Fifty-six percent of 17-24 year olds aren't registered to vote. Of those that are registered, many still do not vote come polling day. With this in mind, BBC3 hosted a 'first time voters' Question Time, giving politicians from the three establishment parties a platform to explain to young people why they should vote for them. How did these politicians do? They failed spectacularly. They were so patronising and out of touch that a fair few television screens may not have made it through the whole show in one piece! The first audience question was on graduate unemployment. Labour minister David Lammy can wring his hands about not wanting a 'lost generation' as much as he wants, but when the solution put forward is to "marshal business to offer jobs and voluntary opportunities" he's wasting his time. New Labour sold the travesty of university tuition fees on the lie that a degree guarantees you a better wage down the line - now this Higher Education minister is telling graduates they should work for free.
On the MPs' expenses scandal, Tory MP Jeremy Hunt bragged that he was one of the first MPs to publish his expenses online and lectured on how we "need a generation of politicians that are comfortable with transparency." But he only published his expenses after he'd been rumbled and this smug, unapologetic Tory was told to repay £9,500! Not a whisper from the panel about the three Militant MPs in the 1980s, including current Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, who only took a worker's wage rather than the full, inflated MPs' salary. There was also discussion about 'celebrity politics' stemming from Gordon Brown's TV interview with Piers Morgan. Although the politicians tried to defend their party leaders, some of the young people in the audience cut through this and pointed out that the attempted 'personalisation' of politics stems from the fact that there are no fundamental policy differences between the main parties. As one young woman said: "Maybe 10 or 15 years ago there was a difference, but I don't see any difference between Labour and the Tories now; they're all just scrambling over a tiny piece of land but nobody's saying anything anyone wants to hear."
The main parties find it impossible to engage with young people because, no matter what spin they put on it, they represent those at the top of society, millionaires and people a million miles away from the young people that they wetly tried to inspire on this show. What a difference it would make if another voice was allowed, that of working class people in the form of a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) representative.
A clear call of no cuts, no privatisation, and for free education and workers' rights would have gained support and would force the establishment politicians to address real political dividing lines. TUSC supporters are finding this out on doorsteps across the country; there is a thirst for a working-class alternative, but the drought at the top of the political establishment means many young people are amazed when they find out that an alternative is developing. As the general election campaign develops, more and more workers and young people will be given the chance to find out about TUSC and the sort of politics that young people in the audience of this show could be genuinely inspired by.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.