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You can lead a young person to the polling station but you still can't make them vote: How do we get our youth to exercise their democratic right? [Image: theday.co.uk]

You can lead a young person to the polling station but you still can’t make them vote: How do we get our youth to exercise their democratic right? [Image: theday.co.uk]

Have you noticed how the mainstream media have glossed over the fact that so few people voted in the European elections?

Only about one-third of the electorate bothered to shift their backsides from the sofa to the polling station, and only a quarter of those gave UKIP its resounding (if you believe the BBC) victory.

That’s just nine per cent of the electorate!

The other nine-tenths of the country – including both voters and non-voters – didn’t want UKIP to win, and it is delusional of that party’s supporters to say the whole country got behind them.

The problem is, far too many people didn’t get behind anybody else.

My cousin’s daughter, at 18, voted for the first time last week. She said she found it extremely difficult to form any definite opinion on which party to support because it was almost impossible to find reliable information.

You see, she’s not stupid; she wasn’t going to take the parties at face value. She wanted independent validation of their claims, and that’s hard to find.

Obviously the mainstream media are a lost cause. They all have their favourites and it is impossible to get any useful policy information from them. If you were watching the BBC, you would know that UKIP want Britain out of Europe and an end to what party leaders see as indescriminate immigration.

What did Auntie say about Conservative policies, other than that they were offering an in/out referendum in 2017 if they won a general election next year, which is nothing to do with the vote we’ve just had? What was said about Labour? What was said about the Liberal Democrats?

I’ve got no idea, and I spend my life commenting on politics! What chance do these teens have?

The problem is that there simply isn’t a resource that can provide easy answers for young people. If they want it on a website, it would have to feature not only listings of what the parties say they’ll do, but information on the philosophies behind those plans – so readers can understand the proposed direction of travel. It would have to carry detailed information on each candidate, in each constituency and ward, to enable our young people to judge the character of the people they were being asked to trust.

It would be unwieldy and it would be controversial. Candidates would be accusing it of bias within five minutes of any such website going up.

My cousin-once-removed thought that local councils should have information on their websites but I pointed out that they would only be allowed to publish material from the parties themselves, without any kind of commentary at all; as such it would be nothing more than propaganda.

So what’s the answer?

That’s not a rhetorical question; it’s a call for suggestions.

Schools don’t teach politics in any meaningful way. Citizenship was supposed to have gone onto the curriculum years ago but this writer hasn’t seen any increase in political awareness amongst the young. Political representatives aren’t allowed to discuss politics with students unless members of other parties are also present, which means they can each obstruct the others from doing so.

Courses on politics at further or higher education institutions really are biased according to the lecturers’ own beliefs – look at Oxford’s neoliberal PPE course.

Young people don’t have time to cut through all of the babble.

So most of them walk away.

How do we get them back – or do we simply not bother, and watch as democracy is quietly euthanised within the next generation?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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