Students are known for many things – being lazy, intelligent, consumerists, trendy, druggies, activists and even occasionally studying. Yet, once upon a time, they were seen as radical politicalised youths, looking for change.
Nowadays, politics is seen as a double-edged sword – often seen as something which students either are deeply concerned about (just ask Nick Clegg) or couldn’t care less about (thanks to Nick Clegg…) politics.
National politics rarely has a direct affect on students, unless you’re very forward thinking, it’s unlikely that the decisions made in parliament now will seem at all relevant. Recent topics have included badger culling, the west-coast main line cancellation and prisoner voting. None of which don’t spark much enthusiasm in the majority of students. Worse than that, the topics that have held direct relevance to students are disheartening at their best; the international students at London Met, the continuing rise of postgraduate fees, and –impossible not to mention- 9k fees. With a list like this, it’s no wonder that students might want to avoid an interest in politics as it might be the only way to keep a positive attitude.
Local politics also fails to muster much enthusiasm due to the nomadic nature of being a student meaning rather than dealing with problems, they are accepted because ‘its only for a year or two’. The issue of Police Commissioners didn’t attracted much student attention, and student issues didn’t feature very highly in the candidates’ manifestos either.
Maybe students and national politics can only mix well for those few who ensure they watch every Question time, PMQs (Prime ministers Questions) and ‘The Thick of It’. That said, local politics need not be such an inaccessible sphere. The most basic principal of politics is to make change to make future generations have more than us; working from that basis, politics can be something we can engage with. Locally, crimes against students in Southampton pose a constant threat that, with a united student front, could be better dealt with as seen in Birmingham.
This year we are currently in the midst of campaigning to see if our student’s union (SUSU) should join the NUS. Ignoring the polemics of both sides, I hope that the referendum fires up a wider interest in politics for many students. I hope it helps students realise that we can achieve real difference for our local area, and we can change it for the better… if we can be bothered.