Political Engagement: The Calm After the Storm


It’s been encouraging for me as a young voter to see the debate going on all around me between my peers regarding the General Election. A large topic of discussion in the recent past has been of political apathy amongst young people; “a disengaged generation”. In the last few months this image has begun to shift.

Apathy amongst our generation is not surprising, as we’re growing up, the majority of us don’t really notice the effects of policy on our lives. Therefore, there seems to be less incentive to participate, but besides that, they do make it hard for us.

Everything about politics in Britain is boring: the politicians, the language, the tradition, the media, the processes. It’s incredible how, intentionally or not (I won’t tread into conspiracy theory territory right now), the governance of this country has been warped into something so mundane. Then again, on the surface at least, maybe it never was exciting.

Needless to say, our whole political system is broken, and often at times the mere acknowledgement of that can be depressing. Our electoral system, the political debate that takes place in the commons, political and economic transparency; it all needs reform.

What politics should be is an election of individuals from within our communities, whose general interests are the same as those who elect them. However, what we have in reality stands in stark contrast. We have a political leadership that is so far out of touch that they have to be coached in how to lie, how to avoid the question, and simply; how to seem like a normal human being.

It’s striking that politicians don’t yet understand that people would respect them much more if they told the truth (even if it wasn’t what we wanted to hear) than so transparently employing some textbook PR techniques to swerve in between. It is also striking that many things that should outrage us just don’t. Because outrageous things happen all the time it has become commonplace, and perpetual outrage is too hard to sustain.

Despite all this, and all of the reasons not to participate, and the temptation to not care, there is an incentive for the contrary that is more compelling and more important than all of those mentioned previously combined. Politics, whether we like it or not, is everywhere.

The political debate that has occurred during this election campaign has been great for British democracy and long may it continue during campaigns to come. Having said that, it’s all well and good for us to take notice now, when the politicians want us to, when they can entice us with promises and pledges and commitments and guarantees and assurances and all these other words that sound great and give us hope for the future, but we need more than that.

What really matters is what we do now the election is over. The next five years are about one thing: accountability; something that has been lacking for quite a while. We, as stakeholders of this country, have a responsibility to hold our representatives accountable, as much as they have a responsibility to act in our best interests.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that MPs are evil, corrupt psychopaths, but like most people in most jobs, if they’re not kept on their toes and constantly hassled by their boss, then they’ll likely take short cuts. It may sound cliché, but one of the fundamental aspects of democracy is that, in effect. We are their employers, we’ve merely delegated the responsibility of governing the country to them, we have the capacity to hire and to fire and we need to start acting like it.

Representing your peers is a privilege, not a burden. Of course it’s a difficult job, that’s because it’s an important job, and for the same reason, we expect certain standards of performance, and if they are not satisfactory there needs to be a proportional reaction.

I’m not demanding that we all start emailing our MPs every day asking for updates – but instead – suggest that we become conscious of the potential of our actions and for us to all do our part, whether that’s scrolling through your Twitter feed in the morning and catching up with the latest headlines, writing a blog, watching the news whilst eating breakfast, listening to the radio, discussing issues with friends, signing a petition, watch Newsnight every now and again, hey, maybe even read  Wessex Scene when you get the chance!

Especially with the advent of social media, political engagement has never been easier, so we really don’t have much of an excuse. If we all start doing this consciously then maybe it will become habit, and habit does lead to change.

Forgive me if I’ve been stating the obvious throughout the whole of this article but there’s always something extra that we can do that will be to the benefit of the individual, and society as a whole. Ultimately, if we continue to turn a blind eye to the activities that occur in those offices in Westminster, where the future of our society is decided, as a generation we can only have ourselves to blame if things continue to turn sour.

Feature image Sophie Fell.

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First year BSc Politics and International Relations student from Cardiff.

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