As a young person growing up in 70s London I always used to hear the calls of the older generation saying that you should vote because our fathers fought for your Right to vote. I used to look at those saying this and think to my self that none of this applies to me as my father and grand fathers fought different battles. The only thing I was aware of that related to voting was for an independent Africa (Ghana and Nigeria), which was a vote with no sensible and obvious alternatives. This lack of a sensible alternative paradoxically reflects the current choice of political candidacy today, bringing me to my point about the importance of young people voting and registering, even if this means you are not happy with what’s on offer.
My passion for politics and voting didn’t come from school but rather by being involved in my community as member of a youth club. It was there where I learnt to campaign for things that faceless people wanted to take away from us. Not only this but a useful combination of involvement in the 1981 riots, hearing the political sounds of heroes like Bob Marley and Fela Kuti and that being a time when hip hop had a message. This all coalesced to teach me the importance of having a voice even if you knew you were not being heard. This begs the question, have things moved on today? Even when our young people are exposed to the USAs first black president? Something that our visionaries thought we would never see.
In the 80s my growing interest in politics was not supported by my education in an inner London state school, which hasn’t changed today as our curriculum contains nothing that helps young people break down and decipher the importance of voting, much less what political parties mean and stand for. However my work at BPACT Voyage keeps me connected to young people and I have been amazed to hear what they would do if young people were given power by getting involved in politics at a high level. I was surprised to hear how they would not invest the welfare budget, slash arts, sport and leisure and stop paying MPs but thankfully they mostly want to protect the health service, increase investment in education and housing as well as champion a greener environment and perhaps more importantly prioritize the eradication of racism and introduce a much fairer criminal justice system.
With that being said, and knowing over 3.5 million young people will be eligible to vote for the first time, there are thin margins between the 3 main parties with all parties committed to deeper austerity measures and no identifiable and meaningful policies for our young, it’s a no brainer young people bite the ballot and use their vote to make change.
Listening to passionate and emerging individuals like Micheal Sani (Bite the Ballot), Duro Oye (2020 Change) and a much younger inspired leader Kenny Imafidon (Kenny Report 1, 2 & 3) I am convinced its time our young people and particularly young black people begin to use their vote to campaign for real change. This change must complement a campaign for the voting age to be reduced as well as sit alongside a relevant and richer educational curriculum that engages young people whilst showing how politics governs almost every thing.
Irrespective of the political climate today, in which the major parties are marginal variations on the same spectrum, the youth hold the power for the future of the UK and addressing the issues that concern them and future generations. By voting and making your voice heard today, you can form a country you wish for yourselves and future generations, one that can grow with the changing social landscape, as opposed to conserving the archaic ideologies that have lead to the ruin of major social institutions which included services and provision for youth and communities.
So what ever you do don’t forget to vote or at least register to vote…
Paul Anderson MBE