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Why should I vote? Expert opinion

It’s important to vote in the General Election on May 7. But don’t take our word for it. We asked the UK’s top political bloggers why young people should take power and have their say at the ballot box.
What these guys don’t know about politics isn’t worth knowing. So let’s have a look at what they’ve got to say…

Sean Kippin, managing editor of Democratic Audit UK, says young people should be particularly keen to vote because low turnout among younger generations means they’re getting a raw deal.

He says: “Everyone should make sure they vote on May 7 – not only because everyone should have a say in who forms the next government, but because groups that disproportionately don’t turn out more often than not do worse out of things like spending cuts and tax changes.

“For example, under the current Government, tuition fees have been trebled and the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) has been cancelled, much to the detriment of young people. In the meantime, pensioners – who unlike the young do vote in their droves – have been lavished with beneficial policy changes. Voting won’t stop every injustice, but it’s a start.”

Joe Cox, research coordinator at Compass, agrees. He adds: “The fallout of the financial crisis is being dumped on young people – politicians feel that they can get away with this as voter turnout amongst the young is so low. So vote – but also make sure you connect, agitate, disobey, create and generally live a political life.”

Angela Harbutt, director at Liberal Vision, says a failure to vote by young people now will result in them picking up the tab in the future for policies aimed at winning the support of older voters.

She says: “Not a day goes by without one of the main political parties proposing yet another giveaway to voters. In every case the proposed government spending is to the benefit of today’s voters expecting you to pay for it in years to come. To stop this intergenerational theft, vote on May 7.”

Kay Atwal, who contributes to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) blog, Touchstone, emphasises what a radical difference it could make to the UK’s political landscape if turnout among young voters was higher.

She says: “If young people matched the voting rate for older voters, it would add four million extra votes – enough to transform the result and stop politicians ignoring them. This will empower them to challenge politicians to act on issues from low pay and long-term unemployment to high rents and crippling student rents.”

Helen Barnard, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, highlights a decline in living standards for young people.

“A third of 16 to 19-year-olds now live in poverty, along with 29% of 20 to 24-year-olds,” she says. “Poverty rates among these age groups have risen by 6 percentage points in the last 10 years. To achieve a better future young people should demand real career prospects and affordable housing.”

Tom Pride, creator of Pride’s Purge, says voting is a way of holding our elected politicians to account.

He says: “Not voting is a political statement. Low voter turnout tells our leaders they can do what they like because nobody will notice – it tells them they can sell-off our NHS to their friends because it’s not important, it tells them they can pay themselves massive expenses at your expense because it doesn’t matter and it tells them they can be as incompetent and corrupt as they like because nobody cares.

“So VOTE – if only to tell our leaders you DO care and you HAVE noticed.”

During Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s appearance on Channel 4 show The Last Leg in January, he said not voting is like letting someone else order for you at Nando’s.

These sentiments are echoed by Mark Pack, editor of the Liberal Democrat Newswire, who says: “Elections decide how our health service is run, what foreign wars we get into and how our education system works – and they are determined by those who turn up to vote. Why risk leaving it to other voters to express your views when you can do it directly yourself?”

Nick Ryan, communications advisor at Hope Not Hate, says: “If you don’t vote, think: who is going to vote for you? It’s going to be the older generation. You’re giving your vote away to people who may have very different views to your own.

“The over-65s are twice as likely as you to support parties like Ukip, which lives and breathes racism and homophobia. So if you want that, just do nothing. But if you don’t, then get your voice heard: register to vote.”

Eoin Clarke, from The Green Benches, urges young people to reclaim ownership of politics. He says: “Young people own the future. Decisions made now will greatly impact their lives and the world they inherit. Tuition fees, a Living Wage, the environment, international peace and good quality housing are issues that matter a lot to our youth but that are all too often not understood properly by politicians.

“It is unthinkable that our youth could leave all of these issues to chance by not voting in the General Election on May 7. Politics has failed our youth, it is time for our youth to own politics.”

This is a view shared by the editor of Backbench, Soila Apparicio, who says: “Young people have a stake in building and developing our society. If we choose not to express how we want our society to be shaped, we risk losing the power to do so. Although voting is not the only means of making a political statement, it is integral that young people take up their right to influence their future.”

Guido Fawkes cartoonist Rich Johnston says voting means “you get to say ‘nothing to do with me, I voted for the other lot'”.

He says: “If you don’t vote, you only get to say ‘nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t even be bothered to try and stop them. You can start kicking me in the head now’. Just make sure you vote for ‘the other lot’.”

Iain Dale, LBC radio presenter and political blogger, says: “It’s so easy to think that it doesn’t matter whether you vote or not. But if you don’t you have no influence whatsoever over how the country is run or who it is run by. It’s within every individual to exercise power through the ballot box. If you don’t vote, don’t complain about what happens afterwards.”

Economist Tim Worstall accepts that politicians can be frustrating but warns against wasting your vote. He says: “Yes, most politicians are the same, there’s nary an honest one among the lot of ‘em and it would be difficult to get a fag paper between their different policy proposals.

“However, do remember that these are the b******* who will be ruling you for the next five years. You thus, at the very least, need to hold your nose and vote for the least bad of them by your lights. Failure to do so means you have absolutely no right to complain about any of the idiot things they do in that time.”

Touchstone blogger Geoff Tily says: “The severe failures, injustices and cruelties of decades of a consensus based on liberal economics and the interests of only finance and the wealthy are now increasingly apparent. Young people need to demand something better for themselves and the world, as other sit complacently by.

“Apart from everything else, this must involve the ballot box. If you are underwhelmed by the choice, spoiling (ballot papers) registers willingness to engage and disproves apathy.”

Finally, Alex Little points to recent events in Greece as proof of how quickly momentum can gather if enough like-minded people organise themselves and decide they want to make a change.

“In 2009, the Syriza coalition of parties polled 4.6%. Just over five years later, they polled 36% and have formed a new government in Greece,” he says. “It shows that real change, when it comes, can come very quickly, but it requires people to get involved, and yes, to vote. Make it count on May 7!”

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