Student Musings

WILL THE NEXT GENERATION BOTHER WITH BALLOT BOXES?

Is a generation in danger of becoming totally disenfranchised with politics?

  • 2003: Protests against the war have no effect. The case surrounding the death of David Kelly exposes lies in the government.
  • 2009: The MPs’ expenses scandal questions the integrity of politicians, and widens the gulf of ‘them and us’.
  • April 2010: Allegations of corrupt postal voting question the integrity of the electoral system.
  • May 2010: A coalition government formed, putting two parties into power that the majority of the UK population didn’t vote for.
  • November-December 2010: Liberal Democarats and Conservative MPs vote to raise the tuition fee cap to £9000 under a three-line whip – despite mass protests (peaceful and violent).
  • 2011: The Referendum on Proportional Representation offers a watered-down version, AV that is unlikely to offer any real reform.

The anger, rage and violence of the student protests show that a large part of society

  1. View the police as an arm of government – not independent
  2. Feel that the Executive is unaffected by the vote or political protest.

Talking to students after Thursday’s Parliamentary vote there’s an overwhelming repsponse that many will never vote again. Much of the votes for the Lib Dems in the 2010 election came from students. It was the first time they’d been able to vote and they were so excited to exercise their democratic right that many were turned away from polling stations that couldn’t cope with the volume of voters who turned out.

Now the Lib Dems have gone back on the promise that persuaded them to vote for the party – and next time, staying in bed or going to the pub on polling day will seem a much better use of their time.

At a North-East business I spoke to recently, only the boss (in his 50s) voted. He asked his staff (mostly in their 20s and 30s) to consider voting. They asked him ‘What’s the point?’

Are we in danger of encouraging the next generation of holding our authorities in contempt, not voting and perhaps even not protesting too?

THREE WISE MEN IN THE FIRST TELEVISED ELECTION DEBATE

‘Calling now because I want to watch the Three Wise Men later’. Sorry, who?

Why didn’t I recognize our three prospective leaders as wise? Are they wise? Can we trust their judgment? The question today was who are you?

In a campaign dominated by non-committal manifestos and ‘ooo but look what he did’ responses, it’s no wonder we don’t trust what they say. Yet millions of Brits still tuned in to hear it. Why?

It’s partly because there’s little difference between their policies, but it’s also because if no-one believes what they say, the only thing we have to go off is personality. This is exactly the climate that could foster a television debate: it has brought our leaders out of their expensive tourist destination (I mean, Parliament) and into the voter’s front room. Now that politicians are more accountable to the people than ever before, the Prime Minister’s character is of the utmost importance.

It’s no longer enough that we see the leaders smiling and shaking hands. A televised debate gives us the whites of their eyes. With his sharp looks, David Cameron acted the part of the revolutionary, angry on behalf of the parent and the soldier. Nick Clegg adopted a soft and compassionate demeanor, speaking straight down the camera to the viewer.

But in an election hinged on character, Gordon Brown, -looking his age against his young rivals – is going to have to loose the tone of Prime Minister. The voters want to know Gordon.

BLUE LIGHTS BEHIND YOU

‘DEMOCRACY’. The word has become synonymous with the satirical tone of the inverted comma.

India boasts one of the purest forms of democracy in the world. Everyman-for-himself corruption gets frustrating. You wouldn’t go to the police if you got your bag stolen, but they’d always be polite and invite you in for a cup of tea while you waited the whole day for pointless yet essential papers.

As for the country that founded this bureaucracy, Britain seems to have gone to the other end of the spectrum entirely.

I recently met a girl who told me she is contesting a fine for wearing her seatbelt under – as opposed to above – her arm. The irony does not appear to be lost on her that she was pulled over on what was says is ‘quite possibly the only motorway trip I’ve ever done entirely at the speed limit’.

This is because she had a raging hangover and if the two calm yet blunt coppers had breathalysed her, she’d probably have lost more than thirty quid.

So, failing to notice the tired, slightly under the weather blonde girl, and recognising that her driving was in actual fact, perfectly safe and legal, did they really have nothing better to do than fine a short student for where she chooses to wear her seatbelt?

I can perfectly understand their interrupting her homeward journey to express their concerns on a choice that could cause her internal bleeding as opposed to asphyxiation should they meet this young lady further down the road in a crash. Equally, I can almost understand that if you or I had not been wearing a seatbelt, a fine may have been in order for the attempted manslaughter of yours truly hurtling into the windscreen.

However, do the police really have the right to fine us for how we choose to interpret the manufacturer’s design of the interior frosting of our possessions?

Surely there is a thief, paedophile, drug dealer, murderer, man running down a tube platform, or suicidal doctor in an airport car park somewhere? Perhaps a sleepy Sunday drive down the M1 and some meaningless paperwork is more in order for those who maintain our human rights in a country so liberal asylum seekers risk their lives to get to.

Blue lights in the rear view mirror send an involuntary signal to my left foot. Stop. Have we gone too far?

 

NECKIN’ IT AT UNI, 5th December 2008

‘AND if the door is shut on me, I’ll live some more and change my key. To alter just a bit, to fit a larger kind of door and grow some more’.

Some part of me died on Wednesday. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it died an ugly bitter death in a hysterical night of tears, wine and Vodka.

And the cause of such emotional instability? Losing a university society election.

Pathetic? Well I’m not the first, nor the last. My housemates ran for UMS president and social secretary a few weeks ago. Kind and fiercely capable they are, but neither got it.

A degree is no longer enough. The graduate who lands their chosen career does so with a high grade, heavy involvement in multiple societies, volunteering, travel, work experience, social skills, arse-licking and lets be honest; pure damn luck.

On the plus side, I cared; I loved; I hoped. (Past tense. That’s revealing. Perhaps that’s what died?) It feels like weakness and failure now, but surely it was better to have loved that much, than to go through university life bouncing from lecture to pub and never getting passionate about anything.

The world’s most monumental hangover and a scathing email from my father entitled ‘suggest you read this more than once’ later, it’s becoming clear that really the only thing to be obliterated here is my pride.

This semester I have worked five jobs, learnt Japanese and Arabic, joined a church and a choir, produced and presented a radio show, run a TV station, written for Redbrick, done a degree and had a social life. (And the BBC still won’t give me work experience.) I’ve also had three nervous breakdowns.

Was student life really meant to be like this? Two years ago I was sitting on a blue bench under an old tree reading dusty yellow books in India. Is the quality of life really better here in the western world? We’re so busy killing ourselves to make sure we’re not just the 9-5 office girl, that we run the risk of being ‘that girl who killed herself’.

I hadn’t considered ‘life without station manager’. But in that one post-tiebreak vote that decided my fate for 2009, it appears there’s a world of endless opportunities. No longer bound by duty, I can create what I joined the society to create. It’s still a cloud at the moment, but whether the lining is silver, stardust or lead, its still a lining. There’s always another option. Another version of the story.

The bottom fell out of my world, and I fell with it. But in falling, I discovered a cosmos.

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