If I asked people my age which political party they supported, I can pretty much guarantee that the vast majority would have no idea how to answer. To tell you the truth, up until a year ago I’d have struggled myself to tell you more than the surface differences between them. So no wonder the media complains about a lack of youth engagement in politics.
On Thursday of last week, my politics teacher organised a question time at my school, with local members of the five most prominent parties- from Green to UKIP. One of the many issues raised was the question of how the parties planned to combat the ever-increasing political disengagement, particularly in youths. It’s funny because all of the parties got pretty excited over this question, insisting that “something must be done about it” and “my party will take measures to combat this problem”, yet not a single one cared to explain exactly how they planned on doing this.
How can you blame people for not trusting politicians, when this is a clear example of a promise with no real substance. The only redeeming one of the bunch was Chris Watts (the Labour candidate in my constituency in the 2015 election), who was completely honest in plainly admitting that the parties simply don’t do much to appeal to youths because they know that the so-called “grey vote” is the one that really matters.
Is that really an excuse though? Do they expect it to just fix itself? It’s clear that voting turnouts are just going to decrease in a society which no longer has politics ingrained into its core; in which young people grow up not even having any clue how our government works. And I fail to see any real efforts to prevent this.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this discussion though- I was lucky enough to meet with my local MP Claire Perry a couple of months ago and we talked about this exact issue. What’s ridiculous is that that when you talk to the individual members, they all seem to get it. They understand the importance of this issue and they really want ideas and advice on how we, the youths, believe it can be improved. Yet this never seems to to translate to a national level.. nothing is ever actually done, and talking about it doesn’t solve anything.
Whilst many politicians have argued that the fact that people like me are talking about this issue shows that not everyone is politically apathetic, and that events like the question time at school and meeting with Claire are great ways of widening interest. But to be completely honest, they are just preaching to the choir. The only people that attend these kind of events are those who care in the first place; what really needs doing is to target the youth population as a whole, and the only way of doing this is through education.
I have friends that live in America, and they are so shocked that we have no form of compulsory politics taught in school, accept for a tiny module in year 11 Philosophy & Religion that even the teachers seemed to show no interest in. Whilst there were people at question time that proposed compulsory voting as a way of forcing people to educate themselves, I see that the best way surely is to just make it the norm to vote, as was the case when we had voting turnouts of 75-80%. If we introduced politics into the mandatory curriculum, then maybe people would actually be vaguely interested in voting. I’m not talking about in-depth analysis of parties and government as I do now in A Level Politics, but just a basic level of understanding is all I feel is needed to combat this youth disengagement in politics, which is a real problem.
I know this is unlikely to change anytime soon, but I think it’s about time politicians were honest about what they are actually going to do to prevent the next generation from not even knowing the Prime Minister’s name. So less talk, more action please.