TES, 30th May 2014
The current political climate must be pretty boring for my parents. They grew up in a time of Thatcherism, of police battles with protesters, of the mutiny within government. To them, the Westminster tales of the modern day must be comparatively drab.
Tony Blair’s successive governments brought Britain into an age of consensus politics, where parties clash on mechanisms but agree on goals – where the debates are parliamentary policy punch-ups, not the sustained ideological battles of the 1980s.
Some say that’s a good thing – that there’s little electoral interest among the young because there’s not much left to fight over, and that my parents’ apathy as voters is actually “happathy”. Who cares if the youth of today have got more to be doing than picketing the government?
That sort of mentality is dangerous – being happy to accept an “us and them” arrangement because we’re not really interested in what happens. It means that we’re less likely to engage when it all goes wrong, as it did in 2008, and more likely just to blame the Establishment in general. If we never have an opinion, we have no licence to complain about the decisions that are made.
That’s why, at the age of 16, I care about politics. I know that I’ll be able to make a difference in the future only if I make an effort to engage in the present. The classroom and common room, school council and debating society are ideal places for a political conversation. They’re not full of people with entrenched beliefs but those who want to learn and discuss. We need those conversations in schools, or we might all end up like my parents.
This article was a part of the TES cover story 30/5/14