There is something underwhelming about being a student during this election. You are interested in politics, but not in the way that other people during the election are. You worry that you don’t have a burning desire or strongly held political views. You know you should vote, but not in what direction, and how are
There is something underwhelming about being a student during this election. You are interested in politics, but not in the way that other people during the election are. You worry that you don’t have a burning desire or strongly held political views. You know you should vote, but not in what direction, and how are you supposed to figure that out anyway?
The TV debate this Thursday might be a start. For the first time in history you can size up each of the major parties in England, Wales and Scotland (tough break if you live in Northern Ireland), as they are forced to stay in one room and try and convince you that they deserve your vote. That should help sort it out, right? But you can be pretty sure it won’t. The whole thing feels vaguely like a family reunion that you don’t want to go to, but know that you have to.
You have your three uncles who you can barely even tell apart. One who promised to buy you a present five years ago, but has somehow made you three times worse off; another posh one, who always make you feel as if you are being spoken down to; and the other one who, although he seems well intentioned enough, is the most awkward man that could possibly exist.
They are flanked by the vaguely xenophobic older relative who is constantly talking about how it all used to be better before the foreigners arrived, and even more often about how much he wants a drink. Then there is your easily confused aunt who won’t stop going on about compost, and two cousins from outside England, who seem to have come over just to tell you how much better off they’d be without you or your sodding country.
The main difference between this and a big family get together is that you have to choose a favourite; you have to decide which one you love the most. Between the guys who lied to you last time and the others who want the chance to do it this time, there is little scope to believe in one of them. How can you engage in the politics of hope when you haven’t been given any reason to hope?
But, maybe you’re going about this all the wrong way? Maybe you shouldn’t be looking for the best option? Maybe you shouldn’t be trying to fall in love? After all, you can only love one partner; you can only have one favourite football team. However, you can detest all of your exes, and you can despise both Chelsea and Manchester United. With those seven people in the room surely you need to muster an emotion that is more capable of applying to a multitude of people. One such emotion, as powerful as love, is hate.
And there are so many really good reasons to hate in this election. Do you hate the fact you will be saddled with student debt for over thirty years of your life? Do you hate your wages being spent by MPs on the most ludicrous of things? Or are you simply not a white middle class male, and hate the fact that your prime minister will almost certainly look nothing like you?
In this series of articles for The Public Life, we will be hoping to inspire you into a voting booth not with a naive sense of hope, but rather with a cynical fury. The series is not about the ballot box you tick, but rather the ones you leave blank, whilst wincing and thinking ‘Christ! Anyone but them.’