The foreseeable future looks bleak, meaning the size of the task awaiting the next generation could be the heaviest since the immediate aftermath of World War II. It’s down to the Brexit Kids to solve the biggest political riddle of the last 40 years- politics depends on it.
If there was ever a time to care about politics, it is now. Brexit has revealed the startling divisions of our times, and ironically, such divisions aren’t based off of a love or a hate for the European Union. If anything, the European Union couldn’t be less relevant behind the facade of a country struggling to beat the current political impasse of Brexit. There are more elusive, fundamental concerns that lie underneath the concept of Brexit and it begs the question- can we heal the divisions of this decade? The answer is yes, but something different is required to amount to such a task. A general election won’t do. Nor will a second referendum. Yet, the societal factions are blindingly obvious; the only agreeable statement is that there is something fundamentally broken at the heart of British politics. It is becoming increasingly clear that the only ones who fix this are the so called ‘next generation’- people like me.
That is why a failure to attempt to engage politics with teenagers and early adults is absolutely necessary. Not doing so could result in more politicians who have come from the conventional political streams- we need a break from convention. If not, it is possible that an entire generation of potential activists and leaders could be lost; and it is not as though past generations have been given a wealth of opportunities to lead- it is now about making sure that this one does. The process of improving engagement may be the hardest part of any potential process, with the UK having one of the worst youth engagement rates in the EU, as indicated by a Democratic Audit study. Such an indication ranks formal participation through voting, membership and registered political activism. The same study was indicative of a trend- age was significant in determining levels of political engagement. Perhaps a lowly engagement rate amongst the younger voters is simply the start of the process; there is the possibility that at later ages (25-30) formal participation increases as a traditional trend.
But engagement with politics needn’t rely solely upon voting rates and turnout, such emphasis on voting isn’t enough. It should be that in a time of political crisis, people take notice and have an urgency to get involved with politics- not just in a political march or protest. The Super Saturday protests were indicative that people are fuelled to hold their representatives to account, but how many of Saturday’s participants wanted to be the people to shape a political generation in the years to come? Naturally, I assume not many. I understand that many in the protest were teachers, retirees and adults with full-time jobs; it feels as though these marches are becoming more ‘adultish’ and such events may be missing a key perspective. The only way to change the status-quo indefinitely is to advocate for and take an active role in making sure that politics is accessible, attractive and available for teenagers and young adults. Forget the protest-and-go home element of participation, how about cultivating proper, sustainable interaction? This could be both permanent and deeply effective, but the foundations on local levels simply aren’t present.
The first step would be to perhaps do away with the patronising assumption that teenagers lack the necessary knowledge to get involved as the same can be said about the general electorate. The same electorate in 2015 that was ranked as the least knowledgeable about the EU, by the way. But this shouldn’t be a idea defined by cross-generational differences, the threat is that low interest now could transform into even worse representatives in 10-20 years’ time. Such a failure to do so would condemn our politics to a relentless cycle of feuds, divisions and gaping differences. That’s not an antidote to help a political system fix itself before broken discourse threatens to reach an irreparable climax of brokeness. This task is perhaps the hidden issue of Brexit Britain- securing the political future which my generation will inevitably come to lead. This therefore, is about ensuring that a more diverse set of representatives, politicians and local councillors are built for the future. Left, right and centre. Why? Because we need the youth now more than ever. Our politics is dependent on it.
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