We've got this wonderful thing called democracy, but only some of us seem to be using it. In the EU referendum, only 64% of young people felt the urge to vote, and in general elections that figure sinks even further. The numbers are particularly bad among young people, but as a nation, we still only managed a 66% turnout in the 2015 General Election.
The beautiful thing about living in a democracy is the freedom of choice that comes with it, and that of course includes the freedom to abstain from voting, but why are so many people choosing not to vote? Talk Politics is a group I've co-founded with the aim of reducing apathy, and we've identified three key areas that lead to lacklustre voter participation: lack of political education, the labelling that arises from politics, and its bad image. Many agree with our central aim and we've been endorsed by many high-profile politicians including Nicky Morgan MP - the former Secretary of State for Education, Tim Farron MP - leader of the Lib Dems, and Sir Vince Cable - former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
"Politics matters and TalkPolitics is a welcome voice in challenging everyone, but particularly younger voters, to make sure they take an active interest in what politicians are debating and deciding and don't let others have a say for them." - Nicky Morgan MP, former Secretary of State for Education
Political education and making politics more accessible is a defining part of what we're trying to achieve. The EU Referendum is a perfect example of when voters felt as though they hadn't been given all the facts - or had been misled over the key issues. That's why we're calling for more political education in schools and also running our own "Politics Put Simply" series on our blog. In these articles, we put partisan politics to one side and try to strip down debates to the facts and also evaluate the functions of key institutions and figures in British politics. This should help voters make a more informed vote. Our work is more important now than ever with the tide of "fake news" that's making its way into politics. That's why we have a "Mythbuster" series on out blog which seeks to separate fact from fiction. One week we debunked myths about Jeremy Corbyn, the next Lady Thatcher.
"I fully support this extremely worthwhile campaign. Politics affects virtually every thing, person and place you encounter on a daily basis, and it's absolutely essential that as many people get engaged in the political process as possible." - Tim Farron MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Talk Politics is also concerned by much of the safe space culture that has arisen in debates and political conversation. We believe these attitudes are detrimental to progress and debate. Conservative voters shouldn't be labelled "bigots," just as Labour voters shouldn't be decried as loonies. Everyone is entitled to their view and we want to promote that attitude by campaigning for the protection of free speech. At the same time, we recognise some views are irrational but believe these should be engaged with through rational debate instead of swept under the carpet in the naive hope that they'll go away.
Both these campaigns should, in turn, help improve the image that Westminster currently has. We cut through the political jargon and media bias through our articles and interviews because we want to challenge the notion that what happens in Westminster won't affect you. It will, and the best way to control it is by voting.