Privilege and Politics - Political Apathy in the UK

Illustration by Beth Nicol

In the light of the recent general election, everyone is talking politics. With the worst Labour result since the 1950’s, the Conservative landslide has left many disheartened and fearful for their future. With the loss of labour strongholds like Blyth Valley and Leigh – who had remained Labour for almost 100 years – as well as the shocking reclamation of Kensington – the borough which suffered the Grenfell tragedy in 2017 – the country is alight with debate surrounding its imminent future. However, I think the most important conversation surrounding the election is the 32.7% of registered voters – which isn’t the entirety of eligible voters - who didn’t vote, a 1.5% decrease from those who voted in 2017. This was a defining election for our generation, not only due to the circumstances upon which the election was called but the deeply desperate state of austerity that envelops our country. A defining moment that many decided against participating in.

It is a frustratingly common argument of non-voters that their vote doesn’t matter, but this diagram taken from the electoral commission is 2017 proves that the accumulation of votes that are not cast can easily sway the result in either direction.

When it comes to political apathy, there is so much to talk about. I think that although there are a variety of arguments why people choose not to vote, a considerable amount can be linked back to a level of privilege, as the ability to abstain from – and for some remain unfazed by - politics heavily suggests that governmental changes do not personally affect you. Those in a privileged positions will obviously not feel the blows of NHS or benefits cuts, but this is not an excuse for apathy. I personally am not affected by said reforms, but I care about the people that are, which seems a foreign concept for many.

The country is infected with indifference and it’s not just class based. A defeatist attitude coupled with disinterest seems to be a valid standpoint for many, a political depression which is encouraged by the creators of austerity as it ultimately works in their favour. When looking at voting statistics, the youth - who are more inclined to vote left – have a much lower turn out than those of older, more conservative generations. The British Election Study estimated that only 40% to 50% of 18-25-year olds voted in 2015 and 2017compared with about 80% of those in their 70’s. It is the youth that would benefit the most from social changes but when presented with the opportunity to shape their own future many let this attitude cloud their judgement.

I understand that politics can appear bleak, but to dismiss any hope and flippantly reject the system is missing the point. Rejection does not change the ways thing are or act as protest, instead it acts as a disservice to those who rely on political changes for their wellbeing. Whatever someone's reason for not voting, the current system remains in place and relies on voting to implement change. The right to vote is one that has not come easy to many and to disregard the history of the vote and the future of your country comes not only from a place of privilege but one of selfishness, as the outcome of political votes directly effects the most vulnerable in our society. This may not be you, but they should be kept in mind when

choosing who you support. And even if you decide against this, any viewpoint is better than none, as there is no greater sign of privilege than complete apathy.

Written by Isobel Gorman-Buckley