ith politicians only being marginally more trusted than estate agents and second-hand car salesmen, Matt Smith, 17, asks why confidence in Westminster has been shaken so fundamentally, and what can be done to restore the reputation of politics, particularly amongst the young.
By Matt Smith
|Expenses: the classic case of lying politicians, but not as much fun for ranting as tuition fees. (Photo: The Telegraph)
There’s an age old belief that wherever a politician goes, a burning smell follows, the burning smell (I apologise for invoking my inner five year old) is the result of their flaming underwear, which undoubtedly shines like a beacon of hope for the party communications director, telling them that the spin doctor’s job is well done. But these lies have a huge effect on politics, and whilst most politicians rarely lie outright, the perception of them as serial fibbers has shaped the way the public, and particularly young people, view our elected officials.
I’d be willing to bet my provisional driving licence that if you ask any sizeable group of young people what politicians do on a regular basis, at least one would spitefully announce that they lie, lie all the time, lie as though they’ve forgotten their homework for that one particularly strict teacher. Whilst this may have been the case for generations, with young people typically disagreeing with the establishment, the image of politicians as liars seems particularly prevalent amongst us today.
I know the next few paragraphs are going to elicit a groan as I once again analyse possibly the most discussed issue of all my articles, but I can see no other incident within recent political history that demonstrates my point so well. Yes you guessed it; I’m talking about tuition fees. In 2010 students voted for the Liberal Democrats in droves – it’s like they offered free pizza for voters or something. This free pizza was indeed a very tasty one, for the party had promised that they would vote against any rise in the cap on tuition fees.
|This image is widely used in
universities as a dart board.
(Photo: Left Foot Forward)
The Lib Dems made this their headline in any media directed towards the student population. Fliers stating that “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative” were proudly held by candidates and party seniors, including Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem party political broadcast made it very clear that the party was done with lies and broken promises, videos showing paper with broken promises drifting across the streets of London established that the Lib Dems wanted to be seen as an honest party, different to the others.
However as we all know, the Lib Dems did vote to increase tuition fees (well some of them anyway) and as a result they broke the trust of a large proportion of their voters. Anger at this broken promise has led to a huge drop in support for the party, however more importantly, and worryingly, it is probable that this debacle is one of the reasons many young people have decided not to vote this May. The tuition fee escapade essentially said to young people that however they vote, politicians will still ignore them, and that their voices will not be heard.
It is this that I believe has led to such disillusionment with politicians amongst young people, and has further cemented the image of politicians as liars. The distinct smell of burning fabric has caused young people to shake their heads and plan to turn down the chance to be heard, the chance to shape their country for the next five years. It has become abundantly clear that however desperate a politician is to proclaim themselves as honest, and however honest they actually are, they are going to have significant difficulty convincing young people of this.
|A painful truth?
(Photo: Whistleblower Newsire)
And so on May 7, when the country goes to the ballot, we all know that many young people will pay little attention, not because they don’t care, but because they don’t believe a word that is said, and this is something that needs to be fixed. I don’t know how, but I do know that whoever figures out how to win young people’s trust back deserves a medal, for they will have filled a gap in this country’s electorate that threatens to drive away young people entirely.
However until this ‘magic bullet’ is found we should continue keeping a fire extinguisher handy whenever a politician comes to visit.
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