I’d like to start this with a confession – I didn’t vote in the recent local elections. This was not a choice born out of ignorance, but certainly came from some place of apathy. I had fully intended on voting. It was scheduled in for the evening, right after my busy day of hopping between Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube – or, as it’s better known, ‘revision’. But, alas, time got away from me – and do you know why? Because I spontaneously decided to go to Fever. Fever! My hypocrisy dawned on me when I woke at some ungodly time on the Friday.
This is the same guy who, after Theresa May announced her infamous snap election last year, posted a link to online voter registration on Facebook, demanding that anyone who read the post exercised their democratic right. And I did it because I didn’t want May to be right – to extend her majority, she was banking on a poor turnout amongst the youth. As we all now know, we rumbled her – at that point, the weight of each individual vote had never felt so important.
But here I am, a year later, not voting in local elections because it’s absolutely paramount that my stomach is lined with a big old carb-y meal before my latest pointless night-out. And yet, I’m still happy to go and tweet my disgust about the Windrush Scandal.
We’re quick and happy to hurl abuse at Amber Rudd and Theresa May, but a much lower number of us engage with politics on a local level.
In Stig Abell’s book, How Britain Really Works, he expertly outlines the paradoxical nature of British society: “we experience life locally, but we only discuss it nationally”. Local politics does matter for us. It’s the local councils that dictate how we live on the daily basis; our roads, our local hospitals, our emergency services, even bloody Fever – these things matter. Education, housing, the environment – issues that we all like to commonly cite as some of the greatest that face our nation – are all managed on local levels. Those are enormous, national issues, but it’s the local actions that help the people that it actually affects. Ultimately, politics is personal; people get so invested because they want to feel the change. But tangible change comes from the politics that is most intimate.
Sure, it’s unfair to lump all responsibility on this age group – turnout for local elections is much poorer amongst the whole population. Yet, our apathy feels the saddest, because ultimately, we’re the future. It’s a tired and hollow cliché, yet it’s completely true.
After messing around for the previous 18 years, it’s our turn to make our own unique, serious mark on the world.
And here’s the exact problem: I try and intellectually engage with current affairs, I pursue student journalism, and I use words like “alas”. I’m begging to be taken seriously. But how can I, when I can’t even find time to exercise my right to vote on a platform where it’s going to affect me most? How can we, as a generation, expect those in power to shape policies around our needs and desires, if we won’t even turn up to draw a little cross next to their name? I know many of my friends did vote, and I know many care about these politics – but an even larger proportion of my friends didn’t even seem to know about it.
Part of the problem, of course, is that politics can be horrendously boring. Even those who are passionate about it generally agree with that – beyond the headlines and the scandals, it’s a string of technicalities and traditions. But, as we descend (yes, descend) towards adulthood at an alarmingly fast rate, we’re already coming face-to-face with a whole jungle of ‘boring’. Budgeting, rent, the bin schedule, mortgages (let me dream), form after form – we hate these things, but we endure them. Even if you find politics completely uninspiring, let it be a chore. If we really want the elite to listen, it has to be a chore. And you know what happens if you don’t do your chores.