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13/03/2015 10:26 GMT | Updated 20/03/2015 08:59 GMT

'The View Young People Are Lazy Is Absolute B*****ks': Rick Edwards Talks Voting And Politics

Rick Edwards used to present T4, which automatically makes him cool. So when the 35-year-old penned a passionate book on politics urging young people to vote, it was a pretty big deal.

After all, it's not often politics gets to be cool.

Rick, who currently presents BBC Three's Free Speech, a political show for youths, is a man on a mission. So when the opportunity arose to pick his brain about the recently-published None of the Above, we jumped at the chance.

rick

So, in a nutshell, why should young people voting?

It's not just young people, everyone should be. Democracy works best when everyone is involved, then everyone has an equal say in how the country is governed and who by.

I guess more worryingly, is what happens when people don't vote. Then they get marginalised and forgotten about and they can really feel that in a number of ways, and most significantly, financially. If you vote, you will likely be looked after better than if you don't vote. I think you can see that, as I talk about in the book. It's not a coincidence older people, who tend to turn out in greater numbers, tend to have their lives protected more - pensions, winter fuel allowance and so on.

Young people get their Education Maintenance Allowance scrapped and tuition fees trebled.

Some public figures *cough, Russell Brand, cough* have encouraged youths not to vote at all. Is this detrimental?

I don't agree with the people who say you shouldn't vote. The argument is, is that it's an effective form of protest but I just don't really buy that. When you look at the last general election, 56% of 18 to 24 year olds didn't vote. Everyone said, those people are apathetic and didn't care. They didn't say ooh, there's a huge swell of young people protesting. No-one interpreted it like that. So even if that was the case, it's impossible to measure.

I think it's entirely legitimate to feel like you don't want to vote for any of the parties. I think there should be a none of the above option, which I talk about in the book, but in the meantime spoiling your ballot at least says: 'I want to make my voice heard, to vote, to be involved, it's just none of you are representing me enough.'

That's a much more powerful way of making a statement than not voting, which will just lead to you getting ignored and written off.

But what does spoiling your ballot actually mean?

You go and you vote but instead of ticking one of the boxes by the name of the candidate you want to vote for, if you don't want to vote for any of them, you put a cross through the whole paper. That is a spoilt ballot and that gets counted and so you'll know if there are a significant number of spoilt ballots.

It's do to with being active rather than passive. Interestingly, there are guidelines on the electoral commission website which say exactly how you're allowed to spoil your ballot, which seems like madness. I didn't actually know this until someone pointed it out to me the other day, and I just thought 'you've got to be kidding me'.

If there is any ambiguity, if you ticked more than one of the boxes, then that wouldn't be acceptable. It seems odd that you have to protest in a specific way... but there you go.

Are these old, archaic traditions and stuffy jargon part of the problem?

One way is to say politics is just incredibly complicated and therefore you can't simplify it without losing the meaning, so you have to talk in this kind of language.

But I don't buy that. You can, but it just takes more effort to explain the concepts in regular language, which is kind of what I try to do in the book. The second thing, is it wouldn't be a problem if everyone was taught the language. I don't know how you are expected to know what these terms mean. It's a turn-off, you don't want to have to constantly be saying 'I'm sorry I don't know what that means.'

Understandably, people might just give up. I do think that's a problem. We need to try and improve political education. The most obvious place to do that is in schools.

Are there any parties making more of an effort to go after the youth vote?

There are definitely some who are making more of an effort than others. I'm sure you can work out who they are by just having a look at their policies...

So are parties finally realising the importance of the youth vote?

I'd like to think they do.. But I keep coming back to what Sadiq Khan [Labour MP for Tooting] said a while ago [about Labour chasing the older vote], which I think everyone kind of knew... If you've got the choice, if you've got an extra hour during your campaign, you're going to go visit an old people's home over a sixth form college.

And that's really sad.

The problem is, politics is all just short-term isn't it? In the short-term, [chasing older voters] will probably will benefit the party because they know the older people are more likely to vote, so they think they're more valuable.

But these younger people will get older, and they're probably not going to engage as readily as a result and the whole population will vote less. Young people are getting a raw deal, and that seems totally unacceptable. I don't think any of the parties are doing enough to encourage the youth vote and to make young people feel they're part of the decision-making process.

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I guess politicians have forgotten young people are the future?

Exactly! They think well, we'll deal with this election and then when this lot are older we'll think about them. But by that point you might have lost them. People will be much less likely to take up voting if they don't start young.

Do you think this whole 'lazy, apathetic' view of young people is an unfair reflection?

Excuse my language, but I think it's absolute bollocks. I just won't have it.

It's a very convenient way of excusing politicians from having to bother trying to speak to these "apathetic young people" because they think, 'well they don't care anyway'. They manifestly do care.

Whenever I talk to young people, even if they start off saying they're not interested in politics, you then spend 10 minutes hearing what they do care about. Then you tell them all this stuff is dictated by the government and they say 'oh right'. That link just isn't there.

I don't know how you can think that is their fault. I don't know whose fault it is...

You can find Rick on Twitter @RickEdwards1

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