Politics is changing whether the establishment likes it or not. Trust in traditional politics is low and institutions are weak, but pro-EU campaign groups and activist networks are springing up everywhere. Politics is facing a crisis of inclusion – young people want in but often don’t feel welcome or represented.
That’s why I joined a (polite) mob at parliament yesterday from Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) determined to have our voice heard in the halls of Westminster. We want a say in the political manoeuvring that is defining our future, and through lobbying and “green carding” we can grab the attention of our MPs and deliver our message on the importance of a new referendum on Brexit.
And it’s also why I will be joining the hundreds of thousands of protestors on Saturday 23 March calling upon our politicians to put it to the electorate. Young people from around the country should join me in demanding again a Final Say on the Brexit deal. Apparently 700,000 frustrated protestors wasn’t enough.
We have become used to people like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson representing an old-school crew that continue to dominate politics. But change is inevitable as young people start to make their voice heard. The climate-change demonstrations across the country last week were a glorious example.
For years it was assumed that young people were ambivalent about events in Westminster. Over the past few years we’ve been priced out of housing and been turned into a generation unable to establish ourselves independently. We’ve been forced to return home after further education, had our tuition fees trebled and been snubbed by MPs. And today we hear that three-quarters of graduates fear that Brexit will damage their careers.
But now, steadily, we are turning out in force, on the streets and in the ballot booths, making our voices heard. Not all are pleased with this, though. After years of complaints about our inaction, some members of the establishment are worried that we may want to participate.
Why now? Why over Brexit? Well, Brexit will hit young people (18- to 35-year-olds) the hardest. It will make us poorer and fuel inequality. It will deny us opportunities and deprive us of the right to live or work anywhere inside the EU. Just look at the statistics. Of the 18- to 24-year-olds that voted in the referendum, 75 per cent voted to remain.
Turnout in the 2016 referendum turned out to be almost double what was originally reported. In fact, 64 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds registered to vote turned up at the polls. That sounds good, but is rather dismal when compared with the 90 per cent of over-65s who voted. But young people are realising their error.
As it stands, the majority of Britons back a Final Say on the deal, according to the largest poll since the referendum, and 53 per cent would vote Remain. Not to mention the fact that 86 per cent of Labour members now back a Final Say.
We are desperate for a politics in which we can take part. Most of all, we want a to give our opinion on the issue that affects us the most.
Quite how people still dismiss young protesters like myself as “snowflakes” and “privileged Remoaners” is beyond me. These claims are wide of the mark. In fact, many people who voted for Brexit would not do so now.
The protest on 23 March is not just for us: it’s for the next generation of voters too, and for anybody who cares about what kind of country we will be in a decade’s time.
It’s true that our political infrastructure is riddled with problems. But we don’t want to inherit even more thanks to Brexit. We will not let a handful of politicians wreck our futures.
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