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Young People Should Vote to Make Politicians Listen

05/05/2015 13:48 BST | Updated 05/05/2015 13:59 BST

Although it may not be apparent at times, all young people in the UK have much the same rights as their adult counterparts: the right to free speech, the right to liberty, the right to free thought. And once everyone reaches the age of eighteen the right to vote also becomes available - so why don't more young people use it?

In the last general election in 2010 only 44% of 18 to 24-year-olds registered to vote actually cast a ballot - the smallest percentage out of any other age group. Since politicians are only interested in people who are going to vote for them, and bearing in mind how few young people vote, is it really any wonder that governments so often give young people such a disproportionately raw deal?

The political storm surrounding the changes to university tuition fees is probably one of the biggest and difficult situations that the current coalition government has had to face. The Lib Dems promised in their 2010 election manifesto that they would prevent tuition fees being raised to a maximum of £9,000-a-year. Now though, over half of all universities in England and Wales charge the £9,000 fee with the remaining establishments charging at least £6,000. Also, to be fair to the coalition, it was Tony Blair's New Labour government that introduced tuition fees in the first place.

But the current and past governments felt able to introduce these substantial changes because they knew that young people wouldn't "punish them at the polls" despite widespread criticism.

The current government's huge rafts of cost-cutting measures introduced to try and get the British economy back on track have, although deemed necessary, particularly damaged the education system. How can schools, sixth forms and colleges provide effective education when there isn't enough money to go round? In recent years the education system has been thrown and kicked around like a rugby ball: from Labour allowing it to slip, causing it to become basic and unsophisticated, to Michael Gove's sudden, vigorous and dramatic toughening up reforms.

Many students justly protest that things are now hard enough, meaning no more reforms are needed. 18-year-olds have the ability to stand up for all teenagers by voting in accordance with their opinions.

This is also the case with national and international political affairs where the combined opinions of all age groups influence politicians into making decisions that are desired by the majority. Perhaps the government could be persuaded into further reducing the problematic youth unemployment rate of over 700,000 (with young people being three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population) if more young people made their opinions clear in the shape of a vote.

The power of the ballot should not be underestimated and it should be made clear that politics is not just an issue for men who sit in expensive bars while trying to understand an edition of the Financial Times. Politics affects everyone's lives: be it the equipment available to use at a gym, the way we are allowed to drive on the roads, or the price of a pint of beer (or a Singapore Sling, whatever takes your fancy).

The elections on May 7th will be the first opportunity for many people to vote, and it won't be a long or difficult process: drawing a cross on a ballot paper is not exactly a trek across the Himalayas. The simple fact of the matter is that the more young people who vote, the more the politicians will listen, because their jobs rely on the support of voters.

In these upcoming elections I won't just be voting to back the political party I think is best; more importantly, I'll be promoting the importance of the young.