Posted on Wed 06 Nov 2019 at 11:10 by Christopher Carter
It takes less than 5 minutes to register to vote online, but the effects could last a lifetime!
It’s easy to become dismissive, hardened or cynical about politics. The UK’s political system is not perfect – at times, it’s flat-out dysfunctional! - and it can often be disheartening to feel like your vote doesn’t make much of a difference. As a student, you may simply have different priorities – meaning that it is also easy to say that you’re “not interested in politics”, or think that it doesn’t affect you.
However, the upcoming General Election on 12th December is potentially the most important in living memory. The decisions that are made in the coming months will have an impact on life here in the UK for years, and potentially even decades to come – and that is YOUR future. Make no mistake: if you care about the rising cost and stresses of student life, this affects you. If you care about Climate Change or the environment, this affects you. If you care about the future of the NHS, this affects you. If you have an opinion on Brexit – any opinion on Brexit - THIS AFFECTS YOU.
For too long, politicians have ignored or dismissed the concerns of students on a wide range of issues. However, it is clear now that they can no longer afford to do this – and, indeed, that many now even fear the student vote. In the last General Election, an increase in student and youth engagement contributed immeasurably to many parliamentary seats (including our local constituency in Leamington) changing hands. Your vote CAN, and DOES make a difference.
Sadly, some politicians now also cynically aim to reduce the power of students in a bid to further their own interests. As reported recently in The Times, 10 Downing Street admitted that they were looking to time a General Election so as to limit the number of students who would be eligible to participate. It is therefore not inconceivable that the date of this upcoming election has been deliberately set towards the end of (or, in many cases, outside of) university term-time in a bid to further disenfranchise students. DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS. It is, in essence, a form of voter suppression - an attempt to rob you of your democratic voice, and a desperately manipulative means of maintaining a balance of power which many of you will not agree with!
It is worth noting that students are in a uniquely powerful position, in that we are eligible to register at BOTH our home AND term-time addresses, provided you only vote in ONE constituency come Polling Day. If you’re not sure where you’ll be based on December 12th, you can also request a postal vote. (For those who want to vote tactically, take a look at the results of the last General Election in 2017 to see where you think your vote would be most useful – marginal seats can often be decided by a handful of votes, and yours could be one that helps make the vital difference!)
When young people make their collective voice heard, the results are often overwhelming. For those of you who were too young to vote in the EU Referendum, now is your opportunity to stand up and be counted. And for those of you who simply want to show their frustration with the whole democratic process: REGISTER TO VOTE! Spoiling your ballot on the day is as valid a form of protest as any – but simply not bothering to show up achieves absolutely nothing (in fact, it just allows the status quo to carry on unchallenged, thus making you complicit in your own disillusionment!)
There are those who would rather we did not speak out on the issues we care about. They call us “snowflakes” and accuse us of being ill-informed, apathetic or just plain lazy. Those people are hoping – indeed, perhaps even counting - on you not showing up on Polling Day. Let’s prove them wrong. Because I can bet that the people who disagree with you WILL turn out – and it’s those voices which will then be allowed to shape the conversation for years to come.
The deadline to register for either an in-person or postal vote is Tuesday 26th November. For more information about voter eligibility and registration, please see HERE.