated and protected - winter fuel allowance, free bus passes etc. Imagine if we hit those levels of voter turnout, they would start not only to listen but to actually do something for us.
With that sort of platform, we could then call for democratic reform. We could demand that our politicians create an economic future where we can have careers, buy houses and live the lives that they got so easily. We could ensure that their environmental policy protected a planet for our children - who will actually have to live on it.
Maybe we do need a revolution. Maybe there is a much better system. If you can tell what it is and how we get there, perhaps I'll join the fight. But until that comes, I am not going to tell my fellow young people to stop voting (after all we can vote now and revolt later...). I say that we take back the system. We use the voice that people died for us to have and start shouting for change and reform. Otherwise, if we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always got.
As one of our students puts it:
"I always, on principle, vote in elections for which I am eligible. It is a democratic right which was fought for. One cannot criticise authorities or make suggestions, unless willing to participate even at the basic level of voting."
National Voter Registration Day is on Wednesday 5th February. Go to bitetheballot.co.uk or contact your Students' Union to find out more.Suggest a correction