Four million ‘missing votes’ from young people could decide election
Next year’s general election is shaping up to be the most important in a generation. The outcome will determine what kind of country we live in for decades to come. If we are to build a fairer, more equal Britain then it’s vital that as many people as possible exercise their democratic right and vote next May. And nowhere is that need greater than when it comes to our young people.
TUC analysis published today finds that in the 2010 election just one third of 18-34 year olds voted, compared to almost two thirds of those aged 35 years and older. The number of ‘missing votes’ from young people needed to match the voting rate for those over 35 is more than four million, equivalent to 11,000 votes per constituency. This is more than the average constituency majority in 2010 of 8,000 votes – suggesting that if more young people were to register and vote they could play a decisive role in the outcome of next year’s election.
It’s incumbent on all of us – trade unionists, campaigners and activists – to do everything we can to boost turnout. Why? Because no vote means no voice. If large numbers of young people don’t participate in our democracy, then political parties will simply pay lip service to their concerns and aspirations. That’s why we urgently need to encourage the younger generation to register to vote.
Although they did least to cause the financial crash and subsequent recession, young people have borne some of its worst consequences. Youth unemployment remains scandalously high. Many young workers are trapped in low-paid, casual work far below their skill level. And austerity has exacted a heavy toll, with EMA scrapped, university top-up fees introduced and benefits cut.
Young people desperately need change. They need good jobs, not unpaid internships. They need real access to higher education, not an invitation to rack up huge debt. They need high-quality apprenticeships, not workfare. But this will only happen if young people have a proper voice in our political system. And that will only happen if more of them vote.
Whether it’s environmental activism, the anti-cuts movement or the new wave of feminism, we know that huge numbers of young people are politically engaged. Our challenge is to translate this into greater participation in national, local and European elections. As part of Young Workers’ Month, the TUC is delighted to be working with Bite the Ballot not just to encourage greater democratic engagement, but to make our democracy itself more representative.
Unions have a crucial role to play in the workplace and beyond. Through workplace reps, they are in a unique position to reach out to young workers, highlighting why voting matters. This new guide represents a really useful, practical tool for union activists. So use it, consult it and be inspired by it.
Let’s deliver the democratic revolution our young people are crying out for.