Katie Worden is a returned ICS volunteer, living in the South West of England. She shares a recent experience of attempting to engage her MP in a discussion about Foreign Aid.
It is very hard to write about the motivations of a large segment of society to vote without being completely biased, without reference to dishonourable tactics and without appeals to history. But I’ll try…
The demographic turnouts of the electorate are not yet available, and the dust has not yet settled, but with the discourse across social media, including newer platforms such as Snapchat and checking-in to vote on platforms like Facebook, it seems to me and every person I’ve spoken to that the youth population is awakening and engaging in every political sense.
However, I do not for a second want to deepen the stereotypes of such use of social media and the young and the slightly patronising attempts at ‘relating to us’.
Already I have been subjected to accusations of self-interest and disillusion, but telling a person their opinion is wrong and blaming policies that appeal directly to them whether they asked for it or not, whether they would’ve voted anyway or not, is the opposite of democracy.
My personal experience during this election could be seen in many ways, but the word inspiring does not spring to mind. I feel my experience is an important one to share because of the stereotypes working against youth participation and political engagement, as well as to highlight the difficulties I faced.
I wrote to every single one of the candidates in my constituency before the election. As a returned ICS volunteer who is embarking on a career in development in September, my main question was about the Foreign Aid budget and whether they would commit to defending it.
Only one replied.
In my beloved but stereotypically challenged corner of the country, opinions surrounding UK expenditure abroad are particularly isolated. For this reason I wrote to my MP before embarking on my ICS placement to explain what I was doing, my motivations, and a direct request to collaborate on a project to tackle this issue upon my return.
The reply to this was a simple ‘I’ve forwarded your letter on to the relevant department’. The later reply from this “relevant department” informed me about ICS, and considering by this point I had completed the programme, it was not the most effective use of paper.
At the same time as questioning commitments to development, I asked my MP about her voting record as discovered ontheyworkforyou.com, and attached an annotated copy of the campaign materials that I had received in the post from said MP which inspired me to make contact in the first place.
I used the basic critical thinking skills that I learnt some five years ago in Year 9 to highlight the large amount of repetition, the questionable source use, and the abundance of flawed arguments such as ad hominem and false dilemmas.
The lack of replies I received gives me and any other person, young or not, every reason to give up.
I have yet to hear of someone in my constituency receiving a reply. My small voice has been made even smaller by the first person who should listen: irrespective of political orientation.
I so easily could have stopped there, but since the results were announced I have written again to welcome my returning MP and bring up the same issues that I did the first time. No reply to that either.
Nearly 100 years on from the first women being granted the vote in the UK, my motivation is more along the lines of moral obligation than having a particular reason for voting. But the power of youth must not lose heart, despite the forces against us.