Words: Joe Mattison
For many of you reading, politics may be a confusing, or even daunting subject to wrap your heads around. This, I completely understand; it’s often seen as an overly serious topic for overly serious people. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. You see, politics affects us all on a daily basis. Whether that be the potholes that irritate you when you’re driving to work, or a new housing development over the road which you can’t bear - politics will affect you in some way, shape or form. So, if it affects every one of us, shouldn't we try and get as many of us involved as possible?
We all know someone who loves to share their political views on social media; whether that is signing and sharing online petitions, ranting about current affairs, or simply following politicians who share their opinions, we all know at least one person who loves to make their views heard. And while this is often seen as a negative way of behaving by many people, particularly older people who don’t ‘get’ social media the way us youngsters do, I see this as something that should be cherished, a huge stepping stone towards this country becoming more democratic, and representative of its people.
As a 17-year-old, I, alongside many other young people, don't yet have the privilege of being involved in politics in the ways many of you reading do, such as voting in referendums, local elections, and general elections. This means less traditional methods of getting our voices heard need to be used, like online petitions, and demonstrations - good examples of this being the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and recent climate change strikes and demonstrations.
Whilst many of the older generation may argue 16 and 17-year-olds aren’t well enough informed about politics or mature enough to be given the opportunity to vote, I would argue otherwise. Even though many people of this age group may not be well enough informed, I know as an A level politics student that this can very easily be changed. In my opinion, just one politics lesson every few weeks for secondary school students could give young people enough understanding to be able to vote independently. And I know that most students would hate the thought of having to learn about something as boring as politics, but as someone who had little to no interest before studying it this year, I’m sure this would change.
Even if you’re not interested in politics, you may have seen videos and images over the years of all the MPs and others who make up the government sitting on the famous benches of Parliament, and the House of Commons. What you might not notice is that - they all look the same; there’s a distinct lack of young people, and as a result I feel we’re often ignored by politicians. If we were given the chance to vote, we’d no longer be able to be ignored, and society would become more fair and equal.
The voting age is 18 in every other country, why should we do things differently here? And while I’d understand, things do actually work differently very close to home. The minimum age to vote in local elections and referendums is 16 in Wales and Scotland, thanks to them becoming devolved governments (which means they essentially have more powers than they used to). So if they’ve become more progressive, why should we not follow in becoming more democratic and making this country a more equal place to live?
So, whatever age you are, I hope you'll consider getting involved in whatever way fits you. It might even give you some say in changing those nagging daily grievances.