Joshua Aldwinckle-Povey is a student and Youth Cabinet member from Thurrock. Here he offers his thoughts on why all of us should care about politics – locally and nationally. Take it away, Josh…
In 2017, there was a nationwide general election, you might remember, and in Thurrock voter turnout (the number of people who could vote who actually turned up and voted) was just 64.52% for Thurrock, with a similar figure of 64.16% for the South Basildon and East Thurrock area. Any A Level Politics student could probably reel off a list of reasons why voter turnout has been taking a nosedive in recent times, but to put this into perspective, the gap between the winner of the Thurrock election in 2017 and the second place candidate was just 345 votes. 346 more people heading to the polls across the Thurrock constituency and we could have had a different election result.
This concerns me, because the figures have been rather stagnant: the voter turnout for Thurrock was 64% in the 2015 election, 59.1% in 2010 and 54% in 2005. Of course, you could say that the number has been going up over time, but that doesn’t avoid the problem that there is still a fair number of people who aren’t turning up to vote on polling day. Perhaps you are one of them? Why?
“But politicians do nothing for me!” I hear you cry in response. And absolutely – it is incredibly possible for politics to feel a million miles away from reality, tucked away in Westminster, and to feel like you have nothing to do with it. Yet, too often, we forget that in fact politics is about us as people, all people, being in charge – it’s the very definition of democracy. There are some schools of thought that suggest actually, it is our duty to vote in elections and that you should be forced to do so. I don’t think it should be that extreme; however, if you consider yourself to be too distant from politics, then we have entered a really rather dangerous situation.
Of course, I hear people quite a lot say that they don’t really understand politics and they get so confused watching Andrew Marr or even just the news channel that they switch off and do not bother. But, in reality, you only need to be passionate about one thing to care and take an interest in politics. If you really care about the future of NHS services in your local area, you have a ‘call to arms,’ if you like, for politics. Nobody is suggesting you read the full and detailed manifesto of every party every time a local council election comes round, but it is certainly worth your while brushing up every now and again on a topic that you are slightly confused about but care about, too.
And if you’re under 18 and can’t currently vote, please don’t forget about all the other things you can do! If you feel passionately about an issue, write to your MP or councillor (you don’t have to write a letter either, you can use the website writetothem.com to send an email to your local representatives, like your MP, MEP or councillor) and let them know about your passion for the issue and ask them for their stance. You could join a youth council (Thurrock Youth Cabinet?) and debate with others and create a change for other young people. You can even join a political party if you want to.
Politics is not something that happens in the background; it is something that happens in all areas of society at all times. If you aren’t involved, it just happens to you without your input and perhaps not to the results you want, and if I were you, I definitely wouldn’t be too pleased with that. Go, find something you care about in the world, at least one thing, and use it to fuel your own political fire.
A great place to start might be to write a piece for the Young Thurrock blog, so get in touch with your own kind of political fire.