How we can deal with political stigmatism

28 Jan 2013

On the day of me writing this article, MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour of votes for 16 year olds with a victory of more than 2:1. However, across the generations there does seem to be a lot of political stigmatism, especially among young people. In this article I will look at this subject and how it could be reversed with an increased focus on young people's views. 

 

In recent times, opinions towards the world of politics haven’t been very positive. After asking some young people why they frowned upon politics, the reason became very clear, it’s because politicians are viewed to be liars who do not keep their promises. Indeed, that was the view of pretty much every single young person who I asked. For example, Elliot Crawshaw, 14, from Rotherham in South Yorkshire said “It’s because they make promises that they know they are not going to keep, but they still go out and provide us all with false hope of doing something worthwhile.” I asked Elliot how he thought the problem could be reversed and he responded by saying, “By proving me wrong. By a politician telling the truth and delivering all the promises that they make, then and only then will I have faith in the system.” This seemed to be a common trend among the people I asked. The reason why he said he feels this is because of situations such as “the Deputy Prime Minister and his promise to vote against any rise in university tuition fees if the Liberal Democrats were to enter government. Here we are nearly three years after that promise was made with tuition fees considerably higher than they were before 2010, that in itself is proof in my mind that the politicians are out of touch with the views of the people.”

However, there is also a system driving these negative perceptions into the public realm. I personally think the media puts far too much emphasis on the negative sides of politics. For example, looking back at when university fees were raised, it was a massive story, all over the front pages of newspapers and it was the main headline for all of the news stations, meaning that everyone knew about it and everyone remembered it, furthermore, unfortunately, it has been a story which hasn’t quickly faded from the media’s attention. If this story didn't have so much emphasis placed on it, the people wouldn't be constantly reminded of certain politicians' failings, which have all too readily spread to form generalised perceptions regarding politicians as a whole. However, it is hard to argue that the unceremonious braking of pledges does nothing to affect political stigma.

Although, all is not lost; I think that this can be reversed so people can take a positive look on the world of politics. For example, surely if there was more political education in schools it would make young people more open minded as to what the political system is there for and what it does. I know many people who are highly unaware of what goes on inside Westminster. As my fellow MYP for Rotherham, Nina Rasuli stated, “I think most people think it doesn’t concern them, that it’s boring or only for those who are clever.” I agree with this. People need to be educated about politics to have an open minded view on it; if we did not learn the English language in schools we would not have an understanding of it, so surely this is the same case for politics.

Encouragement of young people to take an interest in politics from parents and teachers alike would surely lead to a greater understanding of politics and allow for people to make more open minded judgments about their views, the concepts of our political parties, and the judgements MPs and Councillors make on their behalf. However, politicians need also to help themselves, they need to act with accountability and honesty, and provide inspiring figureheads who well informed young people will look up to with admiration, not contempt. Maybe then the UK will be able to throw off the constraints of our political stigmatism.

By Oliver Blake

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