The deadline to register your vote has passed and it's official: I won't be voting. I won't be trudging into a polling station come 7 May and checking a box next to a person's name. I've observed the run-up to this general election with a sense of bewildered detachment - similar to how I feel whenever Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway appears on the box. The endless news segments, Newsnight clashes, 'Man on the Street' interviews and the leader's debates themselves have coalesced into a messy sludge of false hope and empty promises in my brain.
I've tried to engage, I honestly have. I even tuned in to watch five of the hopefuls go at it last Thursday in the vague hope my psyche would shift a bit. Predictably it didn't, and how could it anyway? A leader's debate can never be anything other than a tragic charade where we're afforded the pleasure of watching rival contestants vie for the public's vote and audience applause for a couple of hours - An X Factor without the talent or sincerity. There was a bit where I thought Sturgeon seemed the least creepy - a depressing criterion upon which to base a vote- but alas, I can't vote for her anyway. Latent paternal instincts kicked in for Miliband, who appears to be quite a nice bloke that just needs another job. The Welsh one didn't register and the Green lady's accent was jarring. Farage seemed like a decent warm up act for Roy Chubby Brown. That's about the sum total of what I got out of the 'leaders' debate and that's a sad state of affairs.
At 22 I'm considered a 'yoof', a member of that population stratum politicians desperately seek to engage, with an eagerness and ineptitude equal in measure. I'm bombarded with the prevailing rhetoric from friends, family and media alike that not voting is: lazy, irresponsible and even nihilistic. You often hear the phrase 'people fought and died for our right to vote' and yes that's true and clearly heroic. But people fought and died for our right to govern ourselves as a democracy, not for me to choose between Miliband and Cameron. My decision not to vote in no way diminishes the achievements of those who came before. Any attempt to guilt-trip and suggest it does is merely a ploy to divert attention from the real issue: the political system is no longer representative and people feel disconnected.
So who's to blame for the disillusion I, and many besides me, have with the political process? I speak for myself when I recite the idiom: actions speak louder than words. The last general election was my first opportunity to vote and it also happened to be the venue for the great tuition fee scandal. In the now infamous betrayal, Nick Clegg promised not to increase tuition fees should he get into Government; he got into Government, and tuition fees increased. It was at that moment I realised: they're not always telling the truth. I didn't vote back then either, can't recall why, but perhaps if I'd seen evidence of a politician making a pledge, pertinent to my situation, and keeping it once in power I may have been more inclined to engage this time around. Once you're aware that what's in the manifesto and what occurs in reality aren't necessarily aligned, no amount of intense staring down camera or arbitrary celebrity endorsement is likely to stir faith in me.
What's the solution? Claiming to know how to restructure society so that everyone feels engaged, and duly represented, in a fair political system would be the height of ego - so I won't attempt. Personally, the disconnect I feel between the strange people on TV with bad suits trying to sell me the dream whilst struggling to eat sandwiches and my own political beliefs is at such an extent I can't conceive of a catalyst for my participation any time soon. I've long since stopped expecting a politician I can get behind to appear on the scene. In fact, the task of running a country is clearly an impossible job so I can't even be too angry with these folk. I instead plan to operate in a universe parallel to Westminster. Constructing an existence where I can shuffle on with my life, contributing to political causes where I see fit and staying productive regardless of which Oxbridge alumni get to call themselves Prime Minister for five years.