Can’t be bothered to vote? With your future at stake, you really can’t afford to.
Make sure you register to vote by tomorrow, 22nd May: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
By Christianah Babajide
Possessing the freedom to vote is a cornerstone of political democracy that has been hard won, so why is it that over a third of voters are not exercising this right? Although young people today seem uninterested in politics and political participation, educating them about their rights, civic duties and responsibilities are the only way to be sure they become engaged adults.
The Bystander experiment (https://explorable.com/bystander-apathy-experiment), conducted by Latane & Darley (1968) illustrate three factors that affect voter turnout. The first is the Diffusion of Responsibility where a person experiences a dilution of social responsibility in a group setting, the second is Pluralistic Ignorance which is a tendency to assume and rely on the overt actions of others and the third is Evaluation Apprehension which is fear of being judged by others when acting publicly.
When I was younger, I fell into the first and second category. Upon hearing the word ‘politics’, I automatically detached myself from it, dismissing it as something that affected other people. Whenever people would attempt to talk to me about politics, I’d either say “All politicians are the same” or “My vote doesn’t mean anything.” I ended up alienating myself from electoral politics and throwing away my right to vote. It didn’t help that whenever I did watch a political debate, it always seemed like subjects that disproportionately affected my generation got bumped down the political agenda.
However, all this changed at sixth form; when I took Government and Politics and History A-Levels. Taking these subjects was an eye-opener; Politics allowed me to see beyond the initial belief that we have no say in the running of our country whilst History informed me of the Civil Rights movement and women’s struggle over 60 years to gain the right to vote. In all, I learnt that if young people engaged in political processes, using the pressure points built into the system, then every individual really does have the opportunity to shape the political landscape. For me, education was the catalyst for political participation because it placed everything into perspective, allowing me to see the bigger picture. Voting is the essence of a democratic nation and democracy doesn’t work unless citizens participate. Like Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
Several policies promised by the Conservatives will hit ordinary people hard, while leaving the wealthy unaffected. Their education policy is in chaos, in the space of a month, it has abandoned legislation to speed up the academy programme, launched an expansion of grammar schools but offered no details and postponed the introduction of a national funding formula. The Tories’ economic policies neglect the interests of millennials, favouring the top percentage of earners and corporations. The young pay the price of their policy decisions, and now pensioners are finding out that the Tories don’t have their best interests at heart either.
With the Conservatives modus operandi being to fail everyone except the extremely wealthy, it didn’t take me long to resonate with Labour’s left wing ideologies, a party which stands for everyone, not just the privileged few. So far, the Labour party has designed long-term economic plans that revisit the purpose of education policy, encourage debate and consensus about what we value and expect from our schools and offers leadership that aligns with the egalitarian view of building a more tolerant Fabian society.
This general election is bigger than Jeremy Corbyn. It’s bigger than Theresa May. It’s bigger than you and me for the next five years. The future of the younger generation is at stake and the outcome of the EU referendum will influence policy for generations to come. We can complain all we want about politicians, but unless we vote on the 8th of June there will never be change. With hindsight, I can’t imagine how I’d spent my teenage years disengaged from voting, something that directly impacted me, I love my right to vote and the thought of missing polling day on the 8th of June terrifies me!
Many thanks to Christianah for this piece!
Christianah Babajide is a young canvasser in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. When she’s not campaigning, she’s studying for her law degree at City, University of London, City Law School.