Wednesday 04-05-2016 - 17:18
Last night, students across Wales took to Twitter to talk about the upcoming elections to the National Assembly for Wales, voice their views on devolved issues, and their hopes and fears for the future.
This level of engagement showed just how much young people and students are invested in these issues; invested in the opportunity to secure political change on the issues they care about. For students, the elections tomorrow are undoubtedly important, with the majority of issues affecting their day to day life decided upon within the Senedd, from public transport to college courses to accessing vital mental health services. And yet, ask any student on the street and the likelihood is they won’t be voting. Many people claim young people and students are apathetic, but I refuse to accept that. If last night demonstrated anything, it’s that students and young people are incredibly passionate about political issues. But where we are going wrong is in not having a political system that offers a place to transform that passion into political application.
Inadequate or completely absent political education in schools means young people grow up without an understanding of how they fit into the political system or even that their views are valid- we have to make politics work for young people, not expect them to participate in a disengaging system. It is the responsibility of our politicians to make sure young people understand the role of the devolved government – whether that’s through curriculum change, talking about issues that mean something to young people, not just at them – or simply making themselves more accessible all the time, not just on the run up to an election.
But it’s not just young people who seem disinterested in tomorrow’s election. Tomorrow’s vote will arguably be the most important for Wales since devolution began – with the uncertainty posed by the absence of a clear majority, and the rising popularity of UKIP. So why has this election felt so flat? Last year, you couldn’t move for hearing about the election – what happened this year? What happened to the momentum? Whether it’s due to election fatigue, or an uninspiring set of campaigns, the lack of public interest in the elections tomorrow is concerning. For many, this election has felt like continuous posturing over headline policy lines in health and education with little substance. And that’s the problem with politics - real issues and real people feel lost within the white noise of empty rhetoric and mud-slinging.
When done right, politics gives a voice to the marginalised and opportunities to the disadvantaged-it’s a tool for making society better – so why is it not more inspiring?
It’s the responsibility of each and every one of us to make politics work for the many, not just for the few – it’s our responsibility to vote, to participate… we owe it not just to those who fought for our right to vote, but for those for whom decisions made by the political parties elected tomorrow will make a real difference to their lives.
Whether you’re a student here just for your three years, or you’ve grown up on these streets, tomorrow you have a choice not just about the policies you want to see, but a choice about who our political system speaks for.
A chance to reclaim politics.
A chance to prove that tired narrative that students and young people are apathetic wrong.
A chance to do politics, before politics does you.