The 2015 general election turnout for the United Kingdom are telling. They are telling because they reveal an unspoken truth, the truth is that my generation needs to do more. Platitudes and caricatures of politics do not work. The world may be our oyster but one won’t be able to seize this oyster without engaging in the political process.
The simple reason is that politicians make decisions which invariably affect the nation in a multitude of ways. Thus, as an individual who lives in said nation, why would you not wish to have your say, so to speak? The age group 18-24 had a 43% turnout in the 2015 general election, the 57% of this group could have theoretically prevented a Conservative government who held a referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union. Nevertheless, that issue has been and gone. So, the question that you must ask yourself, is there any point in voting this time round?
To answer the aforementioned question requires one to dispel unhelpful clichés that occasionally plague this debate. These clichés include, but are not limited to, the following: I do not understand politics, the parties are all the same, it is a waste of time, and the parties do not care about me.
First, let’s take I do not understand politics. The problem with this point is that the presupposition of requiring a PhD to vote in the election does not apply in the United Kingdom. However, one may find politics palpably boring which can be forgiven. On the other hand, to gain an elementary understanding of the main parties in the United Kingdom is ridiculously easy. The following options can be enacted: using Wikipedia, looking at the main parties websites, and simply searching ‘what the U.K. parties stand for’ [which results in 171,000,000] results.
Second, the parties are all the same. To assert this claim assumes that only you have the depth of understanding that everyone else is lacking; cynicism comes from knowing too much, not knowing anything at all. The claim has some veracity in the abstract sense: many MPs are white, many are privately educated, and they sit in one house together. Thus, they could all secretly be friends, and merely asserting the illusion of democracy. If this was true, you would be shot or be made to disappear if you have the temerity to protest. If it were true, why the pretence for different parties, and the arduous task of allowing your citizens to vote for these different parties [who at the same time happen to be imitations of the one ruling establishment party?]. It is a hard belief to maintain. To see the arguments against this belief, then one would be wise to search what the parties stand for. In this forthcoming election, we have the Liberal Democrats promising to hold a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. Whereas, the Conservatives are promising to ‘exit the European single market and customs union but seek a “deep and special partnership” including comprehensive ‘free trade and customs agreement’. This is one concrete example of how the parties don’t fit the cliché of being ‘all the same’.
Finally, voting is a waste of time, cry the apathetic. This claim can be tackled by a mere moment’s reflection. Think about a particular dislike of British society that you hold. Tuition fees? NHS being privatised? The return of fox hunting? Iraq war? Well, these actions did not appear out of a vacuum. The actions have been enacted due to those who wish them to be enacted having power. Political power is unquestionably important. It is important because of the potential for it to go problematic. Plato’s critique of democracy is intriguing. Take Socrates who says “Tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy”. This view leads us into the next point that the parties do not care about me.
There is a sentiment which expresses caution about this view. It is as follows: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Tyranny can be established with an apathetic electorate. Imagine the following example: a party wants to rule the University of Liverpool. There’s an election. This party campaigns in certain areas say the Sydney jones, the Riley Building and the central teaching hub. They find a receptive audience who believe what they believe. The party moves to the Harold Cohen, and finds individuals who aren’t interested? Is that party obliged to represent the views of those individuals who frequent the Harold Cohen? It’s not clear why this is so. The party stops campaigning and happens to win. Their policies are specifically focused for the Sydney Jones, the Riley Building and the Central teaching Hub. Would this be fair? What could be different?
Applied to the forthcoming election, what could be different is that the other 57% of 18-24 vote or chose to register to vote. On the other hand, maybe the following is true: “Too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery.”
You can read the manifestos of the three main parties here: