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Political disengagement with the youth in society

 “I wont be voting. Although the manifestos are good I don’t believe their word will be kept,” says Jameelah Graham, 19, from West London.

The Eurobarometer surveyed 15-30 year olds to find out whether they had voted in the last 3 years and whilst Malta had a strong lead (76%), us Brits we were ranked last (35%).

For many young people the word politics doesn’t conjure up an exciting debate over a kebab and chips, instead it’s a discussion on problems, sugar coated with sighs. A lot of them think about ‘corruption’, ‘the raise of tuition fees’, ‘old white men in suits’ or as Angel Shepard, 19, from Greenwich says, simply has ‘no interest’.

The number one factor as to why so many young Brits are not voting in the 2015 elections is still undecided, but for many it is lack of trust in the government and a result disengagement between the youth and the political parties.

Before 1971 under 18’s couldn’t vote

Councillor John Beesley, Leader of the Conservative Council for Bournemouth said: “We need to engage much better with young people but not just at election time but at all times.” The youth vote alone could take almost 200 seats in the 2015 general election and this can be done if the parties become more engaged with younger voters.

“They’ve got the opportunity to vote and it was a hard right for people to achieve this before. It should be recognised as an essential part of society that everyone plays their part in,” Cllr Beesley added.

The youth not feeling accurately represented is causing barriers to be put up. In the last election, only 22% of MPs were female and 4% from ethic minorities. We need more women, more ethnic minorities and younger politicians that the youth can relate to.

Bournemouth mayor, Councillor Chris Mayne rightly said: “The political landscape has changed.” It is no longer just the Conservative and Labour parties as the only competitors, but now there is a rise in political parties such as UKIP, SNP and the Green Party. This means a lot of time needs to be spent in building rapport and trust with the young people to give them the opportunity to consider which political party to vote for. Yes, Labour has promised to reduce tuition fees to £6,000 and the Conservatives have promised abolishing the long-term youth unemployment, but it is no good simply having the right polices if they are not communicated in the right way that is engaging. ­­­­­

More politicians need to talk to the youth

Alliyah Fuller, 19, from London said, “I am not planning on voting because I feel like it is all talk and no action.” With politicians like Nick Clegg who made a pledge and didn’t stick to it, it is vital that politicians speak to their young people on a one to one level to help rebuild relationships and faith in the politicians.

“They do nothing for me apart from take my money,” Fuller adds.

Young people lack a lot of faith in the running of the country. Attending schools, colleges and universities to interact with students more and make them feel as if they have more of a voice could really make a difference in the votes.

A ComRes Poll of 6,345 18-24 year old Britons found that just one in four 18-24 year olds (26%) are definite to vote at the General Election. The mayor said: “A lot of politicians have had bad publicity and it’s always one party shouting against the other party. It’s hard to decide.” To improve the statistics we need to rebuild the broken relationship between politics and young people.

Politicians need to put young people at the centre of the politics.

Conservative Councillor Mark Anderson, hasn’t experienced difficulty with the young people in his constituency. With his experience of canvassing he has found the majority of young people very interested in the election and is regularly asked questions about how to vote as well as local and national issues.

“I talk to them not at them. I engage in debate with them and get answers to the questions they ask,” Cllr Anderson said. His intimate method of engaging with young people seems to be making a difference and is something that hopefully all politicians will start to do more. Cllr Anderson felt that a lot of young people in his area appear to be interested in politics and realized he was the only person that has knocked on their door.

Despite the shortage of votes young people are interested in politics, but the parties’ communication is out of touch from how young people wish to be involved. The ComRes poll found that nearly 2 thirds of 18-24 year olds (63%) would be more likely to vote if they were able to online or using an app. Distributing more online surveys or having a political hour hashtag on Twitter, could be more effective and convenient and result in more young voters.

Politicians are just not doing enough

So many of us young Brits have lost the right to vote by not adding our names to the electoral register, which means the outcome is not a true representation of the British public.

“There’s lots of issues like tuition fees that young people want to express their opinion on,” says Cllr Beesley. He hopes that with the high profile of the 2015 election, more young people will be inclined to vote.

“Try and get involved and use your vote wisely. Think about it before you do it,” the mayor concludes.

May will certainly be an interesting month.

Bournemouth Polling Stations
Bournemouth Elections & Voting