The Trafalgar Square rally. Photo: Steve Eason
Young people may be the most affected by the result of the EU referendum. But too often, the media and politicians have shown they aren’t interested in our opinions. Despite us being the ones who will deal with the consequences of this vote for the longest, the drama of whether Team Cameron or Team Johnson will control the Conservative Party after Thursday has dominated the coverage. Young people don’t want their futures decided by a proxy vote for the Tory leadership with both sides exploiting our fears. Young people, especially young women, have hardly got a look in.
The marginalisation of voices outside of the Westminster bubble is why I have organised a Yes to Europe rally in Trafalgar Square this evening aimed at engaging young people to vote in and get their reasons for doing so heard. The response has been incredible. In less than a week, almost 3,000 people have clicked attending, and I have received countless messages from people offering their help or support.
There is clearly a desire for young people to come together, make ourselves seen and heard, and put forward our vision for an open, forward-looking Britain, playing a role in changing Europe for the better. The exclusion of our views isn’t just a failure of our generation but is indicative of the narrowness of the political elite and the over-centralisation of politics. Referendums are meant to be an exercise in direct democracy. In theory, we all get an equal say.
This vote is about so much more than the tangible benefits or remaining in the EU; it is about the kind of country we want to live in and the kind of future we want to see. Now is not the time to become inward facing, we must reject the politics of hate and prejudice. This referendum has unleashed dark forces – it has been a window into a frightening future for Britain. Nigel Farage and his terrifying anti-refugee poster do not represent me, my friends or the kind of society I want to live in.
The responsibility falls to our generation to make the clear positive case for in, promoting the values of unity and co-operation that we collectively hold. Today we will make our voices heard.
With the failure of both sides of the campaign to reach out to young people beyond patronising Youtube videos, it’s little wonder only 52% of young people have said they will definitely turn out to vote. Referendums are not supposed to be about proxy Tory leadership elections or a battleground for competing sides of the Labour party.
This referendum is our choice on our rights, our freedoms and our future, and it’s not too late for young people to get out there in massive numbers, vote – and decide the outcome.
This article was first published on Huffington Post
22nd June 2016