As has been on many a social media site and television channel alike, most of the country is focussed on one thing: the election. Who is voting for who? What will they do about immigration? How much do they plan to overspend by this year? Now, I am a 21 year old female about to leave university and join the ‘real world’, and this would seem like the prime moment to choose a side. But the truth is this: I am not voting, and that’s okay.
With so many people telling you to vote and stressing the importance of making a decision about who will run the country, it is hard to remember that it is okay to not want to vote. But the truth of the matter is that politics is hard, and not many people actually understand it. There is a lot to learn, and it isn’t something that can be taught overnight. Simple questions like, why does everyone hate Ed Miliband so much?, or what is the difference between left and right wing?, are actually much more complicated to explain that you may think. To really understand the complexities of politics, it will take a lot of perseverance, keeping your ear to the ground, and patience. Someone who seems to know everything about it has probably been following it for some time. It takes time to understand something that complicated and you should not be ashamed to ask the “stupid” questions because, to be honest, there are no stupid questions.
I am not voting this year. I took a survey online that suggested I should vote Labour, but just because an online questionnaire says I seem to favour the reds, it doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and sign the next 5 years over to them. The main reason I’m not voting is because I don’t understand it. I refuse to vote for something without first knowing what I’m voting for. I couldn’t tell you the difference between any of the parties, so why would I tick a box, or even spoil the vote, without first getting to grips with the basics? In my opinion, it is perfectly okay to choose not to vote at all if you don’t understand. Rather than casting a vote for something unknown, I have chosen to hold back and spend the next five years watching what happens. I intend to find and read the manifestos, see which I side with more, and then see if the party that wins A) stands by their promises and B) makes a positive difference. If they break their promises, or make things worse, it will make my decision more informed next time the vote comes around. By that time I will have a more well-informed idea of the world of politics.
And moreover, I will have a better understanding of what I need. I have a pretty good knowledge of student life, having just spent 3 years at university. But the vote is for the next five years. I am no longer in education, but I am also not yet integrated into the working world. It is impossible for me to comment on what I need in regards to wages, tax and benefits etc. until I have spent some time finding a job, and living in rented accommodation, I will be unable to know what I need from my government. This is something I think is overlooked. Young people still in education are being encouraged to vote, but that government will be in play when they leave, and it is near impossible to predict the difference in living during and after university. Come the next big election, I will have experience under my belt, and a working knowledge of the government. Only then will I be ready to make an informed decision, and have formed my own opinion.
It is okay not to vote. It is wrong to push a person into voting just because you, yourself, understand it. Many people don’t and it is far better to withhold judgment on an unfamiliar topic than to make an uninformed choice under pressure. Your vote is important, that much is true, so don’t throw it away needlessly. You wouldn’t buy a car without first understanding the differences, so why choose your parliament without an understanding of it? Get informed. Listen to debates, follow the headlines (and know the papers’ biases), read the manifestos. And then when the next election comes around, if you feel you understand it enough, go right ahead. At least then you’ll know your vote will mean something.