Will you be voting in the election this year? For many of us (3.3 million young people, to be precise), 7th May 2015 will mark our first opportunity to vote in a General Election, with it being five years since the last one. This is our chance to have a real say in how the country will be run. Who will be moving into 10 Downing Street in less than a month’s time? Will it be the leader of the Labour Party? UKIP? Green? The Liberal Democrats? Or will David Cameron stay put? The decision is yours.
However, the amount of people taking this opportunity is minimal – in the 2010 election, only 44% of all 18–24 year olds voted, compared with 68% of over 65s, and young British people are some of the least likely to vote in Europe. Young people are also some of the most keen to make a difference to their society, remaining part of social change through activism, campaigns, volunteering and social media movements. We are clearly a politically-minded, active bunch. So why aren’t we all taking the opportunity to vote?
Team v’s latest campaign, ‘Swing the Vote’, is aiming to get more 18–25s into the polling booth to cast their vote in order to ensure that politicians take notice about the issues that matter to young people, like education (I’m sure we all remember the tuition fees scandal that still haunts our nightmares – not to mention our future bank balances), jobs and affordable housing. We all have the chance to influence decision makers and play a part in democracy, and Team v wants us all to understand the importance of using our political voice, by voting. People fought hard to win our country democracy, and for women, win us the vote – surely it would be wasteful if we ignored this call? There are 6.8 million young people eligible to vote in this election – enough to decide the all-important election result. If we sit back and do nothing, we’re relinquishing our chance to have a say. As Maisie Williams, the star of Game of Thrones, says: ‘They think you’re a self-obsessed, selfie stick-waving generation… they’ve kicked your future in the teeth and hoped you wouldn’t notice.’ But you have noticed, and now it’s time to do something about it.
It’s incredibly important to engage with politics and with your local MP. It is understandable that so many young people are disengaged with politics, but I think it’s true that you shouldn’t complain about politics if you’ve not at least made an effort to change it, if you have the chance – once you’ve voted you can complain all you want (because who doesn’t love a bit of jeering at the TV every now and again)!
The top issues voted by young people in a vInspired poll were: the NHS, inequality, tuition fees, the cost of living, unemployment, care for the elderly, crime, affordable housing, online privacy and public finances. All of these issues are in the hands of the government we vote in. If you have opinions on any of these issues, and many more, there is no reason not to vote. If you’re still uncertain as to who to vote for, the Swing the Vote campaign and Do Something have teamed up with ten YouTubers to bring you the lowdown on these issues, explaining how they affect you and what the policies of each party are regarding them. You can find these videos on the Swing the Vote Tumblr: http://swingthevote.vinspired.com/#/filter-all/page-1.
However, Team v isn’t just focusing on getting young people to vote. It also aims to get people to think about how politics is a 24/7 aspect of our lives, whether we like it or not. It affects us in our everyday life, and there are many ways of getting involved in the decision-making which goes into politics, such as through online petitions, youth councils and volunteering for a political party.
We’ve watched the debates, we’ve seen the manifestos, and we’ve heard every plea under the sun to vote a certain way – but ultimately, the decision is down to you. What are you waiting for? Come May 7th, go and vote!
To get more involved in Team v’s ‘Swing the Vote’ campaign, join the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/794181834000200/.