To Get What They Want, Young People Need to Start Voting

03/11/2011 22:44 GMT | Updated 03/01/2012 10:12 GMT

Young people are suffering. Youth unemployment is nearing a million. Young people cannot afford to buy or now even rent homes. This won't be helped by this week's news that last year house building was at its lowest level since records began, in the 1920s.

Whilst monthly tuition fee repayments are set to fall and will be written off if not totally repaid after a period of time (thanks to Lib Dem pressure), young people still face a higher bill for their university tuition, and Labour's alternative plan isn't good news for students.

Given all this, is it really a surprise that young people aren't putting enough into their pension? And on that subject, they also face waiting until 68 before collecting their Basic State Pension (eight years later than women have traditionally been able to pocket it).

In the meantime they may well, if commentators like Matthew Parris (£) are right, face managing a substantial scaling back of our national wealth and the ability of the State to make our lives slightly better and more comfortable.

And if you check out the Department of Energy and Climate Change's neat little online thingy you can see the deep sacrifices that young people are set to have to make to sort out climate change.

The diagnosis and prognosis outlined above might seem pretty grim, and to be frank it is pretty grim.

What should young people do? They should rattle their electoral sabre. According to Ipsos MORI figures, in last year's General Election, turnout amongst the youngest voters (18-24) was just 44%, rising as voters got older, to stand at 76% for those aged 65 or older.

You make politicians worry and concern themselves with your issues by voting. That's what gives you, as a voter, your power. It's what makes politicians worry about what you think.

The Ipsos MORI figures tell me that political parties will worry a lot more about pleasing older voters than younger voters because older people will bother to turn out and vote. Is it any surprise that whilst students face higher tuition fees, older people have a guarantee that their pension will rise faster than before?

I would encourage young people to tell politicians what it is that you want them to sort out - be it youth unemployment, (un)affordable housing, education, pensions, the environment, whatever - and tell them that how they perform will govern how you vote when they come up for re-election.

And young people will soon grow in number and political power. A baby boom started, in England anyway, in 2001 and is still ongoing. Those babies will become voters from 2019 onwards and they will rise in number every year after that. But young people today shouldn't wait for the cavalry, currently wending their way through school, they need to make their voices heard now.

Write to your MP, go speak to your MP, petition your MP. Do all of those things, but make sure to vote too.

It might not be as exciting as throwing green custard over Peter Mandelson, but the third runway at Heathrow was not stopped by Labour after that silly publicity stunt (Labour went into the 2010 election backing its construction); it was cancelled by the Coalition after the commitment appeared in both coalition parties' manifestos.

It's good, old-fashioned party politics and voting that changes the world, not publicity stunts and single issue politics.