Published by The Huffington Post on 06/06/16
There is a growing paranoia among the political elite, particularly those in the Remain camp, that young people will not make the journey to the polling stations on June 23rd. The assumption that young voters are plagued by political apathy is shared by many. The organisers of Glastonbury, for example, have expressed their worry that ravers will be too preoccupied to exercise their right to vote.
Given the current state of both the Remain and Leave campaigns, it is not surprising that younger voters view the EU referendum with disinterest. Discourse surrounding the referendum is often expressed through the lips of unpopular politicians. The likes of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, David Cameron and George Osborne are no less likely to encourage students to march to the polling stations than create ‘EU Safe Spaces’. Even the darling of the student left, Owen Jones, has failed to ignite young people with referendum fervour. Given that a year ago, after the EU’s abhorrent treatment of Greece, Jones ardently called for the UK’s independence, his U-turn represents how establishment Referendum debate has become.
In addition to the unsavoury characters and fear mongering statements occupying the referendum stage, the reasons we are given for voting are equally uninspiring. We are constantly reminded to vote with our heads and not with our hearts. The decision we have to make is presented less as a choice than the result of a mathematical equation. “Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of pension plans and tariffs?”, exclaims a flag-waving, barricade-manning George Osborne.
The Remain and Leave campaigns insist on bombarding us with facts and statistics, whilst forgetting that dubious number-crunching isn’t a turn-on. For many, the EU referendum has slowly morphed into a staggered retelling of the Budget.
The inclination of people, including students, to abstain from the upcoming referendum is therefore perfectly natural. But is crucial to note that this stems from a crisis of values within referendum debate.
Instead of voting out of a sincere regard for dubious mathematical axioms, my vote results from a conviction in the absolute value of democracy. During the preliminary stage of referendum campaigning, official ‘Brexiteers’ highlighted the undemocratic nature of the EU. As we enter the closing stages of referendum campaigning, however, ‘democracy’ has become a dirty word abandoned in favour statistical analysis.
It doesn’t take a qualified economist to understand that the EU’s existence is predicated on its undemocratic nature. The existence of unelected officials creating and influencing the laws that affect our lives is mere farce. This is 2016, not 1516. From the creation of Magna Carta to the movements of the Levellers in the 16th century and the Suffragettes at the turn of the 20th, the progress of mankind’s political status has been one of increased enfranchisement. Engrained within our existence is a desire to shape our own lives, rather than have them paternalistically endowed upon us.
It is only by recognising the anachronistic nature of the EU that we can truly recognise how important this referendum is. Yes, I registered to vote because I’m young and therefore will be directly affected by its result. But fundamentally, I registered to vote because I recognise that breaking away from the EU is the necessary course for any nation that enshrines the value of democracy.