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“Oh, I don’t vote. It’s not like it’ll make a difference.”

“Oh, I don’t vote. It’s not like it’ll make a difference.”

“Oh, I don’t vote. It’s not like it’ll make a difference.”

Photo: Telegraph.co.uk

Photo: Telegraph.co.uk

That right there, is a defeatist statement. The sort that’s trotted out not just by young people or students, but disillusioned voters in general. Given the events of the last few years, it’s not difficult to see why.

In 2010, we were too young to vote – but we saw the pre-election promises made to our older siblings, or our parents, by the Lib Dems. They said they would scrap tuition fees – and we watched as months later, they sent them sky-rocketing. Much like the changes to the education system that followed, we were given no say and just had to put up with it.

Add that with the various other broken promises of the Lib Dems and Conservatives, from Clegg’s vow never to join a Conservative government, to Cameron’s that they would NOT make cuts to the NHS, and it’s not difficult to see why people, students especially, might be sceptical or apathetic when it comes to politics.

Photo: Spectator blog

Photo: Spectator blog

In the last year or so, however, one man seemingly came to the rescue. Like the Messiah some may argue he resembles, the once very-naughty-boy Russell Brand cleaned up his act to enter an equally dirty business. Fair play to Brand – he’s proven over the last couple of years that, despite his past actions, he’s a lot cleverer than he’d previously been given credit for. He’s aware of the real social and political issues facing us today, and is using his celebrity status as a force for good – standing up for the little man, encouraging us to question the system, highlighting big corporations as the root of our problems, rather than typical political scapegoats like immigrants or benefit ‘scroungers’.

But if there’s one thing he shouldn’t be doing, it’s this; encouraging people not to vote, especially the young people that listen so intently to his ideas.

Brand may talk of this new, peaceful revolution – rising up against the establishment, and rebuilding it from scratch. He even encourages it to be done peacefully – and good for him. But the fact is, if and when this not-entirely-thought-out revolution ever happens, it’s a long way off.

Political activism is something to be admired, but the fact is, in the world we live in right now, the way we make the biggest change is by voting. We can claim nothing ever changes, but that attitude is often the reason it doesn’t. Especially as students, we are the ones that often end up drawing the short straw. There is a not-entirely unreasonable assumption that we’re all just apathetic.

But by not voting, we forfeit our voice in this democracy. The Conservatives have been accused of chasing ‘the grey vote’ before, but older generations will, by and large, turn up at the ballot box. It’s simple logic – why bother catering towards the views or opinions of people who don’t let their voices be heard anyway? Much better to chase up the people who are actually going to vote than people who are at best on the fence as to whether to vote at all.

A general election is the big opportunity, that only comes around every half-decade, to register how you feel about the way things are. Are you pleased with the direction the country is going in? Do you think it’s time for a change?

Do you want revenge for the way students and your fellow young people have been treated by the government in the past five years – to show them your education is not to be messed with? Or even – I’ll be impartial for a moment – do you agree with what the government’s been doing? Perhaps they need time to finish what they’ve started?

Labour have had a good five years out of office now – is it time to give them another go? Or perhaps the Lib Dems would be better governing alone? The Green Party and UKIP have had notable surges in popularity in the last year or so – should one of them be given a chance? They’ve been deemed important enough to be in the TV debates now – it’s not out of the question.

The election is less than four months away. Now is the time to educate yourselves. Watch the #LeadersLive interviews on YouTube. Research the parties and manifestos. If still none of them appeal to you or seem trustworthy, then spoil your ballot paper – at least you’ve registered your frustration. What could it mean if an election meant more spoiled ballots – more registered disgust – than votes for any one party?

David Cameron is the only invited Leader not to participate in #LeadersLive. Photo: ITV

David Cameron is the only invited Leader not to participate in #LeadersLive. Photo: ITV

Politicians are answerable to the people – not the other way around. Lets remind them that that includes us students.

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5 Comments

  1. Not voting is the most political act.

    Reply
    • Not voting is the least political act. You forfeit your right to even complain about the way things are if you don’t at least turn up at the ballot box and spoil your ballot paper to register your dissent. To not vote at all is easy – you simply don’t turn up on election day. To vote requires that miniscule amount of effort more. If you don’t like the way the system is currently, do some research, and vote for a party that you think is likely to change it.

      Reply
  2. It is the most political act in the sense that it says to the political elite: ‘You don’t do anything for me, so why should I legitimise your power?’ In addition, I believe voting is the most lazy and ‘easy’ political act. All you are required to do is put a cross in a box and that’s that. More effective politics can be found in activism and grass-roots action; this is how you hold politicians to account, not by voting in a new government every five years…

    Oh, and on the point that “you forfeit your right to even complain”: that sounds a bit authoritarian to me. So because I don’t feel represented by ANY political party and therefore don’t vote, I’m not allowed a voice?

    Reply
    • If you don’t turn up at the ballot box, the only indication the political elite have is a statistical figure – that a certain, however large percentage, of the population, did not turn out to vote. The political elite are propped up by those who continue to turn out to vote every time. Beyond saying ‘oh, isn’t that sad, most people didn’t turn up at the ballot box’, the political elite will disregard you if you don’t turn up.

      By turning up and spoiling your ballot paper, however, you a registering your dissent – you are actually saying to them ‘You don’t do anything for me, so why should I legitimise your power?’. You could even turn up to spoil your ballot paper by writing those exact words all over the ballot.
      Not turning up is simple apathy. But think what it would mean for Britain if we had the largest voter turnout ever, and a larger percentage of people spoiled their ballot papers than lent their support to any one political party? Especially if, on top of that, there was a hung parliament?
      Our entire political system could undergo comprehensive reform, to be sure that the people of this country felt represented.

      Spoiling your ballot paper is exercising your right to vote, that over the centuries people fought and died for, without voting for any particular party. If you want to, you can even call it not voting, but it’s actively saying ‘I’m not voting’, rather than passively not turning up,

      Reply
  3. But take a look at Australia, for instance, where voting is compulsory. There you have an overtly racist, right wing government. There may be many people who are ok with that, but what about the people who aren’t? My point is that huge turnouts won’t necessarily mean things will progress, and therefore there is not much potential for change through voting.

    Again, I would also like to stress that the view that I am not allowed an opinion because I don’t vote goes against ideas of democracy and freedom. Yes, people fought and died for the vote, but they didn’t fight so that only people who voted could have a voice. I’m sure they fought so that everyone could have a voice. And anyway, I think it says something that I have a degree in Politics and yet I’m choosing not to vote in the coming general election.

    Like the saying goes, if voting changed anything it would be illegal.

    Reply

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