We can complain all we like about politicians and the state of the country but when it comes to voting its fair to say that we, as students, are not the most active of participants, many of us don't even bother voting in elections and wonder what the point of it all is. Yet people have campaigned for generations to give the citizens of the UK a free and fair vote; people have even given their lives through movements such as the suffragettes, by not voting it almost seems a little disrespectful and a waste. I hope that after you've read this you might be a little more inclined to get out and vote in 2015.
But why should you vote? Well the answer is simple, as much as you may think that your vote doesn't matter, but it does. In 2010, although up by just under 10%, the percentage of 18-24 year olds voting was under 45%, but what does this mean? It means that students like us are not getting our voice heard and our opinions cast aside. The government lacks a certain amount legitimacy, if the whole country does not vote in the election the outcome is not truly representative of the British public.
Although a politician's primary job is to run the country in reality it's secretly more about ensuring a win in the next election (meaning lots of funding for their party) and in this difficult economic time it is important for the government to make cuts. Therefore the politicians are inclined to look and voting figures and force the biggest cuts on the demographics that don't vote, with student and young adult figures being so low, politicians are basically given free reign to fire off policies that make us worse off, nine grand tuition fees being a prime example, they know they're not going to lose many votes next time a general election pops its head around the corner. You never see winter fuel allowance and bus passes being cut, you know why? That's because the over 65's get out and vote, their figures being over 75%.
Yes I we all know the old argument of "they're all the same" when it comes to politicians and in all honesty on the surface they probably are, but take a glance at their policies and each one has slightly different views on policy. So you don't know who to vote for? Most of us aren't Politics students but It's not hard to glance at the BBC news website and look over the manifesto summaries, but if you're up to your eyes in work, take 2 seconds to sit and think "was this past four years better than the last four?" and no I'm not talking about how good the festivals, sex and parties where, more was public transport, education and your disposable income better or worse?
In reality it's not our fault that voting figures are so low, we're students, stereotypically the little motivation we have to get up in the morning mostly goes into Uni work and partying, we don't have the time to find our polling station, travel there and vote. Never mind the lack of incentives for voting, in Australia you get fined if you don't vote but in the UK if you don't vote, you don't vote, simple as. Perhaps the government should introduce free beer for voters; they'd have people queuing up; however it's hardly a viable option in the current economic climate. Looking at the bigger picture however it's the Government's own fault we don't, political education doesn't exist in high schools unless you take it as an option, meaning the vast majority of people have no interest in politics or how it affects us when they hit voting age. Personally as a bit of a Political nerd I'd love to have politics drilled into kids from age four but it's an unfortunate fact that most 'normal' children and teenagers will find it mind numbingly boring.
I took this issue to some of my local MP's to get some more informed opinions, Andrew Miller an MP for Ellesmere Port said "There are so many issues that affect the young - education, employment, public transport, recreation, housing and so on and the young person's view may be slightly different [To that of adults], should local or national government ensure there is low cost good housing available to single people wishing to move away from their family home? Or should local or national government ignore the need for young people to become independent of their family, if they have one?" His comments back up how you should be voting and that by encouraging our peers to vote we might just be able to stop the government screwing us over.
Of course there are alternative ways of participating politically, as we have seen from the rise in tuition fees, riots and protests seem particularly popular amongst young adults and it's not hard to see why; waving flags, chanting, meeting others who support your cause; I suppose it's the summer festival spirit just without the music, drugs and mosh pits. Other forms of participation include the ever popular online petitions, pressure groups and trade unions. As a student you're almost certainly involved with NUS, the national union of students, just by being a member of that you're donating and supporting that union. However fun these other forms of participation may be they are nowhere near as powerful as the simple act of voting. Andrew Miller also noted "For young people there is the habit of voting to establish, it is not always easy for a new voter to go to the polling station and to cast their vote on a ballot paper and to place it in the ballot box, but done once it is easy to do again." Voting is a valuable way of contributing to the country and in essence is what defines you as a citizen of this country, you should be proud the first time you go to that ballot box because you're making a difference.
All facts correct as of June 2013.