In the second of our Explain it! Series we are taking about voting and the power of change, that young people in particular, can bring about by getting involved.
If you missed our first Explain It! instalment on how the government works you can catch up HERE.
I will start this article by saying that it in my opinion EVERYONE male or female who has the right to vote should feel a moral obligation to do so because both MEN and WOMEN have had to fight for YOU to have the right to vote!
However as rightly pointed out by Viscount Palmerston (a politician in 1864 trying to change the voting laws) “Every man and woman also has the right to be well governed and under just laws”, so you know, is the government living up to their side of the bargain?
Not many people are aware that before 1918 only men who owned property were allowed to vote and the voting age was 21. This means that at the same time the law was changed to include women it also included more than 5 MILLION MEN who had previously been unable to vote!
Maybe just have a little think about this the next time voting rolls round.
Young People and Voting
Excitingly young people are more engaged politically than they have been in living memory and whilst voting is the single most important political interaction that you can make, there is more that can be done to tilt the conversation towards the young and ensuring you get involved. Here are some things that you could do:
1. Understand where parties stand on issues that are important for you.
2. Write to your local MP and raise issues that affect you.
3. If you have really significant issues, then attend your MP’s local surgery and tell them in the flesh.
4. Find out who your local councillor is – what party do they represent and what are their views on the key issues that affect you locally? It could be the schools, it could be provision of cycle routes and local parks or maybe a local skatepark.
And here is why you should get involved….
In 1973, the UK voted to join the then European Economic Community. 43 years later in 2016, the people of the UK voted to leave the EU in a narrowly contested referendum. Regardless of where you sit in terms of how you feel about that particular political argument, one thing that is clear is that decisions made at the ballot box have a long-term consequence.
Given that they have such a long-term consequence, it follows that young people have to live with these consequences longer than the older population. Improvements in medical technology along with an improvement in health and a general growth in population mean that in 2007 for the first time, the number of over 60’s in the UK outnumbered the number of those below 18 (info from BBC News).
In the UK, (unlike some countries) voting is optional. Voter turnout is generally highest in General Elections and in the 2015 General Election 66.1% of eligible voters actually voted. That’s still only 2 people out of every 3!
Here comes the really interesting part – older people vote in greater numbers. For example, the percentage of 18-19 year olds who voted per a YouGov survey was 57% whilst 77% of people aged 60-69 voted. This tilts the entire system and means that when campaigning for elections, political parties specifically target the older population.
By way of an example, everybody over 65 in the UK is entitled to a winter fuel payment of between £100 and £300. Although the Conservatives won the last election, they lost favour with a lot of the older community by proposing that they reduce this benefit in England (where they were safer, whilst maintaining it in Scotland and Wales where they were under pressure). This was felt by some to be one of the factors why they didn’t do as well as they should have and only narrowly won a vote they were expected to win massively.
Compare this to an issue that young people are shown to care about much more than their older peers, namely the environment, this barely got a mention from any of the major parties at this election.
But by getting involved in voting, YOU can move help move away from the standard political image of crusty old white men in suits and move towards something more dynamic and relevant whilst potentially even saving the planet!
So get involved and use your vote to power change – YOU can make a real difference to YOUR future!
Live Laugh Giraffe Team
Our Explain It! Series aims to make politics and other complicated subjects more understandable for you, so if there are any topics you would specifically like us to cover please let us know in the comments.