No I’m not a Politician – but I am politically engaged

Brexit and the need for political education and engagement

Brexit. The slightly breakfast cereal sounding portmanteau coined for one of the biggest decisions facing the UK since the turn of the century (or the indyref if you’re up in Scotland). A poll where every vote counted in deciding the fate of our future: whether we’d remain in the European Union, or leave it.

And what a result it was.

51.9% of the country decided it was better to leave; 48.1% had chosen to stay. Less than 4% separating the two.

When the BBC announced that there was no way Remain could make up the numbers, I shed silent tears. I’m no Politician, but I am politically engaged; watching the results of counting offices come in, and the stacking up of areas that were majority leave throughout the night had created this odd sense of disbelief, and the final verdict was betrayal crashing around my ears.

Betrayal – isn’t that a bit strong? the question asked by numerous people across social media.

No. No it isn’t.

This was the first time I’ve seen people my age, younger, older, massively invested in politics. Or if not massively, invested to the point where it was a large part of daily conversation in the run up (and ongoing aftermath). For many young people, this was the biggest decision we’ve ever made in helping set the course of our futures. 

I’m not going to talk about the way the results went (obviously I’m remain), and I think right now that point is moot as we’ve got to deal with the hand that we’ve been dealt. It’s been a week, the horse has been beaten. So instead I wanted to raise the issue that’s been bugging me recently: the ‘everyone is suddenly a politician’ memes; the ‘I don’t see you trying to become a politician’ comments; the ‘can everyone just shut up already, I’m bored, change the record’ tuts of derision. 

No I’m not a politician, but as I said, this is a massive issue, and people generally react to massive issues by talking about them. For many it has thrown their future into complete and total disarray. The country has been thrown into a period of political turmoil and our economy is teetering along the border of uncertainty. It’s a scary time. The timescale of ‘long-term’ is shrinking.

It’s political ignorance that has landed us in this mess.

That’s the bottom line here. We’re now an electorate divided; it follows a period where we just didn’t care.

Politics has almost always been an elitist game. Historically it has belonged to the affluent, in modern times we have (had) Eton boys leading, increasing the divide between themselves and the nation. This only plays into their hands, not ours: it’s very hard to be interested in things that don’t relate to you remotely, it’s understandable, but it means low voting turnout, a low level of understanding, a low level of political education. A really low desire to learn about it.

Brexit and the need for political education and engagement

‘Regrexit’, those using the referendum as a ‘fuck you’ to Cameron, and some of the reasons I’ve seen to leave, plus the percentage of the eligible voters that didn’t even vote, show that our society is woefully lacking in political education. Politics is important. It may not be as riveting as creative media, or make daily dinner table conversation – and I’m not saying that it should be that way – but politics decide how we live our lives. It decides so much that not having an interest in it is effectively like saying ‘I don’t want a say in the things that affect me’. The majority of the electorate, the everyday person, not showing an interest allows those who want to exploit, the ability.

It’s this lack of political education that allowed people to think that their vote wouldn’t matter (it’s a referendum, all votes matter), or that their vote was a protest against Cameron (it wasn’t). We weren’t calling for one party over another, we weren’t counting by constituencies. Every person registered to vote counted. And yet under 75% of us turned up in total.

In the last two years I’ve seen such a surge in political engagement in my generation. It shows that things are possibly changing, but we need more. We need actual education at a younger age so that when we turn 18 and that ability is handed to us, we can make informed decisions and understand the importance of our votes. We need places available for us to find unbiased, truthful articles and more people creating spaces for political conversation, instead of telling each other to shut up and they don’t want to hear it. We need more of what we’ve created from this referendum. We need more of this passion, this energy. We need to nurture it instead of squashing it with choruses of ‘enough already!!’.

We also need politicians to be in touch with the electorate, but that’s another post entirely. 

Please sign this petition to add Political Studies onto the National Curriculum

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  1. Beatrice
    June 30, 2016 / 10:21 pm

    This is such an excellent and thoughtful post. I personally am not from the UK, but I am from a country that's part of the European Union. Posts like yours have been really helpful to me in understanding the issue. I totally agree that politics isn't super exciting, and at times frustrating, but it's so important. Your post has definitely inspired me to learn more about what's going on in our world today. Thank you for that. Beatrice | Beanau Blog

  2. Jayne Emma
    June 30, 2016 / 11:31 pm

    I felt sick when my Mum woke me up with the news last Friday that the UK voted to leave to EU, I voted remain and I never for one second thought leave would have the majority vote, I'm still in disbelief that any of this has even happened, UK politics has been an absolute shit show since and I'm really worried for the future. It makes me sad that a lot of young people didn't bother to vote, especially considering we were the highest percentage which voted remain and it makes me angry that people voted leave based on hate and uneducated opinions, not forgetting the older generation mostly voting leave, it's awful. The fact that I have read a fair few those who voted leave now wish they could change their vote just says everything really but personally I don't think it should have ever have been a public vote, I don't know everything about politics but of course I am going to care about what happens to our country. It makes me so annoyed when I see posts such as 'shut up about the referendum, just have fun' as if people don't grasp how big of an issue it is and that it does not have implications on our futures? I just wish that politics was taught at secondary school, I wished such at the time I was studying and I think it would be so valuable, I certainly would have learnt more and then maybe more young people would have voted and we wouldn't be in this mess. It can only get better, I do hope so anyway.

  3. Sarah Vernon
    July 1, 2016 / 12:22 pm

    love this post! i agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said – the leave voters as well going on about us being "sore losers" since when did it become a game of winning or losing? its about our future and is so so so many people protest voted but then why not just spoil your ballot paper instead of voting for something that could have a detrimental effect to everyone! makes me so so angry! x x

  4. aimee cottle
    July 1, 2016 / 1:58 pm

    Excellent post – I couldn't agree more. This is probably the first time I've been so interested in, invested in politics since I turned 18 and was able to vote. My partner and I were regularly discussing the pros and cons of leave or stay, and trying to figure out which way the vote would go. Because it was going to affect us. It is going to affect us. So it was important we made the best decision and voted. I think 75% is a good turnout, and possibly (although I've no reference for this) better than the General Election turnout? But it's not enough. More young people need to get educated, get to grips with politics, use their vote and make their voice heard! I think it's a great idea to add Political Studies to the National Curriculum! x x

  5. Sinéad Saintelle
    July 2, 2016 / 5:19 pm

    So well articulated and I totally agree with your points! I think they small consolation to the whole thing is that the youth are fairly unified in this together, and it's been so see politics take a forefront with the younger generation!Sinéad ♥ fabuleuse, toujours ♥

  6. Carolin Schroeter
    July 2, 2016 / 6:57 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing such an honest and personal post Fii! I was shocked when I heard the results on friday. A friend of mine actually messaged me and said "I really hope this doesn't mean anything bad or change anything for you". This was the moment I knew the UK had voted out. I agree with you, political education is almost always overlooked. Even in Germany I had political education rather late (9th grade) and only had it for two years. Beyond that, people need to be more aware and inform themselves and have a general interest and what's happening in the world (and not just their own which can be quite small). It's not just political education but also travelling, living in other cultures or even learning another language can broaden a horizon enormously (or help to built opinion) and I feel British People need to be more motivated with that. Hope that made sense and sorry if I worded this a bit too directly, don't mean to offend anyone. Hope you're well and we'll speak soon! Caz | Style Lingua

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