Politicians have put real emphasis on the power of the 'young voter' for this general election. With the Lib Dem student stronghold shattered by their sell-out in the coalition, the realm of the young vote has become free game.
It is no surprise that the Green Party has seen a real surge in student membership, when one considers the nature of PMQs recently. As opposed to portraying a civilised, democratic debate over what is best for the country, The House of Commons now resembles a boxing ring, with opposing sides building up the rhetoric pre-bout to show who is the strongest. Whilst young voters have spent years trying to distance themselves from the playground, they find themselves plunged back into this mentality running up to May.
Let's take Ed Miliband and Cameron recently, and the rather hilarious incident of 'Bill Somebody'. Instead of honing in on the fact that Labour are distancing themselves from business in the run up to the election, the Commons erupted with bellowing, cries and jibes, with an accompanying hashtag and graphics within hours. The scene resembled a playground squabble, and I half expected someone to pipe up with 'your mum' at some point. During this particular incident, the Speaker had to interrupt three times in the space of two minutes so that the response could be heard. I am half considering sending a whistle to John Bercow, just to make his life a little bit easier and to solidify this image of him as the teaching assistant, refereeing between the two dominant group of boys.
Following this, the Labour MP for Walton, Steve Rotheram, declared that Cameron needed to take his P45 and get rid of 'the lot of them'. No constructive argument was formed by Rotheram, no question was posed: he simply used the moment to contribute a rather sly, useless comment. Considering the fact that he is supposed to represent the needs of his constituents, with his area being one that was greatly affected by the economic downturn, he could have used that moment to raise issues, as opposed to reverting to a testosterone fuelled rant.
What is problematic about this situation is that personalities and bravado are concentrated on far more than actual policies. After false promises regarding tuition fees made by Nick Clegg (a betrayal that is unlikely to have disappeared from anyone's mind in a hurry), young voters are understandably pessimistic when it comes to actual policies that affect them. Thus, personalities become the main game: who is the most dominant? Who looks and sounds as though they have their game together the most? Who will crack and say something damaging first, a la Gordon Brown and the "bigoted woman" of 2010?
Whilst the political charade provides a large amount of entertainment for viewers, it is plunging undecided young voters into turmoil: who is there to vote for? They laugh, they visit, they charm, and then do not follow through on policies. It must be considered what many young people have lived through politically over the past twenty years: the Iraq war, a huge recession, mass unemployment... It hard to place your trust into the hands of a privately-educated man who has zero experience with the issues that you are faced with. Did Ed Miliband worry about the fact that getting a job, even a Saturday job, was IMPOSSIBLE for years, and about how he was going to afford to eat during University? I highly doubt that these issues affected him as he relaxed in his £2million Primrose Hill property.
Miliband may harp on with his centre-left garb, but he has zero experience of what young people in Britain are faced with. This lack of understanding looks more Detached vs Deluded than Cameron vs Miliband.
And this is where the Green Party has stepped in. They talk without shouting, put their point in a straight forward manner, and make the real effort to engage with students and their interests (for example, the party will be accompanied by Vivienne Westwood at Liverpool University Guild). The fact that it is led by a woman helps, in my opinion, as it sets her apart instantly as an alternative to the norm. And, on a separate note, Natalie Bennett openly engaged with student-run Tab, and shared her experiences at University in a manner that made her appear personable and 'one of us'.
Young voters are looking for something different, something promising: a Blair-esque figure for this generation. If the Conservatives and Labour believe that the young vote is so important, then it's time they start appealing to the young voter and show what they're offering, instead of turning the House of Commons into a playground.