November 15, 2013 12.20 pm This story is over 96 months old

Can the young vote turn around politics apathy?

Tackling voter apathy: Forget the baby boomers, politicians are looking to the future in search of votes, writes Kate Taylor in her column.

Talking about the Y generation – forget the baby boomers, politicians are looking to the future in search of votes.

The debate over British voting has raged on for longer than even Jeremy Paxman can remember. The first past the post system being one of the most complicated in the Western world, and one that has led to our current coalition government. Voting numbers have dwindled significantly over the years, the last election (voting for police and crime commissioner) had the pitiful turnout of 15%.

There is now the question of whether to lower the voting age to 16. Next year’s referendum for Scottish independence will give 16 and 17-year-olds the opportunity to vote. It seems unlikely it will add to voting turnouts by any great amount, regardless of what media campaign is spun.

The problem with giving younger people democratic independence isn’t so much about their maturity or lack there of when in the ballot box, but how we will have to re-evaluate their abilities in general. If they are old enough to vote, are they old enough to drive? To drink, smoke, and surely someone that can decide who sits in number 10 is old enough to leave mandatory education?

We need to look at the wider picture, at our current society who are eligible to vote. Why does our country have such widespread voter apathy? The aforementioned journalist may have hit the nail on the head in his recent Radio Times column, stating that “at the next election we shall have a choice between the people who’ve given us five years of austerity, the people who left us this mess, and the people who signed public pledges that they wouldn’t raise student fees, and then did so – the most blatant lie in recent political history.” Paxman has a point.

Even those with a firm grasp on the nature of the political beast are struggling to feign enthusiasm over the elections process, so what hope do they rest of us have in mustering up the effort to care?

Disillusionment on the topic of Westminster has broadened its horizons, our main parties have, to the naked eye, all congregated towards the centre of political ideology. This has given the more extreme parties (both left and right) a foot in the door. Unfortunately this makes for a dangerous playground, as the wolves in sheep’s clothing prowl the edges waiting to pounce on an apathetic public for a vote.

It has always been said, but never has the need rang louder, politics needs to be transparent. Our MPs expect us, their constituents who have given them their power, to keep them in that position. The problem for society is they seemingly see little in return.

Russell Brand had one thing right, we need a serious shake up. Is revolution the answer? No. The London riots were bad enough, and as many have already said, it is likely it will only further the justification of the right wing.

What about not voting at all, or introducing a legitimate ‘none of the above’ box on the ballot paper?

Firstly, not voting, though understandable, undermines everything we have fought for as a democracy. We cannot hope to change things if we do not keep our hand in, and that, even if you disagree with it, involves using your democratic right.

As for a ‘none of the above’ box, there are theories of how it could work, but it is unlikely to do so in the UK any time soon. Things are complicated enough without the ramifications of continual re-elections both local and general.

The best, but by no means the easiest, way to shake up UK politics is through an open, honest transparency. Too long we have been spoon fed promised policies, of better services but lower taxes.

The last election was won down to admitting the country was in a mess. Unfortunately fixing that mess doesn’t include leaving the poor to starve and the rich reeling out mission statements that don’t mention tax evasion. No, we need a government that will tell us what they really plan to do, before they do it and before we vote for them.

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Kate Taylor is a sociologist, mother and tea and cake lover. When not working in sociological and marketing research with her company, Galilee Research, Kate can be found talking about political philosophy on the school run.