It’s a bleak statistic that more people didn’t vote in the last general election than did vote for any individual political party. There’s clearly an issue in the UK where people either don’t know how to, don’t want to or are too apathetic to go to the polling stations. This needs to change, starting with June’s snap election.
Much of the Brexit reporting focused on the idea that the majority of young people wanted to remain in the EU and that they – the people who would be most affected by this huge decision long-term – were stamped down by the generations of their parents and their grandparents. It’s a fact that 71 per cent of people under 25 who voted in the referendum put their cross in the remain box.
Whichever way you voted, the UK currently feels more divided than ever. Too many voices have been marginalised. The rallying cry of the Prime Minister that “the country is coming together” is a sham right now. The mainstream right-wing media might be doing their best to suppress different and challenging opinions (from both the right and the left), but there are reasons to be optimistic that a new and more positive voice can emerge.
In the three days after the snap election was called, 103,439 18-24-year-olds registered to vote. Add the 99,106 people aged 25-34 that also enrolled and the picture looks brighter for more young influence in this election. But to really mean something, that number needs to keep increasing day by day.
Brexit isn’t the only issue and the only reason to get active. Welfare, housing prices, tuition fees, zero-hours contracts and environmental concerns all matter and will all affect you one way or another. And that’s before even mentioning the NHS, arguably Britain’s proudest achievement, crippled and on its knees. Whose fault that is and what needs to be done next might well determine the way you vote. But if you don’t register and you don’t vote, you’ve lost your right to a say.
Registering to vote only matters if you actually turn out to vote. In 2015, 70 per cent of young people registered, but only 43 per cent actually did it. This is why we need to talk about this now. It takes time to galvanise people and inspire them to get up and do something, and over the next six weeks we intend to try to do that. Six weeks before the Brexit vote, six weeks before the US presidential election, no one believed that the eventual winners would pull it off. Nothing is a foregone conclusion.
Your vote really does matter, whoever you decide to cast it for. You have an opportunity to make a political statement. Do it. Register. Vote.