Apathy Rules UK? Why young voters need to take control

The public is increasingly disengaged from the political process. In three weeks’ time, if there’s a turn out for the local elections of 4 out of every 10 people eligible to vote, it will be regarded in some quarters as a triumph for democracy, conveniently overlooking the possibility that 60 per cent of voters won’t even be bothered to saunter down to the polling station and stick a few crosses in some boxes to decide who will oversee how the rubbish is collected, how much Council Tax they pay, what planning policies are implemented in our borough, and who runs our state schools.

Ruud SkipperAnd the section of society most thoroughly distanced from politics are young voters. Here, 20-year-old student RUUD SKIPPER, pictured, who is a Green Party candidate in Coulsdon West in the Town Hall elections, outlines why he believes it is important for his generation to make sure that they use their vote

We live in a country which prides itself on being a democracy. We are told from a young age that our opinions matter and that we are all equal.

It doesn’t take much to see that this really isn’t true. You are more likely to find a job if you know the right people and you’re more likely to get away with a crime if you happen to have a six-figure bank account.

So if I was to say that a single vote at the local or European elections being held on May 22 was going to change all of this, I’d be lying. But in my eyes, voting should be a priority on anyone’s list of things to do. Especially those of my generation.

Some who might be voting in Town Hall elections for the first time say that they don’t know enough about what the elections are for. “I’m not interested in politics,” some might say. “It’s boring,” is a common complaint. “It won’t make a difference,” is another.

“I don’t know enough about who is standing and what they stand for,” I’ve been told. “It’s not been very well-publicised and I haven’t had the time or inclination to go digging,” someone else said. 

The consensus among young people is that we are powerless at the whims of our government. I’ve been told before that if I didn’t vote Conservative or Labour, I would be wasting my vote. I can’t agree with this.

And here’s why. Let’s start with everyone’s favourite subject, statistics…

At the last general election, before I was old enough to vote, there was a voter turnout of 65.1 per cent. When all the votes were counted, the leading party with 36.1 per cent of votes cast was Conservative. Labour got 29.0 per cent. The vote was so close that the third party actually mattered (too bad everyone still thought Nick Clegg was a vertebrate).

The important stat here is that of the entire population, the Conservatives got only 23.7 per cent of the votes, with the majority of the population being in the non-voters category.

So if all those 34.9 per cent who did not vote had banded together and formed their own “Non-voters Party”, the election it wouldn’t have even been a contest. Many of those non-voters were under the age of 24: the majority of 18-to-24-year-olds, 56 per cent, did not bother to vote at all.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that all the non-voters would vote the same way. But what I’ve discovered from the buzz of conversations around election times is that it is the smaller parties that always take the hit from people not voting.

It all gets to be a bit self-fulfilling. I’ve met people who are avid supporters of renewable energy and truly believe that without change the Earth will burn (which is true, but that’s another story), and yet they still won’t vote Green because they see it as a “wasted vote”.

It’s probably a similar story with people who truly think the United Kingdom needs its independence (UKIP) and with people who are truly racist (BNP).

“I won’t vote because my vote doesn’t matter.”

“Look none of these parties beyond the top two ever get any votes…”

I wonder why?

Maybe if we all voted we would see change. There’s only one way to find out, and if you truly think every party is the embodiment of evil, then why not just spoil your ballot? At least that way your disillusionment will be registered rather than just being put down to apathy.

Want to find out more about some of the issues in the Croydon local elections? Here’s some of Inside Croydon’s recent coverage:

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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