It's the week of E Day. Thursday marks the first time 3.3 million of us are eligible to vote. By us, I mean 'young people' or 'millennials' or 'Generation Y' as politicians and the world's media like to label anyone aged between 18 and 24. We are the age group that supposedly doesn't care about politics. We don't bother registering to vote and certainly couldn't care less who ran our country.
But this general election isn't like 2010 where less than half of 18-24 year olds turned out to vote. This time, 70% of young people have registered. The BBC's Newsbeat have held debates featuring only us. We've shown we're not a single issue demographic. The economy, immigration and housing are all things we're passionate about. So why are one in eight of us still planning not to vote?
Maybe it's because MPs ignore us. They promise one thing then go back on their word as soon as they step over the threshold of Number 10. Or maybe it's because when we do tune in to watch a debate, we're faced with the equivalent of a couple of primary school kids having a tiff in the playground. Maybe it's even because we feel that our vote won't make an impact. That Russell Brand's 'don't bother voting' mantra is the one to nod along to.
For every Russell Brand, there's a Rick Edwards. And he says vote and make a change. Don't vote and there will be no change. 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland demonstrated that a few months ago when over 100,000 of them cast their vote on independence. They had their say; now it's time for all of us to have ours.
Fed up with working for minimum wage or worse, for free? Vote. Feeling like you'll never get on the housing ladder? Vote. Had enough of being taxed just for being female? Vote. By showing support for a party and politics in general, we can make a difference. We didn't vote five years ago and tuition fees trebled, rents rose 15.2% and the cost of living... Let's not even talk about that.
Simply putting a cross in a box on 7 May can help to:
- Eradicate sexism in the workplace and push the issue of equal pay to the forefront
- Make it clear that we don't want to be unemployed but equally can't afford to work for a lowly wage
- Force the government to re-haul the student fee and loan structure again (but for the better this time)
- Show there needs to be a cap on rents and more control over landlords
- Remove the 'luxury' status (and the tax) from tampons and the like
- Change the system where everything is based on household income. Parents with more money don't necessarily have more cash for their kids
- Reduce the cost of travel. Low income plus extortionate train fares is a lose-lose situation
- Demonstrate why we need sexual consent classes throughout our school lives
Yes, this won't all happen straight away. But by abstaining from voting, our views will never be taken seriously. Politicians continue to chase votes from those who turn out on the day i.e. the elderly. The solution: we turn out, we vote, and they chase us instead.
The National Union of Students recently found that young people in university towns could change the result in 197 constituencies at this election. We do have power. All we have to do is head down to the polling stations this Thursday and vote. If you don't vote, you can't complain about what happens next. Simple.