The General Election is just around the corner, and across the country a new wave of first time voters will be crossing the ballot paper in arguably the most important election the country has experienced in years, writes Woldgate College student Will McGahey.
But what is it that is important to the vast numbers of first time voters, especially in our local constituency? Although apathy is a growing concern in modern day politics, especially among young people, the election, its issues and the parties involved still provide strong viewpoints among many students at Woldgate College.
Tuition fees, understandably, is a major issue, as high university fees are currently relevant to many of the students as they look to plan for their futures away from Woldgate in the next school year. Jenna Lawson, a sixth form student who is planning to go to university in September, says that the current cost of tuition fees is “too much to spend on post-18 education and is something which many will struggle to pay back in later life.” The high cost of fees and the inevitable struggle of many to pay them back post-university has led to almost unanimous agreement across first time voters at Woldgate College that they need to be lowered. Liam McGlinchey, another year 13 student planning to go onto further education, said: “The high cost of fees directly affects first time voters and will continue to affect younger students, they need to be lowered to a more affordable level.” Among many students, the desire for fees to be lowered has contributed to them deciding to vote Labour on 7 May, who promise to lower tuition fees to £6,000 a year, with 75% of students surveyed saying they plan to vote for Ed Miliband’s party.
Though education may be the most relevant issue among young people this election, many of the students expressed views on other, far reaching issues which affect the whole population, such as the future of the NHS. Even for young people in 2015, the NHS and the foundations of its existence are important. Dan Foster, another first time voter from Woldgate, said that the NHS is “one of the best things about this country”, adding that “further privatisation is not the way forward at all.” There were similar feelings on the NHS from other students, with Oliver Claxton saying that “the NHS is in vital need of more investment, to care for everyone who needs the unique, free service it provides.”
Other issues that Woldgate students feel strongly about include equal opportunities in the workplace, with Maria McAreavey saying that “equal opportunity, between men and women, white and ethnic minorities, needs improving and it made certain that no matter what your background, you have an equal chance in society.” Many students also mentioned public sector job cuts, environmental concerns and the need for the economic deficit to continue to be reduced, showing the breadth of feeling on a range of different issues among young people.
Political apathy has been a much discussed topic in the media in the last few years, and it is true that voting turnout among the 18-25 age group is lower than many other age groups. However, comments on tuition fees and the NHS, along with equal opportunity and the environment to name a few, prove that young people do care deeply about issues which affect them in the political world and which they will decide their vote upon in a week’s time.
Our voices shouldn’t be overlooked during this campaign, despite the lack of political engagement shown by many politicians, as our votes will help shape the next government and mould the future for our country.