Most of our nation woke up a week ago surprised about the results of the general election. Our political pundits, pollsters and politicians all got it wrong. The big question is why?
I didn't wake up surprised or shocked and it wasn't because I stayed up to watch the count. Six days before the General Election, on a community radio station I had predicted Corbyn's leadership to take 260 seats in Parliament (okay, even I didn't expect Labour wins in Canterbury and Kensington) but looking at the results I celebrated. I knew we did it, we had changed politics and none of them saw us coming: we, the youth had shaken the system. How did I get it right? Just like YouGov and Survation, I knew the mood on the ground and knew the youth vote would come out in huge numbers.
As the days went by, we started to see the emergence of two distinct camps.
The first camp started to indulge in a conversation and assess the surge of social media, grime artists and policies such as the scrapping of tuition fees. All of which played a role in engaging young people, but in assessing the situation this camp missed the fundamental cause. Yes, social media, grime artists and the scrapping of tuition fees had been mediums to engage with young people but none of them explain why 72% of young people came out and mainly voted for Labour. The root cause was that for the first time, a leader of a party like Jeremy Corbyn listened to young people and actually considered them part of the electorate by including them within the political debate. The young had gone from being the 'forgotten voices' to 'valued' members of our electorate.
On the other hand, rather than celebrating the diversity of our great democracy, the second camp either chose to ignore the 'youthquake' or instead launched an attack on the young electorate. Theresa May in the morning after the election, stood on the steps of No. 10 and spoke about moving forward and getting on with the job but failed to mention even once the huge success of our democracy in engaging the voices of young people. Others including, Clare Foges (David Cameron's former speech writer) launched an attack on the political choices of our young. Foges argued the election results showed that the political choices of the young were 'hopelessly naive' or based on wanting 'free stuff' without considering how such policies would be funded. She didn't stop there, Foges even suggested because of how they chose to vote, we should support increasing the voting age to 21. Just imagine if I turned to policies relating to elderly people and pensions and used the very same argument, to come to the very same ridiculous conclusion. However, unlike Clare Foges and others in her camp, I celebrate the diversity of our democracy and the benefits it brings when we are all involved. After all, isn't that what democracy really is?
The whole rhetoric on the subject made me ponder back to the pages of history. The opponents of the People's Charter of 1838 opposed the right to vote for the working man because they were too poor and uneducated to understand the workings of democracy. The opposers of black and minority ethnic political representation claimed that only white people were capable of making the best democratic choices. It wasn't so long ago when women's political choices were seen as too emotional or too feminine. Yet now we have over 200 women MPs, the most BME, LGBT and disabled MPs in Parliament and with such diversity, our democracy is only enhancing.
Finally, only a fool can suggest the fight for youth empowerment has been won. The 'youth' are still the only section of society that is good enough to make the Question Time audience but not the panel. And yes, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party recognised the existence of young people and engaged with them like never before and in turn, the young stood with them in huge numbers. But the 'Government in waiting' must push forward to keep the youth vote. Though policies concerning young people may be discussed in Parliament like never before and whilst the diversity within Parliament actually has voices that can be heard, the young remain voiceless. The young have been heard at the ballot box, now they must be heard within the chamber. It is time.Suggest a correction