What’s wrong with people nowadays huh? It seems the average person on the street doesn’t really feel engaged with politics and I’m struggling to work out why!
The question of voter apathy is not a new phenomenon of the noughties but when only 59% of people voted in the election in 2001- the lowest since 1918 (before women got the vote!!) one has to ask the question as to why?
To bring the question to a local level i.e onto campus, I’m currently bombarded as I walk around with election campaign posters of hopefuls in the Guilds executive elections and I’m also bombarded by groups of bright-faced 18yr olds with their parents traipsing round campus on tours. Now if I were one of these young candidates I would stare in awe thinking yeh this is the place for me look at the interaction, the engagement, wonder what these elections are about, get me here now this is what university is about!! Now I admit that perhaps that is only what I would think because I’m a geek like that, and you’re probably right that the average prospective student isn’t going to be swayed to come to Birmingham uni solely based on visions of student politics.
But this my friends is the problem! When then are these young people going to get engaged with any kind of politics, local, student or otherwise? In my view university is a melting pot of ideas and opinions, it’s a time to express those and have them shaped by debate and engaging with people you don’t agree with, it’s a place of activity and protest, a place to become an adult with rounder opinions and experience than when you arrived. This aspect of Bham uni life seems to be fading and fast. Many students don’t believe the Guild has any relevance to their uni lives other than the spar shop and Fab ‘n’ fresh and maybe the society they joined or if they are even aware of Guild council they think it’s for people only interested in arguing and politics that don’t mean anything in the real world. The unawareness and lask of voting in the Guild referendum demonstrates this neatly, wonder what the turn out will be like for the exec elections? not good I expect considering how many students now attend Bham uni!
But why is this happening? There’s probably no answer or several! Disillusionment at the system or politicians (or even people standing for exec elections), disinterest, lack of understanding on the issues or plain laziness? I must admit to feeling slightly exasperated when discussing this subject because to me being involved and understanding why I’m voting for so-and-so and what they stand for seems common sense and my duty as a citizen of a democracy. Especially when there are countries that do not have free elections and even here where women died for me to have the right to vote, I believe it is a disservice to them and to the best intentions of democracy.
In fact how about this for a last sentiment, a suggestion for a change in the law: If you do not vote in 3 consecutive elections (local and national) then you loose the right to vote and must prove that you deserve to have it back. This proof would be done by a simple rudimentary test of basic political knowledge. Argue amongst yourselves as to the logistics of this but just putting it out there to stir the waters!