The morning of 24 June was a rude awakening for young people. With 75 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voting to remain in the UK, our comfortable social media echo chambers were shown for what they were when the result rolled in. All our campaigning, our tweets, our multi-paragraph Facebook statuses couldn’t amount to anything when demographics were so heavily weighted against us.
Now, 10 months later, everything feels a little too familiar. We’re no longer naive.
The past few months have taught us that our vote will have no impact in the upcoming general election, and despite increasing political engagement, our faith in the democratic process is at an all-time low.
It’s understandable that my friends – like many others in this age group – don’t see the purpose in registering to vote this time around. We feel no connection with decision-making. The future towards which the country is hurtling is something we didn’t choose.
If the result is a foregone conclusion and the Conservatives are destined to extend their majority and continue along the path to exiting the single market, then what exactly is the point?
What I tell people of my own age who say this is that even if the election doesn’t change anything, we must make sure we are on the right side of history.
I’m sure many people reading this don’t understand how people who will choose not to vote in this election can be left unhappy with the result. Young people’s dissatisfaction with the Government isn’t a new phenomenon and neither is low voter turnout.
But for the 18-24 age group, our first tastes of democracy have come at a time of political tumult. Three major votes in three years (four in Scotland), widening generational and socioeconomic divides and the rise of populism and “alternative facts” have contributed to a unique atmosphere. We’ve grown used to a political environment in which our voices are neither listened to nor valued.
According to a study by LSE in 2015, 47 per cent of young people find out about political news from Facebook. We trust our peers to make the right choice for us and in doing so we manage to bypass opposing points of view completely.
This June, we will enter a general election in which the views of young people will not be heard. But we can make a choice not to be silent. We should harness our feelings of betrayal from the EU referendum and use that as motivation to show the Government that we’re still here.
We are the only demographic to have a higher approval rating for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn than Theresa May. In the latest YouGov poll, Jeremy Corbyn held a 35 per cent approval rating with 18 to 24-year-olds as opposed to Theresa May’s 26 per cent. We can carve out a unique position for ourselves in this vote – not as the people who made the decision, but the people who resisted it.
I will be proud to tell to my children and my grandchildren that I voted for the first Muslim Mayor of London. I can express my anger at the UK’s exit from the European Union in the future as someone who voted to remain within it.
We should vote so that in the future we will be known as tolerant individuals who strived for progress, and who were never apathetic about standing against regression.
Our legacy should not be that we were the people who sat by and let it all happen.