Students are isolated and cannot trust politicians – that is why they aren’t voting
Oliver Hughes is a second year English Literature student at the University of East Anglia. At UEA, he is the President of the Creative Writing Society and in addition to his work for i, contributes to the student newspaper and works with the UEA school of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing to put on events across town.
Wednesday 04 June 2014
As feared, voter turnout for the recent European and local elections was very poor, at just 34.19 per cent in the UK – our worst turnout since 1999. And it is little surprise that the most apathetic voters are the infamous “young people” – that is to say, those between 18 and 25, which naturally includes most students. Last year, Russell Brand made headlines with a tirade about how he doesn’t vote because he doesn’t see a point, and that most young people in the country feel the same way.
He isn’t wrong. The types of people who didn't vote in the recent election are former Labour supporters who do not want to support Ed Miliband, Lib Dem supporters who aren’t satisfied with the failure of Nick Clegg to live up to his electoral promises, and Conservative supporters who feel their party isn’t tough enough. All understandable viewpoints.
Students as a new voting generation are not sworn to the allegiances and bias of generations past. Political apathy in young people is bred not for a lack of caring, but a lack of seeing any discernible change for them. They see no option that really caters to them. Students are, in a way, a class of their own – there is no working class Labour allegiance or upper class Tory support. Any hopes the Lib Dems had for student votes perished when Nick Clegg went back on his tuition fee policy. The fact so many students were out in protest demonstrates that students really do care, and that their lack of voting is not just apathy. They simply do not have a viable option.
Ultimately students are faced with at best five parties to conceivably vote for: Labour, a party far less concerned with representing the workers and becoming more and more conservative with their policies, led by a bumbling fool no one can take seriously; the Tories, a party for the rich, which students are not, and a party that passed policy after policy harming young people when in power; the Lib Dems, the Tories’ treacherous lackeys who cannot be trusted to go through with their policies; UKIP, ignorant xenophobes whose anti-immigration policies would see universities, incredibly diverse and multicultural places, change drastically; and the Greens, who have a good heart but policies that do not seem possible to enact – one struggles to believe taxes could be cut and spending reduced without putting us further into debt.
Life at university is quite an isolated one, and no party has made a concerted effort to reach out to the new generations of voters. Students can look at the policies and see little aimed at reassuring them about their future in the job market, their life with debt, their continued support and living assistance. With general elections around the corner, it is time parties start appealing to these new generations, or the democratically elected government will be chosen by a very select few, with students those among Russell Brand in sitting it out.
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