People feel like politics does not fit into their lives. It’s ‘irrelevant’ and ‘far-removed’: a dirty word.
And when it comes to changing that perception politicians often don’t do themselves any favours. People love a scandal and Westminster gives them plenty to go on. Too often parties turn in on themselves, engaging in internal fights, and too often they take people for granted.
After Russell Brand’s comments about a supposed epidemic of apathy and the ‘benefits’ of not voting, I spoke on BBC Radio 4.There’s no doubting that many people are disillusioned with politics but they are not apathetic.
I recently spoke at an event discussing young people’s perception of politics in a session called ‘apathy and aspiration’. A question was put about whether young people are apathetic to politics. As we know, young people are voting in fewer numbers and, when I ask my ‘non-political’ friends if they care about politics, the answer is often ‘no’. But I want to challenge this. Ask those same friends their opinion on apprenticeships, the NHS or the economy and you’ll hear strong opinions back.
I would go as far as to say I have never met a non-political young person in my life. Everyone that I know holds views on political issues: from litter on the street and the local hospital to the education system and matters of peace and war. Politics is part of our daily lives. It’s inescapable.
The problem is that the link between people’s daily lives and our political system is often missed.
It doesn’t help that, when party campaigners knock on a door and a young person answers, the first question is often: ‘can I speak to your parents’.
Political parties need to do a better job of engaging with people on their terms.