THE BLOG
09/02/2015 03:20 GMT | Updated 10/04/2015 06:59 BST

Young Voters - If You Want to Make a Difference at This General Election, You Can

In the 2010 General Election, almost 29.7milion people voted, with just over 10.7million choosing the Conservative Party.

Almost 16million people - 35% of those registered to vote - did not cast a ballot, meaning that more people did not vote than chose the main party of government.

And among 18-24 year-olds (44%) and 25-34 year-olds (55%), turnout was even lower.

It's indicative of two major threads of UK politics: the power - and increasing disenfranchisement - of the UK's young people.

Our research, as well as that of organisations such as the NUS, shows that student populations in University towns could change the result in 197 UK constituencies at the next General Election. Combined with those 18-34 year-olds outside full-time education, the youth vote should be central to the selection of the next government.

Yet polls suggest that of the 3.3million young people who will be able to vote in a General Election for the first time on 7 May, a third are not yet on the electoral register, and as many as two million have not decided whether to vote.

Everywhere we look, young people can change the country for the better, but feel tempted not to try.

There are reasons for this. Many young people feel abandoned by political parties, who they believe are chasing 'marginal' 'swing' votes or those from older sectors of society.

Students feel abandoned by the Lib Dems, who broke their promise on tuition fees, the Conservatives, who never even made such a promise, and by the Labour Party, who introduced tuition fees in the first place.

They look at their bank balances, and justifiably associate what they see with a political system which offers them nothing.

And inside and outside our universities, young people look at what the future promises - little chance of employment (youth unemployment is at 16.9%, compared to an average of 5.8% across all age groups), plans to prevent people under 25 receiving money to live away from their parents - and are justified in regarding 'business as usual' politics as not for them.

But there is an alternative. The Green Party stands for a very different politics, for a system which benefits us all, young and old alike. And thanks to dedicated, inspired and inspiring young people, hungry to change the system and the country for the better, we are making important breakthroughs.

We are now the third largest political party in England and Wales, thanks in large part to young people engaging with us and our desire to make the UK work for the young people who are so eager to work for it, but are denied the chance by the failed austerity experiment.

As Green Party leader, I speak to young people not only about why they should register to vote, and also about what they might vote for.

And the issues are those affecting us all: unemployment, low wages, too few homes, financial fears.

For those people, the Green Party makes sense. We will create a million 'Green' jobs, in technology, manufacture and power generation from renewable resources. We will revitalise the public sector, making sure those who need services receive them, and in the process creating new jobs.

We will increase the minimum wage to a living wage - £10 per hour by 2020 - meaning working people can build a decent, comfortable life for themselves and their families. In the same period, we will build 500,000 affordable, social rented homes, meaning those who need a place to live will have one they can afford.

It's one of the reasons we are the second most popular political party with the UK's 18-24 year-olds. That's something we are very proud of, and grateful for.

And as Leader of the Green Party, I have had the privilege to meet young people who are campaigning on vital issues, such as fracking.

Some of these people, protecting their regions from pernicious, profit-driven, reckless selfishness, have not decided how to vote.

But the Green Party, environmental guardian and champion of economic and social well-being, is the only political opponent of fracking, and the only party to have supported those battling against it from the start.

I am the leader of the Green Party. It is easy for me to say 'vote Green'. I believe you should. But instead of this, I will say two things.

Your vote has power. If you want to make a difference at this General Election, you can.

For those who think the politics of 'business as usual' - high unemployment, low wages, too few homes, no assistance for those starting out on careers or the housing ladder - is OK, then the traditional parties are waiting.

For the rest of us, there's the Green Party.

We look forward to seeing you on 7 May.