THE BLOG
28/05/2014 13:32 BST | Updated 28/07/2014 06:59 BST

Young People Hold the Answers in the Battle for Mainstream Parties to Keep Ukip at Bay

I can't imagine many people my age were pulling all-nighters to hear the European election results this weekend, but the youth are waking up to a country where their views are more crucial than the frontrunners of our democracy may realise.

To bring everybody up to date, Nigel Farage's United Kingdom Independence Party has rocked rivals left, right and centre after winning its first nationwide ballot. However, amid what some are calling a political earthquake, people below the age of 25 remain utterly unconvinced by Ukip and could be a remedy for its success.

A pre-election opinion poll suggested that, while the older generation was more likely to be preoccupied with immigration and Britain's membership of the European Union, young people considered the state of our economy and the cost of living at least as important factors in deciding which party to support on polling day.

Realistically, that tells us why the research - carried out by YouGov for the Sun last week - also found that 13% of 18- to 24-year-old voters were planning to turn out for Ukip, compared with roughly one-third of those aged 40 or over.

As a teenage politics geek, my hunch is that this trend extends to the 16- and 17-year-olds currently refused the right to cast a ballot, alongside the young non-voters who appear alienated by any public matters which don't affect our everyday lives.

This goes to show that the youth can be a major asset in the struggle for mainstream parties to hold off Ukip, since its share of the vote would be smaller if more teens and twentysomethings chose to take part. Labour and the Coalition parties just need to give us good reasons to do so, perhaps on top of lowering the voting age.

Sorry Mr Farage, but it feels like the majority of under-25s take no issue with Romanians and Bulgarians (or anyone else for that matter) moving to Britain - particularly when it's stacked up against our fears about getting first jobs and homes.

Likewise, we can think of issues that seem far more worrying - more relevant, even - than our position in the EU. And since you asked: only around one in five of the young adults surveyed said that they would pick Ukip's flagship policy of breaking away from the organisation supposing a referendum was held on the subject.

The Westminster view is that Ukip are thriving on the powerlessness of larger parties to "engage" with the public, yet it has proved equally hopeless at appealing to young people. To demonstrate this, I could refer back to YouGov: barely 15% of 18- to 24-year-olds replied that they felt Farage was in touch with their concerns.

You see, Ukip are hardly our idea of an anti-establishment party - they appear as wedged into the political class as the 'Big Three' in Parliament, although slightly more entertaining. For the most part, we can see through its leader's pub drinking, radio DJ-ing bravado; we find the dated attitudes of some of its members hard to comprehend and, above all, we simply don't share the same policy preferences.

Unlike older age groups, young people aren't rejecting Cameron, Clegg and Miliband in favour of Farage; we are rejecting them due to our discontent with politicians of every stripe. Since the politically active among us don't seem fond of Ukip, the rest of us must be even less motivated by its attempts to "take our country back".

The traditional players are desperate to stifle the 'Farage Effect' in time for next year's general election and control the House of Commons. So - as the leading Eurosceptic himself might put it - what about giving the young'uns a chance?

There's no reason why the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems should place more emphasis on trying to reclaim older Ukip supporters than embracing the millions of 16- to 24-year-olds who are constantly relegated to the political fringes, feeling the worst effects of the economic crisis at the same time as being neglected.

Collectively, we are more inclined to prefer the established parties than any other generation provided that one leader or another chooses to listen. Nick Clegg confirmed this in 2010 when a third of yoof voters opted for the Liberals - partly because he talked to us and not at us, partly because he pledged to scrap tuition fees.

The deputy prime minister may have gone on to sacrifice his sympathy from young people in short-changing us over university costs, but it shows how we were willing to trust moderately-minded politicians who share our often forgotten cause. If any of the main general election candidates are prepared to start speaking up for us, all signs suggest that we would gladly support them and stand up to Ukip.