PR student Dev Mistry gives his view on the upcoming election and its implications for student voters
Students. It seems that most political parties think we only care about tuition fees. We’re not really voters in their eyes; we’ll vote for the “hipster parties” or the ones that don’t really stand a chance. The main parties, with maybe the exception of the Greens, have little to say about us, even though we count as the next generation of workers, thinkers and ultimately creators.
Now as a student, I personally had little formal education on politics, if any. This left me to form my own opinions and attitudes, but only because I was interested in it. This is the case with a plethora of students and younger voters alike. At 18 we’re given the power to vote, but no knowledge or information to help us make an informed decision.
Instead we rely on what we see in the media and what other people think. Instead of voting for policies, we vote for political characters that the media portrays in a variety of lights, suited to their own respective voices.
This isn’t a discussion about media though, it’s about politics and how we as students should be engaged. Politics in general is aimed at older generations, with parties holding the idea that just because they have a digital presence it equals immediate engagement with younger voters and students. Although it’s a step in the right direction, there’s so much more to do than post the odd video or status on social media.
Efforts to engage the students and young voters are few and far between; The Lib Dems created a cringe worthy video, in the style of Youtuber - Cassetteboy, which did them no help coupled with their previous student related history. The Conservatives have no general student related communications, with SNP and Plaid-Cymru having communication with their regional based students separate from the rest of the United Kingdom. UKIP doesn’t really seem to be focused on the younger generation at all, which leaves us with the Green party whose excellent campaign video became a viral hit and raised its exposure within the younger generations.
I’m still undecided in who I’m going to vote for in May, a matter of weeks, which to me I scary. Not one party has reached out to young voters with a welcoming hand and explained to them what their polices are, how it might affect their futures, where it will leave them in four years. In fact it seems if you are not a middle aged homeowner with a young family or a wealthy business person, the focus of the parties policies are not on you.
Even with policies about affordable housing for first time buyers or marginal cuts to tuition fees, the parties don’t seem to care about students, even though we are the future. Parties should be going out explain the benefits of policies to student and younger voters, showing them how the changes they want to make will affect their futures. Will this the research into alternative energy provide X amount of jobs in future? Will the economy allow for young people to attempt to climb the property ladder? How will parties’ defence policies best protect us from potential threats? It is general policies and ideas like these that we want to know about, not necessarily how much money we will have to pay to attend an academic institution. We have brains, we are clever and we want to be engaged. Part of the problem is that we were never given the opportunity to understand or even learn about politics, I’ve yet to see a party proactively ask what students and young voters want from them; in my eyes, it’s still not too late to ask.
In my own opinion I believe Parliament should be made up of a general alliance between several parties; each coming to an understanding, and compromise, to run the country in a way which benefits far more people on a whole. I doubt that will happen, but there’s little prediction in what might happen on May 7th.
Final Year BA Public Relations Student