Posted on Mon 05 Jun 2017 at 12:18 by Luke Pilot
Since a snap General Election was called in April, the news cycle has switched to near-continuous coverage of the back & forth between party leaders and rival candidates, while political commentators have their eyes glued to the polls. It is easy to switch off in response, particularly when you have more pressing matters like your exams and deadlines to prepare for. Coupled with the usual rhetoric about MPs all being the same and the commonly-voiced concern that “my vote won't count”, taking the time to actually go and vote is not always the most enticing prospect. However, I’m here to tell you that you need to jettison that thought and cast your vote in what could be one of the most important General Elections in decades.
Whatever your thoughts on why this election was called, it is clear that British politics is at a pivotal moment. When the election was announced, it was billed as being all about Britain’s exit from the European Union. Due to recent events, it has inevitably become about security and defence too. However, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the major areas we’ve seen huge changes in over the past few years: the future of Higher and Further education, the NHS, funding for schools, climate change, marginalised communities, the economy, housing and international relations. In real terms, it’s about your access to education, access to healthcare, the sustainability of your world, your voice, your rent and your civil liberties.
When so much is up for grabs – indeed, with our own futures literally hanging in the balance - it is up to us to seize the moment by stepping up to have our say. The decisions made by the next Government will have a profound effect on our generation in the midst of the most volatile and tumultuous political landscape for decades. You need to make sure you get to the ballot box on Thursday and have your say on how you want that landscape to be defined - not just for the next few years, but likely for the next significant part of your life.
It is even more important to cast your vote because it is not just in our best interests as students and young people, but also now within our power to change things. Around 2 million new voters registered since the election was called, with an impressive 100,000 young people registering in the 3 days following the announcement. A staggering half a million young people registered before the deadline on 22nd May. This is virtually unprecedented in recent history, and shows just how strongly our generation feels about decisions which will have an enormous impact on our lives. If we turn out in these numbers on Thursday, we could have a seismic effect on the results of the election. So make damn sure that you do!
The past few years - not to mention the most recent months - have been a political awakening for many. However, please know that there are many like-minded people out there who also yearn for change. You need to take that energy and solidarity and use it to carry your vision forward. Polling day isn’t where your fight should begin or end - it’s part of a much bigger story. Elections aren’t the only way you can have a say or get involved in change. Take that passion and apply it to your local community, invest it in a grassroots campaign, or get involved with charities and discussion groups. Join a protest, produce a report, hold officials to account, try running in an election yourself or pass policy in an SU referendum – anything to just get the conversation going. Take the outcome of that discussion and turn it into physical action and eventual change.
For students, this election represents a pivotal moment. For too long now, our concerns have been ignored and we have been forced to bear the brunt of previous generations’ disdain or mismanagement. In this election, we are being presented with stark and clearly-defined choices, while our votes could be those which help decide the eventual outcome. Truly, our time is now. So, if you’re registered to vote, make sure you turn up on Thursday. If you live on campus, get to the Oculus to use the polling stations set up for you there. If you’re not sure where to cast your ballot, get in touch with your local councils to clarify. Remind your parents, siblings, flatmates and friends to do the same. Get us on the path to a brighter future and a more inclusive society for us all. Get yourself to the ballot box on June 8th - and then start helping to forge a better world straight after!
If you need any information on where, when and how to vote on Thursday 8th June, check out this helpful guide from The Boar: