The Participation Crisis: there may yet be hope.

There has been a visible decline in turnout figures at general elections held in the UK and other forms of political participation for almost half a century now. In the 2010 general election, there was a measly turnout of only 65%. The key types of participation such as voting and even joining a party have declined sharply, and we cannot deny that we are coming face to face with a crisis.
 
YouthVoice
By Matei Sacerdoteanu
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(Photo: Mental Disability Advocacy Centre)
 
So why is this happening? Well, political parties these days are obviously trying to appeal to as many people as possible, meaning that many policies are election goodies, waved in front of voters’ noses. Due to the nature of our First Past the Post system, smaller parties are marginalised meaning Britain pretty much has a 2 party system, with a very limited number of political parties to vote for (with any real chance of taking office). For those who are not politically engaged, the phrase “Oh, they’re all the same,” rolls off the tongue all too easily.
 
However, a true waste of a vote is a vote that is not used at all; it seems much more logical to simply make a tactical vote and make use of the rights this politically free country affords us.
 
This is a crisis in a sense, as people (see Russell Brand et al.) believe that it’s more effective to refrain from voting because it may send a stronger message to parties that have disappointed people many times throughout the past few years. This is a problem, as people have been fighting for hundreds of years for the rights that we now have in the UK in terms of political participation; we can vote for any party we want, even create our own; women and men are equally allowed to vote also, a right that women have fought for fiercely throughout history. By having so many people not participating, we are throwing away all this progress and all these advances in British politics that have been made over hundreds of years.
 
However, there is still hope!

People, especially we, the young, have begun to participate in British politics in a variety of new and much more complex ways than simply voting at elections. We have taken to joining pressure groups, which many of us believe represent us more. The RSPB alone has over 1 million members; that is more than both the Conservative and Labour members added together. This means that yes, while party membership has been declining, there is still an interest in politics, with young people just approaching it from a different perspective. 

There are a number of up and coming political blogs being written by the youth of our country in order to voice their opinions when it comes to political subjects. This is also a new form of participation and it demonstrates there is still an interest in our political environment and that young people have not given up hope of fixing our country and creating a better tomorrow for all of us. They are displaying how informed they can be and by participating through writing.
 
We even have young people running as candidates for the UK Youth Parliament throughout the country and for many other similar youth political programmes. This proves that there is still participation; that young people still want to try and shape their future and they do care about the system and how it is run. We cannot let voting turnout from the last general election demoralise us, we need to continue doing what we can to ensure the success and prosperity of our future generations.
 
Therefore, do not lose hope! The country may be experiencing a big drop in political interest as of late, but it is up to us to change this. We can make a difference, we need to break away from the mind-set that “choice does not matter”. Wrong! All choice matters, big or small; we have only lost the battle for our future when we stop trying to change it, when we truly give up and accept that our choices are irrelevant.
 

So stand up and do not accept that your vote does not matter. Do not accept that our generation does not care for politics. Do not simply accept defeat. One voice is enough to bring change if used correctly. Even by reading this article, you are displaying an interest in politics. Make use of this interest and try to participate where possible, spread the word about politics and attempt to engage your peers and other young people; we need to make a difference, one person at a time. 

(Photo: Women Donors Network)
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  • Go for it – but DONT get bullied / pressurised into tactical voting. Vote for who you really want whatever. Tactical voting is undemocratic unfair demeaning and insulting and often does not work anyway. you may not get your candidate elected but at least you've had your say. Anyway if everyone rejected tactile voting, who knows who might get elected

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