“Where are the policies for young people? Why don’t politicians care about us?”
Those questions are asked almost daily by intelligent, engaged and knowledgeable young people who want their voices to be heard by the political powerbrokers.
Yet their demands are being drowned out by the white noise of apathy from the rest of their generation, bored and disengaged with anything remotely to do with politics.
This is the only generation which can shamefully claim more non-voters than voters.
Almost half a million people registered to vote just hours before the deadline for registration closed just over a week ago, many of whom were under-25s.
Sadly, those young people will be in a minority of their generation, with more 18 to 24 year olds failing to turn out to vote on May 7 than those who do bother to take part in our democracy.
The blame for this is placed, as always, fairly and squarely on the shoulders of politicians who have, we’re told, through their own lying, cheating and general bad behaviour, created this generation of disillusioned, alienated and ultimately disenfranchised young people.
This is, of course, complete and utter tripe. We’ve got the causality the wrong way round. Young people aren’t apathetic and disenchanted about politics because politicians ignore them.
On the contrary, politicians ignore young people because they are apathetic and they don’t vote.
Our politicians listen to pensioners and couples with children not because they respect their opinions but because they bother to vote and therefore politicians HAVE to listen to what they want and espouse policies that they will like.
It’s high time we stopped criticising politicians for ignoring the needs of under-25s when it is the under-25s themselves who should be holding MPs to account.
Why should our party leaders and would-be MPs care what young people think and seek to address their demands when the average 18 year old appears to care more about Kim Kardashian’s bottom than, say, the NHS or schools policy?
I know not every 18 year old is a celebrity-obsessed fool but, let’s be honest, far too many are.
I believe passionately in democracy and the importance of everyone using their hard-fought-for right to vote but if thousands of young people are too apathetic, lazy and ignorant to bother to register to vote and then to walk to the polling station on the big day, then frankly that’s their own responsibility, not anyone else’s.
There are, we are told, no end of villains to bear the responsibility for this apathy. After those nasty politicians, there’s always the media to pin the blame on. Apparently, under-25s are not able to access news and information about the election and policy pledges in the same way as over-25s are. We really must introduce young people to the concepts of newspapers, TV and radio and google at some point, don’t you think?
Then there’s the first-past-the-post voting system which is apparently putting them off – although given that voter turnout is even lower in the European elections, where we have a proportional representation system, this seems rather unlikely to be the reason.
Then we can blame schools for not educating children about politics. And finally we can put the onus on feckless parents for failing to engender a concept of citizenship in their offspring. But it’s all nonsense.
The under-25s are not, as many claim, a downtrodden, alienated, disenfranchised section of the electorate whose plight is ignored by the political elite. Far from it.
This generation has, en masse, chosen to disenfranchise themselves by simply refusing to engage in the world around them unless Simon Cowell is listed as the executive producer.
Glued to their smartphones for hours every day, you’d think they could probably manage to read at least one snippet about the news or party manifestos if they wanted to. But they don’t. Yet, ask them what a reality show contestant did last night and they’ll know every cough and spit. Literally.
So please, let’s stop blaming politicians because so many young people don’t vote. Our politicians can be blamed for many things and they have a lot to answer for. But it’s hardly their fault if they don’t have the same screen appeal as the stars of The Only Way Is Essex.
By all means, let’s encourage young people to stand up and be counted and to use their vote.
But if a majority of under-25s can manage to take 20 selfies in a day but can’t be bothered to place an X on a ballot paper once every five years to help decide who runs this country, then they only have themselves to blame.
More fool them.