I used to think that voting was pointless because nobody represented my views and because it is statistically insignificant. I still think I was right on both counts, but I missed the wider point.
Now I get older and more cynical I begin to suspect that turning young people away from voting is actually a very deliberate Conservative tactic. I think Labour too benefit from it, but less so.
As a first time voter your future is pretty bad. Your home-owning parents are probably nearing retiring age on comfortable pensions. The numbers at the moment look like you will have neither your own home nor a comfortable pension when you reach their age. Property prices have grown faster than salaries for years. Every year that goes by it becomes less likely you will own a home, and more likely that you will spend extraordinary amounts of money on rent, which prevent you saving for retirement. Politicians have accepted the ludicrous housing situation because it used to affect only a small number of people, who were quite young and who tended not to vote anyway. But house prices continually outgrowing salaries is not a sustainable situation and the number of people affected is growing. We are now at the point where most people under the age of 35 are in the same position, and we all want to see it rectified.
Labour and the Conservatives represent the status quo. They both benefit from a rigged voting system that gives them far more power than they receive in votes. They both go into hysterics when anyone tries to change the system to one that rewards parties proportionally. They are both full of scumbag career politicians who care about their own image and bank accounts and not a lot else. They are full of people from privileged backgrounds who studied PPE at Oxford and think anyone who didn’t study PPE at Oxford is some kind of imbecile. They treat you with contempt and they can’t even help it; they aren’t evil, they aren’t stupid, they are just completely switched off and nothing in their environment penalises them for it, so why not? Nothing will ever change while either of those parties holds a majority government.
Our best and only realistic chance is to keep supporting minor parties. The main parties’ vote shares are becoming more diluted due to voters’ growing dissatisfaction, and the parties’ fundamental lack of political competence and self-awareness, and we need to make sure that continues.
We have more options than ever; we have the Lib Dems, Ukip, the Greens and the SNP and Plaid if your geography permits. The suspicion that the Greens and Ukip are both pants-on-head stupid is not necessarily important right now; every single vote given to any of these parties undermines the two main parties’ dominance. If you want to vote Ukip as a protest vote, you absolutely should. If you want to vote Ukip because you genuinely agree with their policies, you absolutely should.
If you don’t know where to start I would recommend looking into the Lib Dems. You should find many of their policies to be surprisingly reasonable. They have been slaughtered in the press over tuition fees and this is unfair; they effectively swapped tuition fees for a less burdensome graduate tax.
It is not a coincidence that a press that benefits from the two party system does everything it can to cut down smaller parties. It applies to all small parties, but becomes more ferocious the more threat they present; this is especially noticeable in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph’s coverage of Ukip. Ukip are quite in line with a lot of the views pushed by both of these papers and Ukip is well supported by their readership, but both papers have been extremely critical of Ukip. It doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you consider that the newspapers exist to make money, not to have any kind of journalistic integrity or push a consistent narrative, and they have vested interests in the Conservatives. For example, Michael Gove, the Conservatives’ chief buffoon, is married to Daily Mail journalist Sarah Vine. That’s just a tiny bit of a conflict of interest. Those papers treat their readers like idiots because the readers let them.
The message here is not “if you don’t vote, you’ve got no right to complain”, which is a lazy, condescending phrase that doesn’t even make sense anyway. The message here is: Politicians want to treat you badly and are looking for reasons to do so. Don’t give them one.