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Political Apathy Is Preventing Us From Achieving Change

01/06/2017 12:51 BST | Updated 01/06/2017 12:51 BST
selimaksan via Getty Images

I thought about comparing politicians to Marmite when starting this piece, but I decided against it. I didn't want to give the love-it-or-hate-it spread a bad name.

The thing is, I don't have to look much further than the small North East village I live in to see that politicians aren't well-liked. Most of us can log onto Facebook and see the posts and comments about the 'disgusting scum' running our country. And anyone can look at the turnout figures of the 2015 General Election when 35% of registered voters (also known as the 'unheard third) didn't use the power granted to them by democracy.

Since the financial crash of 2008, public opinion of politicians has plummeted. We don't admire them and we most certainly do not like them. If you ask people why they won't vote, the answer is that all of them are the same. All of them cheat and lie. None of them will give you a straight answer. And, my favourite of them all: it won't make a difference.

With the latest Tory tactic of a 'snap' election just around the corner on 9th June, commentators expect turnout to be low. Not only do we hate politicians, we're sick and tired of voting. In 2015 a slim majority chose David Cameron to lead us. In June 2016, 52% of the country chose to leave the European Union. In May, we are going to the polls for the local council elections. Then, the big one: the General Election comes in June. One woman interviewed by the BBC on the day the election was announced rose to social media prominence. Brenda said she was "honestly" sick and tired, repeatedly asking "another one?" and announced that "there's too much politics going on". Brenda doesn't just speak for Brenda, she speaks for a whole host of people - most of the 'unheard third' probably agree with her.

There is quite clearly apathy towards politics in this country. It is something that both Trump and Corbyn are honing in on (I never thought I'd be mentioning similarities between the two) by calling out the establishment. Corbyn's animated "I don't play by the establishment's rules" eruption at the launch of Labour's election campaign is surely to strike a chord with the nation (whether this will translate into votes of course remains to be seen) that is tired of career politicians who graduated with a PPE degree from Oxford.

This General Election poses a new problem: many people find they don't want to vote Conservative because they don't agree with their policies, but feel that Corbyn's Labour Party is too weak to lead. They feel stuck in the labyrinth of politics and don't know which party - if any - to turn to. So instead, they turn against politicians all together. And who can blame them? Nothing changes: people are still unable to get a house; many can't even afford to feed their children by working just one job; the NHS is on its knees and education is being hacked to the core. For the majority of this country - the ordinary, working people - things aren't improving. It's only natural they give Theresa the cold shoulder and Jeremy a disappointed scowl.

However, since nothing is changing in our climate of apathy, perhaps some of the burden of society's stagnation should be taken on by those who abstain from voting. If the 'unheard third' turned out, things could be different. If those not registered signed up, things could be different. If young people translated their keyboard power into a sweeping ballot force, we could be a wholly different country.

It is the atmosphere of apathy that is preventing this country from moving forward and achieving the change we wish to see. Saying that the vote women died for won't change anything is wrong. If you don't want Tory rule, don't vote for it. Vote against it. Don't say that the Greens aren't going to win so there's no point. While the Green candidate may not be your new local MP, your vote for the party counts and will still be a part of the voting numbers spoken about on the news. It may even play a part in the case for electoral reform. The Greens and parties like them aren't a worthless vote either - without them, certain issues (like the environment and even Brexit) wouldn't be as much of a pressure for the government to deal with as they are.

Tactical voting isn't immoral either. Voting Labour to prevent Tories might be a compromise, but one that can be worth it. If you vote for the alternative, it's a message to send that you don't like how things are. Keep voting for the alternative and you can make a difference. It will mark a shift in the political climate that can only grow from there.

Political apathy is getting us nowhere. We keep hitting brick walls. Only cooperation will change the way things are. We have to believe in change and we have to be optimistic when it comes to politics. Pretty much every revolution anywhere in history grew out of a want to participate in politics and society.

As a nation have a duty to take control of how we want it to be lead and can do so through our vote.

Don't reject politics - talk of it, challenge those within it and, above all else, make sure you participate in it.