Common decency. What a beautiful concept. The understanding that wherever we go, whatever we do, the people we meet will be polite and courteous. That regardless of our social standing, we will treat and be treated with dignity and respect. For many years I considered this not to be an ideal, but a way of life, adhering to an unwritten code of conduct, and expecting everyone else to do the same. But I was wrong. Sometimes I manage to push this to the back of my mind and pretend there isn’t an issue – that everything is fine. But every door not held open, every ‘please’ forgotten and every ‘thank you’ neglected just reaffirms my fears.
The abandonment of these principles is epitomized by British politics. It should come as no surprise that there is a General Election coming up on the 7th of May. If it is, then you’re probably not registered to vote, and now it’s too late. If so, shame on you! Everyone else, however, has probably seen a lot of propaganda relating to the election. I label it as such, because that’s what it is, and every party is guilty of it. These media campaigns are designed to damage the image of competing parties and their members, whilst making no effort to actually inform. I don’t know why they use this particular approach. Perhaps the ‘establishment’ has simply decided that the general public are too simplistic to understand politics. Maybe they realise the weaknesses of their policies and are desperately trying to turn our attention to what Ed Miliband looks like eating a sandwich, or the order in which David Cameron applies jam and cream to his scones. Either way, it is an insulting and cheap tactic, and it displays an absolute departure from any sense of common decency and pride.
The disinterest that young people seem to have in politics is also of interest to the media. In the last election only 51.8% of people aged 18-24 voted, so the multitude of adverts designed to appeal to the demographic and secure votes is hardly surprising. However, despite the bias, they have got a point. Not enough young people vote, and it is a problem.
This apparent apathy is often misinterpreted as indifference. We care, but so many young voters are completely disillusioned by the British version of politics. All it takes is a clip of Prime Minister’s Question Time, or a few minutes on Twitter, to get the overwhelming impression that politicians aren’t concerned with anything other than staying in power – that to them, politics is just a game.
We don’t vote because we feel like our vote won’t count for anything. We feel like we have nothing we can vote for, and we regard any party that claims otherwise as being ‘too idealistic’. It is a truly spectacular achievement that by the age of 18, our ‘democracy’ manages to erode the hope of so many people. The disenfranchised youths of previous generations vote for one of the established parties, whilst the youth of today don’t bother voting, and so we find ourselves at an impasse.
We need to realise that the only way our vote won’t count is if we don’t vote. I know that if your party doesn’t win in your constituency, then yes, it might feel like voting hasn’t really achieved a great deal – and that is a massive flaw of the current system. But there are other factors that we need to consider.
First of all, we can never know what is going to happen in an election. We have polls, historical data and trends, but that’s pretty much it. I live in a Conservative stronghold and I’m voting Green. I know that as things stand there is virtually no chance of the Green Party winning here – which is a shame as Dom Giles is a very pleasant person and I think he would make a great MP – but maybe they will. Or maybe they could have won, but they were one vote down. My vote. It’s unlikely, and I understand that, but it isn’t impossible.
Second, if no one votes for the minority parties, we won’t know that people support them. If you think you are the only person who wants to vote for a particular party in a particular constituency, then you probably won’t bother because you’ll feel it won’t make the slightest difference. Maybe so – it might do absolutely nothing now, but maybe it will convince someone else to vote next time. It’s not much, but it’s progress.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, then just see it as registering disagreement. Don’t let UKIP think they have your support. Make it clear that you’re fed up of politicians using the vulnerable as scapegoats. Let them know that we can turn their system against them. We need to be heard, and that is our responsibility – but they need to respond, and they need to change.