The young aren't apathetic about politics – they put older generations to shame

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Downing Street Farage young voters

The local and mayoral elections will show, once again, that in one of the world's most exemplary and stable democracies, millions of citizens will not vote.

Can't be bothered. Too much effort. Who cares? Politicians are all corrupt bastards, can't be trusted. Would rather watch Jeremy Kyle on the telly or snooze on sofas. Or gamble online. Or gossip about her or him next door. Or go to the pub.

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At least this lot will be making some kind of choice. Just as many Brits won't turn out because they don't even know these elections are going on. TV crews have been out and about in areas where, we are told, people feel forgotten and excluded by the ''elite''. Most of those interviewed on camera, most of them, didn't know these elections were happening.

Mike Temple, professor of politics at Staffordshire University foresees "an historical low" turnout. Lower than in recent years? How can we even call ourselves a democracy anymore? In the 2010 election, 35% of those who registered did not cast a vote. (In 1950 the turnout was 83%). In 2012, in Liverpool Central, just 1,658 out of an electorate of 13,091 showed up. Manchester Central and some areas in Hull were just as bad.

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The worst records are in northern towns and regions. In 2012 in Manchester Central, only 18.3% of the electorate voted in a by-election. Labour's Lucy Powell, who won, must have felt mortified. This area has also had the lowest number of voters in general elections. In 2015, local resident and civil servant Tony Powell, 55, told the BBC he never votes and teaches his children never to do so either.

Self-disenfranchised Britons ignore the duties of democracy and still moan on and on about politicians and the media and ''privileged'' metropolitans.

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The June general election will also, I predict, show mass indifference. Lethargy or inchoate cynicism is now embedded in British public life.

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Vast numbers of people now only vote for entertainment on programmes such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. Worse still, willfully disengaged and annoyed British voters become sudden celebs themselves.

Like Brenda from Bristol who, when told about Theresa May's snap election, responded: "You're joking!...Honestly, I can't stand this. There's too much politics going on at the moment."

And popular English versifier, Pam Ayres, who penned what she must have thought was a really witty ditty: "Rhetoric, hot air and gas/I'm on my way to Dignitas."

Ha, ha, bloody ha. These are middle aged ladies not young, wayward kids who don't understand what democracy means.

Actually, I do young people a disservice. News just in shows nine out of 10 students eligible to vote have now registered. They are smart and serious. They shame the older men and women who have just given up.

Admittedly, the Brexit referendum brought out 72% of the electorate, but the older voters were too easily led by Brexit leaders who were economical with the truth. We now know 73% of 18-24 year olds voted, most for Remain. Some media outlets originally claimed the figure for this cohort was only 36%. Research by the London School of Economics, came up with the accurate figure. That said, at least for those months people participated in the debates and made choices. They were emotionally aroused.

Local, mayoral and general elections are not that stirring. But they are vital. Just ask the Egyptians who took to the streets during the Arab Spring or old South Africans today. Cynicism is a luxury we cannot afford, not in the dangerous world we are living in.

Voting in June is more important than ever because the Tories are poised for one party rule if they get through without a fight. They will dismantle the welfare state, punish the weakest and poorest, suck up to the rich. Either non-voting Britons don't get it or they don't care, even if they then suffer the consequences.

In the last year, liberals, Londoners, journalists and politicians have been made to feel guilty for not understanding the ''rage'' of ordinary people, particularly those beyond the South East. I feel none of that guilt. But I do feel rage. And exasperation.

The Universal Franchise Act was passed in 1928 in the UK; free universal education was made available in 1944. Yet today, millions of my fellow citizens lack a sense of civic responsibility or basic political knowledge.

It is time to bring back citizenship education in our schools. Michael Gove misguidedly scrapped that when he was education secretary. And bring in mandatory voting too, like they have in Belgium and Australia.

Political apathy and political stupidity are offences against democracy, liberties and rights. Those who reject and spurn the political process are traitors, not heroes. Go tell that to Brenda and Pam please.

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