Now the dust has settled from last Thursday’s vote, I wanted to take the time to say something about the political engagement of my friends, and of young British people in general.
Every time a major political event comes around I see an explosion of political views, both on social media and in conversations with people. But within a few weeks, attention shifts back to other things in everyone’s lives, with sharing and discussing politics and government regaining its strange taboo status amongst young people.
Whilst the EU vote has been ongoing, this outpouring of passionate and intelligent from my facebook friends has been even more impressive than usual. Many of the people I see posting are obviously well educated and sociable who have the ability to influence those around them in a positive way, and even potentially lead them in the future.
But the impact that young people have is massively limited by the fact that this outpouring of political engagement only seems to reveal itself for a few days every year, then it quickly disappears. Outside of these times, it feels as though young people are wary of posting political views and statements online or discussing it with their friends, out of the fear of being judged negatively. I appreciate constant discussion of politics and government policy can get annoying, but that’s no reason to completely forget about it for much of the year.
There is a clear reason this needs to change. Older voters are undoubtedly forcing a massive change on younger voters, purely because they are turning up to the pools and actually voting. In other elections, the interests of young people are relatively ignored because, as a group, we consistently do not turn up to votes in equal numbers to older generations.
Take the current governments comparable fiscal policies on tuition fees and pensions. The rise in tuition fees is leaving graduates with £40000+ debts, whilst there has been insufficient reform of pensions. This is despite pensions being chronically underfunded and older generations sitting on valuable housing assets which will ensure very comfortable retirements for many.
Young people need to keep engaging with politics throughout the coming months because this fight isn’t over. A British exit is by no means a done deal, whatever Leave campaigners might be saying in the news. The margin of victory was very tight. The referendum is not legally binding. The Leave campaign probably cannot muster a majority of MP votes within Parliament. Scotland doesn’t want to leave the European Union. The victorious Leave campaign in the EU referendum was built on a campaign heavily reliant on incorrect and deceitful information. There are so many reasons why the debate on this issue has only just got started.
The most important fact is this. The 1,269,502 votes don’t have to be found by convincing Leave voters to change their minds. Those votes can be found simply by convincing young people aged between 18 and 30 to go out and vote for the first time. I’ve got no idea what the coming years in British politics will bring. But that these years will have a massive impact on what the rest of our lives will look like.
Culturally and historically, British people as a whole are famous for their tolerance in the face of adversity and for their ability to make good decisions based on facts and education. From what I see on online and in person, this is probably still true for many of my young friends. So stand up and make your voice heard, don’t let closed-minded and self-interested people create a future that you don’t want.