One major reason for political apathy, arguably, is due to the image and background of politicians. The stereotype of the British politician is white, male, privately educated and rich. Can there be a solution for political apathy? Is education the key for it?
Sadly that stereotype is fact, with men making up 70.6% of MPs, there only being 6.6% ethnic minority MPs and both David Cameron and Boris Johnson attending Eton. The politicians are supposedly our representatives in parliament, but if they do not resemble the makeup of the population, how can they effectively represent our views? This idea and many like it, help to contribute to the idea that politicians are just rich men who want to become even richer, this view was obviously ignited by expenses scandal of 2009. This idea consequently leads to an increase in political apathy.
The Consequences of Political Apathy
Political apathy hinders democratic process. If democracy advocates the importance of all the members of the population having their own say over how the country is run, and people are disinterested with politics it acts as an opponent to democracy as we know it. The turnout for French presidential elections are vastly higher than the British turnout for parliamentary elections, with the 2012 French election having a turnout of 81%, again comparing this with 66.1% turnout seen in the UK it clearly alludes to a problem. As Britain is a key figure within the European Union it would make sense if the problem of political apathy was tackled, to put Britain in line with other major powers within Europe.
‘If we do not plant knowledge when young, it will give us no shade when we are old.’ Lord Chesterfield’s quote is the basis of my solution for political apathy. Politics is not taught before the last two years of high school, and many high schools only allow politics as a subject at A-level. For me, these are the years when a person is most influenced. If we do not educate the younger generations of the importance of democracy and politics, we can only expect an increase in political apathy.
If politics was taught in the years 7-9 at high school it would also tackle the clearly unrepresentative makeup of parliament as, if you educate everyone with politics, more people from different backgrounds will become involved in politics and not just those who are already currently involved whilst also increasing the young people’s turnout in the 2010 election which was a low 51.8%.
Education: The Solution for Political Apathy?
Although some would disagree with this idea, one cannot disagree with the importance of politics, there are few things that are not determined by politics in any way and personally this is enough for me to believe that political apathy is a problem that must be fixed, and as all up to the age of 18 must stay in some type of education, education would clearly be an effective solution for political apathy. Education is the key. Obviously forcing politics onto children would not be an effective way of getting them involved, however as most schools offer subject-specific days like ‘RE days’, these different educational days would be a useful platform for politics to be shown to younger students, in a way that would make politics seem more interesting than how it is currently displayed in education.
For me, this solution for political apathy seems an essential and rather a simple way to ensure that the next generation is educated in politics, democracy and equally less politically apathetic.
Clearly, we cannot just put political apathy down to the people, we must also look to the politicians. Many within the electorate do not trust the politicians, with Nick Clegg promising that he would vote against any rise in fees and then voting for a rise in tuition fees it is no mystery why many do not trust politicians. Clearly, along with educating young people, we must educate politicians. We must educate politicians in the importance of keeping their promises and always to remember to represent those who voted for them. If we educate the politicians in the importance of both of these points then they will become more appealing to the electorate and therefore it would also tackle political apathy.