Wednesday, 28 August 2013

You will vote

For most people, an 18th birthday is a time when you celebrate finally being able to walk into a pub and have a drink with your friends, at least without a fear of being chucked out.

Very few people wake up on their 18th to a chill that spreads down their spine, a sense of glee and passion, and a need for celebration, because that is the day that they can finally vote. There will always be the odd bunch who do get very excited about finally being able to vote, but, at least for most people, politics is not exactly high on their priorities.

This disinterest in politics, led by a generation who has learned that all politicians differ in their policies as much as they differ in how they dress, has really bothered the people at the top for some time now. How can a democracy function when each year more people are added to the adult population who simply aren't interested in what the government has to say?

The think tank, IPPR, has figured out what it considers to be the solution to this problem. They say that young people should not be given a choice about whether they should vote, because they should be fined if they don't. When a young person comes up to the first election that they are eligible to vote in, they would be required, under these suggestions, to go to a polling station mark down what they think.

Young people are incredibly disinterested in politics, but are enormously effected by it. Whether it be education, child benefits, or many other services that are available to young people, they are probably the people most effected by what the government does. According the the BBC, 16-24 year-olds are facing cuts of up to 28% their annual household income, much higher than those in higher age groups.

Since they are so drastically effected by what the government does, IPPR reckons that they should be forced, at least the first time, to register their opinion as to who gets to be in government. This would then give them the appetite to continue being involved in politics, meaning that young people would also continue to vote as they got older.

The thinking behind this is fairly sound. A democracy needs people to vote, and the more people who vote, the healthier the democracy is, at least in theory. By drastically raising the number of young people who vote, the government would be addressing a problem that they have been powerless to address in the past. Also, since young people are also already used to fulfilling government requirements, such as education, it wouldn't be that much of a problem for them.

This is also something that could happen in the not-so-distant future, since Labour has already said that is considering the idea. In fact, since Labour is also considering giving 16 year-olds the vote, this could be part of the new, youthful Labour ideas that Ed Miliband loves so much.

This idea is actually a really good one. I like that it would certainly make things a lot more interesting at general elections, and would certainly make politicians think more about young people. Yet, I can't get past the fact that it seems like another bit of needless constitutional tinkering, rather than thinking up real policies.

Maybe that is a bit mean, but it does seem like a slightly silly solution to the problem. It would be the definition of overkill if the government were to force people to exercise their freedoms. And, while it would certainly rock the boat, it would not address the underlying issues.

The fact is that young people don't vote not because they are stubbornly refusing to take part in British democracy, although some probably are doing just that, but because they don't see how it has any use to them. They see, quite rightly, a bunch of people shouting at each other on the television, while proudly sporting a different tie to the other people in the room. They don't see leaders, they see middle aged men acting like children while pretending to be the best thing since sliced bread.

If the government really wanted people to vote for them, then it might be a good thing for them to stop, for want a better phrase, playing politics. They should be honest, upfront, and direct about what they want to do for the country. They should think about what they are doing, and try their best, rather than trying to win games.

That is something that would be of far more use to the country than making people vote when they have nothing to vote for.

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