On Thursday I went along to our nearest polling station to cast my vote in the local council elections. It gives me a tremendous boost to know I’m now old enough to have a proper say in the development of society, and it’s an opportunity I’ll always be eager to grab, but in my experience nothing gets young people interested in politics like a general election – and we have one coming up! By the time we go to the polls again on 8 June, it’ll be just over two years since we last did the same, and the narrow gap between elections means some of my friends will be voting for the next Prime Minister for the second time. I was in the latter stages of sixth form last time we found ourselves at this point, and it was an environment that gave me a great insight into how all of the various campaigns really can reach out to people and get them talking.
As we got closer and closer to election day back in 2015, discussion was heating up in the common room, and by the time it finally arrived, it seemed like everyone had a degree in politics, knowing all that they needed to about each of the parties running and their respective policies. It was one of the most interesting points of the entire sixth form period, and I found it almost as intriguing to be an observer from the outside as others did who were old enough to vote. Everyone took whatever time they had between lessons or either side of the college day to do what they needed to, such was their eagerness to influence the future of the country, and it’s the memories of this that sadden me when I hear that young people supposedly aren’t turning up to vote. I always wonder whether the older population of Britain assume from this that we don’t care – because we really do, and we just need to go that extra mile to convince those who don’t that voting really is something worth doing.If you’re reading this, and you are one of those people, you can heed these words – register to vote before 22 May, otherwise it will be too late and you won’t be entitled to moan if the result of this election isn’t what you want. Surely you don’t need me to tell you that your input can make a difference?
I got further evidence of the political buzz in sixth form once we all made our tentative advances into the common room to watch the results roll in mere hours after the polls had closed the night before. We had a TV on the wall at that point (I don’t know if they’ve taken it down since), and my friends and I were all seated with our eyes fixed on the rolling news coverage playing before us. Many of us – including myself, Will and Alex, who was holding an unbelievably hot cup of black coffee that he could barely hold, let alone drink from – are very much left-wing, and we therefore began the day hoping that Labour would topple the Tories to get into Downing Street. As the morning progressed, however, the Conservatives took seat after seat, and our increasing misery was compounded when their victory was eventually confirmed – leaving them in power for what we thought would be another five years.
Labour will, of course, have my support once again at the 2017 election, and I remain confident that this can be their year, contrary to what some others seem to be saying. But if you should find yourself unable to decide on a party or candidate to throw your support behind, make sure you do your own research at your own pace and come to your own decision, disregarding what others try to tell you unless you genuinely agree with them. You should always vote honestly, in accordance with your beliefs and free from any outside pressure – it’s your say and you need to make it count. Furthermore, if you know exactly who to vote for but are hesitant to do so because you doubt their chances of victory, put your cross in their box anyway, because they’re much less likely to get in anywhere if you don’t vote for them than if you do.
In a nutshell, as I’ve already been trying to say, every vote counts. You can only ever waste one if you don’t use it – so don’t underestimate its power, even for a single second!