By Harry Johnson, a first year International Relations student and one of the few Brits on the course!
How much is a vote worth?
As Jack Straw’s ‘cash for access’ scandal came to light yesterday, those with any kind of involvement in student grassroot party politics came under fire: how can we possible engage with Westminster when Westminster serves the interests of the wealthy few? How can we rust our political leaders when they have no experience outside the walls of parliament and our parties when they show time and time again their inability to keep the pledges they make?
In response we should use our generation’s disengagement to empower our call for change. As parties squabble on the battlegrounds of the NHS, of balanced books, welfare, immigration and education we should put pressure for debate to open up on other fronts.
Deep societal issues need to be addressed and represented by the parties, not just protecting welfare and immigration but reasserting its right to exist. As politicians shout over each other in the commons, the voice for morality and principle is drowned out.
Politics has evolved to exist in channels that mobilise and inspire people in a way traditional politics never has but this does not mean that Westminster has had its day. Voting doesn’t mean you accept the childish and sinister practices of parliament but rather it gives you the opportunity to challenge them. Jack Straw’s constituents should call for a by-election in order to discipline the conflict of interests that exists in the chambers, using the power of their vote. Collectively as young people we should apply the same standard to the Liberal Democrats who appear comfortable in abandoning principle for power, particularly in regards to their promise of abolishing the tuition fee.
Young people need a new party to channel their desire for change and the Labour Party represents this. The coalition has lacked vision yet demanded sacrifice, hiding the alternatives to an unjust reorganisation of government structure and priorities. However an alternative does exists, it understands that tax-cuts for millionaires and cuts to welfare are not twopolicies which should go together, realises that whatever the economic environment; rents must be capped, the NHS protected and small business safeguarded.
The frenzy in 2010 for students to support the Liberal Democrat’s pledge for the abolition of tuition fees was grounded in the idea that education should be open for all, irrespective of one’s background and environment. It drew on a theme which is beginning to become dangerously uncommon; the challenge to political and economic inequality. Found preserved in the principles of the Labour Party we need to rekindle the party’s energy and young people’s drive for change.
This isn’t to suggest that we follow blindly in the stumblings of Ed Miliband but rather that we recognise the potential of the party, through engagement with grassroots politics we can ensure the party is bolder than ever, as red or as green as needs to be. We are constantly told that all parties and all elections are the same but this simply isn’t true. In this election voting for Labour means supporting a fair and just post-election vision and creating a base from which we can launch our vision for society.
For students living in halls within the Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituency the vote is looking to be very close between the Liberal Democrats and Labour. Further information on the labour candidate can be found at http://www.boslabour.org.uk/. Changes in the electoral register have meant that many students are no longer registered, in order to register to vote please visit https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.