Recap: Why Politics IS For You, According To Rick Edwards
Rick Edwards was our latest Masterclass guest. Jess rounds up what he had to say about politics and making your vote count.
Rick Edwards is a familiar face to anyone who has turned on a TV in the last ten years. He’s also an outspoken advocate for getting young people into politics – through his BBC3 show, Free Speech, and through Bite The Ballot, an amazing organisation aimed at getting young people voting. Here’s what Rick told us about why – in a general election year – young people need to take an interest in politics, and why it’s so important that we all register to vote before May 20th.
Politics needs to be taught in schools
The reason why young people aren’t interested in politics is complicated – but much of it stems from simply not knowing what politics is, or how it is relevant to our lives. And why don’t we know? Because it’s not part of compulsory education. This systematic exclusion of young people creates generations of first-time voters who don’t know who they should vote for, or why – and this keeps the power in the hands of those who already have it. If every Year 7 had a lesson of politics each week alongside their religious education, sex education and physical education, society would be a very different place during election time.
Politicians don’t talk about youth issues
Apathy is a convenient excuse for politicians: they can blame low numbers of votes on lazy young people who don’t care about their communities. The truth is that because of this low turnout (44% of 18-24s voted in 2010), it’s not in politicians’ interests to engage us. They just don’t bother to talk about the key youth issues. When they do make election promises about issues we care about [are you listening, Mr Clegg? – Rife ed.] we certainly prove that we’re not apathetic.
Politicians aren’t representative
94% of all elected MPs are white. 77% are male. 33% went to private schools. The government does not accurately represent British society – and when we don’t see people who look like us in politics, we feel excluded. The average age of a UK politician is 50 and currently the youngest MP is 30: none of the 650 MPs who make the laws which dictate our lives of have any first-hand knowledge of what it is like to be young in Britain today.
We need the option to vote for no one
Russell Brand didn’t say that young people should never vote: his point was that we should only vote for someone worth voting for. Countries including India and Spain have a ‘none-of-the-above’ option on their ballot papers, which allows the electorate to show their dissatisfaction with the status quo. It gives people the power to say that none of the options are good enough. In India’s 2014 general election, over 6 million people voted for ‘none of the above.’
We need to register to vote
Fewer than half of eligible young people voted in the last general election. If we all voted this time, we would have an enormous, and unexpected, amount of democratic power. If we want to see positive changes – like, fewer middle-aged, upper class white men running the country – then we need to make our voices are heard. Very little is going to change if we carry on as we are: we will continue to have a government we didn’t vote for and MPs who don’t properly represent us.
You can follow Rick Edwards on Twitter, and stay up to date with Bite The Ballot via their website. Registering to vote is easy peasy – here is how you do it. And, if you’ve got the politics bug, make sure you vote in a new council of young people for Bristol’s Big Youth Vote – voting closes on February 13th.
February’s Masterclass will be with Tom Swindell, top Vice filmmaker and creator of music videos to knock your socks off. Book soon to confirm your free place.
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Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.
We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.
In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important.
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