As a 19-year-old Economics and Politics undergraduate, my route into the realm of political discourse has been relatively hassle-free. Indeed, over the past three years, I have actively engaged in our democratic system: from chairing hustings to grassroots campaigning for the Labour Party.
But having entered the political fray through joining the Labour Party, I soon found myself quickly disappointed. Of course, political parties are rarely ‘catch-all’, but the party I once joined in good faith today systematically alienates me and others. Why? Brexit.
Brexit and all it stands for cannot be confined to the left-right spectrum. The issue has divided us all, it transcends party politics to the extent that it has usurped my ideological commitment to the Labour Party. According to an eye-widening poll by Our Future, Our Choice, only 2% of young people believe that Britain’s standing has improved since the 2016 referendum. Shocking as this is, why should we be surprised? Not only were the voices of 2 million 16-17-year-olds suppressed during the referendum, but the voice of Remain has since either been silenced within the major parties or drowned out by a chorus of MPs “elected on a leave manifesto” – a phrase I hear all too often.
The fact of the matter is this: thanks to Brexit, I am politically homeless. No single party stands for the issues I find important. Of course, when associating with a party, it’s impossible to expect every box to be ticked. But Brexit is a box simply too imposing to leave blank. In fact, every other box – health, education, economic policy, foreign policy – has been subsumed by our ensuing withdrawal. It impinges on nearly every issue of political life. That’s why it has pushed so many people away from identifying with a party – and spawned the rise of ‘The Independent Group’. Simply put, Brexit cannot be overlooked by anyone looking to join or vote for a party.
For most voters, identity politics has been replaced by an issue-based agenda. Whilst Brexit has divided much of the country, it has united many young people regardless of their political leanings. Indeed, on the 27th of February, I stood in the Lobby of Parliament shoulder-to-shoulder with young people from across the political spectrum, all of whom were telling MPs how they, as representatives, have failed us by blindly supporting something they know will scar the economy and the electorate in the process. After two years of intense partisanship, it was refreshing to not be bound to a party while fighting against the impact of Brexit.
The common perception of the younger generations today is that we are apathetic, and can’t be trusted. I’d like to offer an alternative perspective. I’m not disenfranchised. I’m disillusioned. The party I subscribed to in 2015 has taken a position on Brexit I simply cannot support- it is ignoring the very voices it claims to represent.
My generation can be trusted, perhaps more so than the generations which sit in government. The plethora of well-informed young people appearing on news stations across the country today is inspiring, revitalising and stands in stark contrast to the ministers who ricochet from failure to failure.
So, far from apathetic, there’s real energy within my generation to stand up for our future; a future which, for many of us, we were unable to shape.
Though the Brexit debate has pushed people away from party politics, they haven’t left politics itself. By people from across the political spectrum all pulling in the same direction on one issue, things will be resolved for the better. On the 27th of February in Parliament, our MPs listened. On the 23rd, at the March for a People’s Vote, they listened again. It is imperative, for their parties’ sakes as well as ours, that they keep listening.