(For those who are unfamiliar with my earlier posts: I am 21 and until recently, I made no effort to engage with politics. I recently made the decision to change that.)
The way the media and indeed the parties themselves perpetuate the hype and tit-for-tat style of campaigning, it is difficult to know what and who you are really voting for. It’s so easy to vote for the person rather than the policies, the Figurehead rather than the Party. What’s more, it is not uncommon for someone to align with one party, but fail to relate to that party’s leader.
“I vote for The Whatsit Enthusiasts, but Mr Thing-a-me Bob is a nincompoop.”
Why is it so common for the general public to find themselves backing a leader they think incompetent? Political leanings can flip-flop dramatically when a new Party Leader is elected. And, come the general election, you might find yourself voting for who you want to be PM as opposed to what party you want in charge.
Policies begin to take a backseat. Likeability and public presence become overriding selling points. It’s a popularity contest no one can ever truly win. We are often faced with men and women who have been coached on how to present themselves. But people are not stupid. I for one am very wary of people who try to market themselves at me – not to me, but at me. Though they were all guilty of it, the worst offender during the Leaders Debate was Ed Miliband. Miliband would periodically assume a practised posture: shifting his stance and looking directly down the camera, he would deliver what was clearly a prewritten speech, in measured, mannerly tones. Anyone I have spoken to about this has agreed with me. His attempts to stare down the camera and engage personally with his constituents was emphatically transparent and as such, ineffectual.
The Leaders Debate, while interesting, did little to help me reach a decision. As a first-time voter, I am striving to approach the election without bias or preconceptions and consider the policies for their merit, but feel inundated by bias on all sides. Whenever the P word comes up, Passion runs high, often with Prejudice not far behind.
“Politics and Religion are not Dinner Party Conversation.”
– I was told this not two days ago, after proudly sharing with the guests that I had watched the entirety of the Leaders Debate.
If talk of politics either leads to damaging statements born from preconception, or courtesy leads others to abstain from the conversation altogether, how am I supposed to gain an informed understanding of politics? How can young people find a credible, unbiased source of information that will not lead by the collar, but guide by the hand?
Go and look for it.
It is my hope that there will be some other young people like myself who will read this blog and be inspired to vote – and if they don’t need the inspiration, then offer some assistance in making their decision. To that end, I hope to be an unbiased voice to any who might be in search of one. Not that I’m a fountain of political knowledge – and what a muddied source of nourishment would such a fountain be – I am very much a newcomer. Not that that should make a difference to the validity of my views. To anyone who might read this blog or those of other young voters and think “this girl doesn’t know what she’s on about,” to you I say this:
You are the reason so many young people fail to play their part in this democracy.
No matter my previous engagement with politics, I am trying to consider the evidence put before me with as much poise and deliberation as I can. Only then can I make an informed decision.
Consider this phrase: an informed decision.
I think it wrong for anyone to approach the election already knowing who they are going to vote for, because “I voted for him last time,” or “They screwed me over last time, so anyone but them,” or even worse, “That’s who I always vote for.” None of these responses constitutes an informed decision. As an Un-Decided Voter, I am being forced to research and question what I am told in order to lose my prefix in time for the election. It is my view that every individual should approach every election as I am now. Of course, this is the first vote I will cast in a general election. By the time the next one rolls round, I may have developed some prejudices of my own and I’ll be able to wax lyrical about my young, idealistic ignorance.
So if it isn’t Dinner Party Conversation, then maybe it’s WordPress Conversation. I welcome anyone to tell me why I should vote for their party. But here’s the challenge: Argue with passion, sure, but don’t let passion translate into uninformed, prejudicial rubbish.
So go on.
Win me over.