By Alex Sambrook – Comment Editor
In the circus of Westminster the general election is the grand finale. It’s the human cannonball of politics that will see one of the main party leaders helplessly propelled into a five year trajectory that will ultimately end with a crash and a bang, and almost certainly without the aid of a crash mat – or at least that’s the way I look at it. As a 20-year-old student with no real previous experience of a general election, using such a loosely applicable metaphor is the only way I can make sense of it all. The politicians are the clowns, I’m an amused spectator but in the end, it’s me who ends up paying.
It’s a cynical view of politics – and I’ll be the first to admit that. But can you blame me? The beginnings of my political intrigue coincided with David Cameron winning the general election in 2010. At the time I was 15 years old and all I knew was that not many people spoke very highly of this Gordon Brown chap, so to me, having a different Prime Minister seemed like a great idea. This, however, changed very quickly.
It was around this time that I became aware of our new government’s intentions to triple tuition fees. I didn’t really understand how tuition fees worked, but as an inherently rebellious teenager I immediately latched on to the angry mobs and added my voice to the disgruntled masses who were berating those at the top with what felt like unparalleled fervour. Surely they were going to listen to us – they couldn’t ignore us, right?
Unfortunately, despite being convinced that a few thousand students channelling their inner Marx would help restore justice to the people, I was wrong. It would be fair to assume then that when everybody’s favourite junkie turned Hollywood superstar Russell Brand started preaching revolution from his proverbial soapbox; I lapped up his message like it was going out of fashion.
Once again, however, you would be wrong. By this point in my confusing and tumultuous journey through British politics I had already realised that our nation’s youth can wave their pitchforks towards Westminster as much as they want, but if they’re not voting then their grievances aren’t even going to flash up on the radar. Don’t get me wrong, I long for the same ideals as Mr Brand but the failed attempt at overturning the tripling of tuition fees is living proof that young people’s apathy towards voting isn’t going to achieve anything.
This is why we should be encouraging children to become interested and involved in politics from the earliest possible age. Lowering the voting age to 16 is all well and good, but as things stand an overwhelming majority of 16 year olds don’t know nearly enough about politics to make an informed decision about who they are going to vote for – Or at least I didn’t.
Implementing politics as a core subject from primary school would equip young people over the age of 16 with all the necessary knowledge required to make a sensible decision about who they want to run the country, rather than running the risk of lowering the voting age and having the youngest voters being influenced by parents.
In addition to this, it would solve the problem of young people becoming disillusioned with politics in this country. Once the youth vote increases – and it inevitably will with politics being taught in schools – politicians will have no choice but to listen to the demands of young people and cater to their grievances.
I understand how easy it is to fall in love with the romanticism of revolution, and in an ideal reality the ordinary people of this country would wrestle power from the privately educated fat cats and live happily ever after. At the moment however, this just isn’t going to happen. What Mr Brand fails to recognise is that revolution doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without the young population being equipped with enough political knowledge to know that change is possible. By empowering our young people, they will inevitably begin to realise the significance of their vote and once again become a thorn in the side of future governments.
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