We are all Political

Hi everyone, I am so excited to be writing my first blog as your new Development Officer! These past few weeks have been a colossal learning curve but I am absolutely loving it, even in spite of the massive shock to the system that is working full-time to a student accustomed to lie ins and late nights.

In the wake of a general election which witnessed huge youth engagement, I didn’t think my first blog post could focus upon anything other than this.

Students, more than ever, exist in a highly politicised society. Merely studying at university is political in a time that’s defined by the marketisation of our higher education system. There are continuous cuts upon the system designed to broaden minds and horizons, meaning eligible applicants from lower income backgrounds are now being deterred from attending university by the burden of graduating with over £60,000 debt.

Our generation indisputably shaped the outcome of the recent general election and contributed to stripping the Conservatives of their parliamentary majority. Social media was filled with both stories of young people registering to vote and voting for the very first time. Despite the sudden nature of the election being called, there was an immense excitement and understanding of its significance. This resulted in the highest national voter turnout for 25 years.

In Canterbury, the 20% increase in Labour vote is consequential to the estimated 8,000 newly registered voters, the majority of which were students from Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Kent. This led to the area’s Tory MP of 30 years losing his seat to the Labour candidate, Rosie Duffield, with a majority of fewer than 300 votes. 59% of those aged 20–24 voted this year, a significant increase compared to 2010’s 44% 18–24 turnout. However, young people still consistently turn out to vote at substantially lower rates than our older citizens; a reported 84% of those above 70 voted in this election. The increase in youth turnout is something to be celebrated, but is merely a stepping stone to where should we should aim for and what it should be.

Whether you are actively engaged or not, your years in Sheffield as a student and your life beyond are ultimately decided by those elected into our Parliament. Those privatising our higher education system likely had the luxury of attending University for free. Those privatising our NHS are likely to have been born into an adequately-funded NHS hospital. Those privatising our housing sector were likely able to afford a deposit on a house in a time where houses were not in shortage. In essence, our generation is being denied sufficient, and fit for purpose public services, which does nothing but widen the gap between the rich and poor.

Far too often I hear that people don’t consider themselves “political”. If you value the ability to receive healthcare treatment for free, then you are political. If you think the government should aid for severely ill and disabled citizens, then you are political. If you are opposed to climate change and its disastrous effects, then you are political. Each and everyone of us has the power, through an individual basis and as part of a collective, to change the world. It’s cliché I know, but never underestimate your ability to do so. Through voting, protesting, boycotting or however you choose to do so, ensure that your voice is heard. We will have to live with the consequences of today for far longer than those currently in power and we simply cannot risk not being part of the conversations that decide our fate.

Get out, get active and get shaping.

Your Development Officer,

Megan

Contact me on: megan.mcgrath@sheffield.ac.uk

(All views stated are my own)