The General election is in two days. That's two more days of streets being canvassed, politicians getting grilled and social media posts being plastered around cyber space. And then, it's all over – at least for now.
On 9 June, the country will wake up to the news of who will be governing the UK for the next four years, and young people will play a huge part in that decision. Since Theresa May called the snap election on the 18 April, approximately 2.3million people have registered to vote, and according to estimates, more than 700,000 of them are under 25. The very same day the election was announced, 57,987 signed up immediately to have their say, more than any other age group.
For years the relationship between young people and voting has been a tempestuous one. Turnout is low, and often millennials are branded as a sheltered, social media obsessed generation who don't engage with the political system.
But something is happening. Last week, YouGov announced the Conservative lead on the Labour party had narrowed to just 3 points – the closest it's been in the electoral race. Experts largely still predict a Conservative win, but it's no longer by a landslide, and with young people polling in favour of Labour, they are largely responsible for this.
It's been a long time coming, but young people are finally starting to grab back the power. Attitudes are changing and, among contemporaries, there's an increasing pressure to get engaged, be 'woke' and vote.
Natalie Fadugba, a 25-year-old stylist, decided to vote for the first time in the EU referendum. 'I'd always felt completely disillusioned with our government and have never trusted a party, or it's representatives, enough to vote,' she explains.
'The referendum was the first thing since I've been of voting age, that I've felt 100 per cent steadfast in. I didn't want to look back on the outcome – whatever it was – and think my unused vote could have made a difference.'
Fadugba says that despite not seeing the result she hoped for post referendum, she still feels the need to vote this week, with the same urgency. 'There are lots of cuts and policies being pledge that threaten the lives and futures of so many people, and I don't feel comfortable sitting back and not doing my small part to have my say. I think young people are waking up to the fact their vote could actually affect change.'
Rallying the troops
Individuals and organisations across the country are rallying to mobilise young people. 'Rize Up' is campaign backed by Professor Green and Riz Ahmed and hammers home their message – 'don't be a wasteman and waste your vote' – through articles, videos and social media posts targeted at young people.
i-D magazine recently sent rapper JME to interview Jeremy Corbyn where they discussed housing, the arts and the power of youth. It's had almost 300,000 views in two weeks and garnered comments like, 'Seeing JME and JC in conversation is something I didn't know I needed until now.'
Last week, Beats 1 presenter Julie Adenuga hosted a live streamed an event with Boiler Room, simply titled, 'Why Should I Vote?' where both panellists and the studio audience pointed out that – yes, Westminster was a stuffy, archaic system that didn't necessarily reflect their needs, but the overwhelming feeling was that a small act was better then remaining voiceless if young people are ever to create the change they want to see.
The League of Young Voters was set up by the UK British Youth Council, with the same aim of increasing polling turnout in young people. Mariam Inayat Waseem is a Trustee, and now a student at Newcastle University.
'The British Youth Council changed my perspective completely' she explains. 'It was the first time I felt like I could make an impact, at the age of just sixteen. Young people typically don't have many platforms to voice their opinions on issues that affect their lives, which can be frustrating and lead to disaffection. We're a youth led organisation, which is testament to our commitment to youth voice.'
I think young people are waking up to the fact their vote could actually affect change
Inayat feels that this election is a particularly exciting one for young voters like herself. 'Since young people are typically the least likely to vote, they hold all the power in this snap election. It's absolutely vital that we turn out and vote on the 8 June. All the policies and changes being implemented now will affect young people more than they will ever affect the politicians implementing them.'
Evidence of a growing youth participation in politics is reflected in the party manifestos, too. Where once, leaders may have relied on low turnout and failed to present policies appealing to a younger demographic, millennial issues are now at the forefront of the conversation.
Housing prices and rent are a huge issue for the young, with the number of young homeowners having halved in the last twenty years. Labour are pledging to reinstate Housing Benefit for under-21s and, 'empower tenants to call time on bad landlords by giving renters new consumer rights.'
Even Theresa May, whose party typically attracts older, wealthier voters (in 2013, the average Conservative was 68) has unveiled plans to build more council houses, and vowed that: 'Whether [buying or renting], everyone needs the security of a place to call home, but too many ordinary working families are stuck on council waiting lists, facing unaffordable rents and struggling to save for that first deposit'.
It's a rhetoric which many see as a U-turn in Conservative policy. Meanwhile, Labour are promising to scrap tuition fees – a huge issue for undergraduates – and has seen them gain an estimated 55 per cent of the student vote. The Lib Dem's are promising to legalise marijuana, another policy designed to appeal to young people, and the Green Party's manifesto promises fair access to properly paid internships.
Deciphering pledge from promise
These policies are refreshing considering that British politics has a history of ignoring and betraying younger generations. Yet history has also shown, when they choose to stand up, young people make up a large and galvanising force.
Seeing JME and JC in conversation is something I didn't know I needed until now.
In 2010, the then Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg pledged to oppose tuition fees in 2010, and gained unprecedented support among students, 48% of whom voted for the party. When Clegg then supported the £9000 hike under the coalition government, the youth disappointment was palpable, manifesting in protests across the country.
Today, in an era of fake news and shrinking newsrooms, it's even harder to decipher pledge from promise, but it's clear that young people are taking a stand.
The results of last year's EU referendum was a crushing disappointment to so many young voters – like Natalie, 75 per cent of people aged under 24 voted against Brexit. But what's hopeful is that even more UK millennials have registered to vote ahead of the June general election than they had for last year's Brexit referendum.
Of course, registering doesn't equate to voting, and historically younger voters are still more likely to do the dip come election day, especially compared to older generations who generally turn out in their droves (approximately 75 per cent of over 55's).
So much depends on exactly who turns up on Thursday, but young people are a generation not to be underestimated. The sleeping beast is awaking; this week we'll hear how loud it roars.