It's high time for a political change but, first and foremost, students have to go to the pollsLouis Ashworth for Varsity

Yesterday, at about 4 pm, the nation waited with bated breath for Rishi Sunak to take the advice of every northern mum (“it’s only a bit of rain - it won’t kill you”) and announce that, on the 4th of July, there would be a UK general election. It had already been a long day for those who like Twitter, procrastinating their revision, or clips of The Thick of It. General Election rumours had been abound since mid-morning, and until roughly 3:30 pm it had all been rather speculative; Sunak’s statement satiated the rumours of civil servants, journos, and politics nerds alike.

Liz Truss, upon announcing her premiership in 2022, famously “drove around London for a bit” until the weather got slightly better. Standing outside 10 Downing Street (rather than in it) for these kinds of announcements is a classic example of the British political system and its preference for consensus and tradition. Sunak had his lectern, his suit, his austere demeanour. Atypical of Sunak’s announcement was not only the pouring rain, but the person who was blasting D: ream’s “Things can only get better” outside the gates of Downing Street. It was a bit like watching David Brent in The Office, except he (currently) has control over whether or not the minimum wage increases in line with inflation. More macabre, but no less amusing.

“Students are not engaging in politics at the Westminster level”

This soundtrack was certainly in tune with the country’s mood. It’s quite hard to see how Rishi Sunak came to this decision, considering the disastrous results for his party in the local elections: a 20-point lead to Labour and the stagnant state of economic affairs. But after 14 years in government; if the to-ing and fro-ing of British political history has taught us anything, it’s that it’s time for a pendulum swing. Perhaps Sunak is just a bit fed up or, like Nadine Dorries has suggested, wants to spend the Summer holidays in Miami with his two kids in a very large house. Whatever the reason, I think we can all agree it’s high time we had a new government because the current one is running on air. I’m sure even (fairly reasonable) Conservatives can agree with this. The study of electoral strategy suggests that the Conservative party could probably benefit from being placed in electoral “time out”, to think about all their bad behaviour (Brexit, austerity and Boris’ seemingly endless affairs).

I’m not naïve, though. I’m writing this with a “Britain’s Prime Ministers” mug in hand, whilst actively avoiding my revision of New Labour’s fiscal policy. I have (probably too much) skin in the game when it comes to caring about politics. You, the reader of this article, on the other hand, might think - “Why the fuck should I care about a general election?”. This is a valid question, but I want to try to change your mind. Not to vote any which way (you can spoil your ballot for all I care) but just to get out and vote in the first place. This is because, if young people continue down the dangerous path of apathy they are currently traversing, students will soon have no impact on what goes on in Westminster. And that is a danger to democracy.

“It’s young people who, oftentimes, are forced to carry the costs of these policies”

I really did think I would be spending early July in a pub garden trying to google the offside rule, but it turns out I’m probably going to spend it on the Labour doorsteps. That’s okay though - I care a lot about working people, and social mobility, and a Labour government is important to me. Young people have a huge stake in the dealings of Westminster, and yet the numbers of 18-24-year-olds turning out to vote in recent years are seriously dire. The 2019 General Election saw a turnout of around 47% amongst voters aged 18-24, a decrease of 7% when compared to 2017. In contrast, at the German federal election of 2017, turnout for those of a similar age stood at around 68%, and when compared to the overall UK national turnout of 67.3% of those registered to vote, the problem becomes clear. Students are not engaging in politics at the Westminster level. This has to change.


Mountain View

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Political scientists have suggested lots of different reasons for this state of affairs, but I think that’s besides the point. There’s a reason why parties feel inclined to dedicate pages and pages of their manifestos to pension support and lower taxes. Older people are their core voters, and yet it’s young people who, oftentimes, are forced to carry the costs of these policies. Young people’s voices are being ignored on topics from the UK’s decision to continue to support Israel in its war on Gaza, to its reckless policies on the climate and its blatant disregard of LGBTQ+ rights. I’m not saying that if you, personally, register to vote, all this will change. But it is a fact that if the youth vote mobilises itself to such an extent that the next government simply cannot ignore it, students will have a significant mandate to demand more of its legislators.

So. Register to vote. Go to the polling station on the way home from work, or the pub, or your mate’s house and vote. It’s your democratic right – nay, obligation – after all.