Why Young People Shouldn't Let Others Decide Their Future

24/05/2016 08:26 | Updated 24 May 2016

One 'old-school' politician told me bluntly: show him a politician going after the youth vote, he said, and he would show you a loser. The young don't vote, so why bother chasing shadows? This shocked me and also saddened me.

The argument is depressingly reinforced by cold statistics. Turnout at the 2015 general election among those aged 18 to 24 was just 43%, compared to two-thirds of all voters. Even the referendum on Scottish independence, in which 85% of voters took part, could only muster half of 18 to 24 year-olds to the polling station. So why should we try to engage young people this time around, with our future in the EU on the line? I'll tell you why.

One reason is that if young people don't vote, then the failure is ours, not theirs. It's the job of us politicians to make politics engaging and accessible - less official, less formal, more casual. Westminster should be reaching out to everybody, not just the political classes. That is why I am delighted to be leading the new #VOTIN campaign with Britain Stronger in Europe to reach out to younger voters in the EU referendum taking place in 30 days time. You can watch the launch video here

This referendum matters to everybody. It matters to me as a thirty something MP and it matters to you. It matters more than whether you voted in the May's local election, or even last year's General Election - important as these contests are, there will be repeat performances in the coming years. The last referendum on our EU membership took place before I was even born, and the youngest person to have voted in it is now 58. It is a once in a lifetime decision, and the younger you are in this referendum, the longer you will live with the huge consequences of this decision.

And it is the young generation for whom the answer is most obvious: life is better in the EU. As the #VOTIN launch video points out whether it is 'learnin', 'travellin', 'sharin' - the 'easyjet generation' takes being in the EU for granted on so many levels, and reaps the biggest rewards from our membership. They will be the worst affected if Britain votes to leave, finding it harder to get a job, suffering the squeeze of lower wages and higher prices, and forfeiting their automatic right to work, study and travel abroad. In the years in which most young people would expect to be moving forward with their lives, our country would be plunged into an era of uncertainty. The easyjet generation could quickly become the lost generation unless it makes it's voice heard.

By contrast, voting to stay in is not simply a vote for the status quo; it is a commitment to fighting for a better, stronger, more secure future; with Britain leading the EU, not leaving it. We want to be a country that values cooperation with the neighbours on our doorstep, and one that builds relationships, not barriers, with other countries. Of course, the EU is not perfect, but like any in relationship or marriage, if all you ever looked at was the sacrifices you are making, rather than the-give-and-take, most of us would end up as singletons!

The truth is this: if you don't turn out to vote it is not the politicians who will lose. This is not a time to stand by and watch events unfold; it is a time to make your voice heard. So make sure you register to vote by the ‪7th June, and do vote on the 23rd June. Don't let others decide your future. You should be the ones who decide your future.

Sam Gyimah is the Conservative MP for East Surrey