If I had a penny for every time a politician or a journalist insinuated that of all the issues facing Britain in the 21st century, public transport was the thing that affected my life the most, I would own a bus company. If I had a penny for the amount of times someone asked how angry I was about Clegg and tuition fee rises, I would have no student debt. But this is the political climate we currently live in. Modern politicians have well and truly shafted young people, and not just through policy changes or obvious attempts to bribe their older, greyer core vote. I’m talking about Westminster’s desire to constantly label all young people the same.
I regularly meet people who tell me that they do not believe all young people are knife-wielding, anti-social yobs. These same people then proceed to spout a long list of stereotypes that are just as incorrect as the one they dismissed in the first place. Political hacks talk about ‘young people’s issues’. But not every person under the age of 23 cares about votes at 16, or loves Russell Brand, or owns a Guy Fawkes mask. Generation Y is not a hive mind. We do actually care about issues such as the stability of our economy and the future of our national debt.
Some things the media claims about young people are true. We do tend to be quite sceptical of politicians, but our hostility is actually less than other age groups. Research by YouGov and the University of Southampton showed that 16 per cent of 18-24 year olds think politics is a waste of time, compared to 25 per cent of 25-39 year olds, and 26 per cent of those over 60. In reality, my age group isn’t actually that disillusioned with politics. The key problem is that not as many of us go out and vote. If turnout among younger voters was 5 per cent higher in 2010, 41 seats at Westminster could have had different results. In fact 20 seats could have had completely different results if turnout had improved by just 2 per cent.
There is so much more young people can do in politics other than bring the average age of a party conference down. If politicians engaged with us properly, and asked us about the issues that we actually care about instead of patronising us, another coalition may not be the likely outcome in 17 day’s time.
Ryan Gray works for UpRising and is Bedfordshire Programme Coordinator