Politics is changing whether the gatekeepers like it or not

PUBLISHED: 14:47 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:52 11 December 2018

Members of Our Future, Our Choice protest in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Brian Lawless

Members of Our Future, Our Choice protest in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Brian Lawless

PA Wire/PA Images

As young anti-Brexit campaigners plan to march on Westminster calling for a People's Vote, JOSHUA CURIEL explains that politicians ignore the youth's powerful voices at their peril.

I believe three things about British politics. One, the public hates Westminster. Two, Brexit will leave my generation with what is arguably the worst inheritence in peacetime history. Three, the political class don’t understand points one or two.

This Wednesday I will be among hundreds of young people marching on Westminster to call for a People’s Vote on Brexit. For years, it was assumed that young people would not vote, would not take part in politics, and fundamentally did not care. During this time, we were priced out of housing (particularly in London), had our tuition fees trebled and been given the cold shoulder by MPs.

But now, after all of this, we’re making ourselves heard. We have been shown that it is up to us to get ourselves involved in politics - and we are. It’s not a winner with all though. The Spectator columnist Brendan O’Neill wrote that the “cult of youth should terrify anyone who believes in democracy”, and accused, Our Future Our Choice (OFOC), part of a group of young and old campaigning for a People’s Vote, of exhibiting “astonishing arrogance”. After years of moaning about our apathy, some members of the establishment are now worried that we may participate.

Brexit will hit young people (18-35-year-olds) the hardest. It will make us poorer and fuel inequality. It will deny us opportunities and deprive us of the right to live or work anywhere in Europe. Just look at the statistics. Of the 18 to 25-year-olds that voted in the referendum, 75% voted to Remain. We do not want it.

Turnout in the 2016 referendum among 18 to 24-year-olds was almost double what was at first reported. And It was young people turning up to vote in the 2017 gerenal election that helped undermine a Conservative majority. At the head of Wednesday’s takeover will be hundreds of people, calling on their MPs to join.

We are desperate for a politics in which we can participate and engage. We want Westminster to listen to us by giving us a final say on the issue that effects us the most.

Those who dismiss young protesters like myself as “snowflakes” and “privileged remoaners” are wide of the mark. Whatever happens between now and the official departure date of March 29, the task is to mobilise our energy and anger to tackle it. We can’t let a handful of politicians take apart our futures.

Yet in the face of this disaffection, Labour cannot sit idle. Many young people, including myself, believe Jeremy Corbyn is a man of integrity that offers hope and progress. But we all know that any grand social pact will be near-impossible outside of the EU and in a new decade of austerity. With growing economic uncertainty and a more isolated, insular nation, as a country we will fail to address the towering challenges of our time outside the EU.

This is not “astonishing arrogance” but a heartfelt plea to be heard. And Wednesdays’s march is not just for young people but for everyone who cares about what kind of country we will be in a decades time.

Politics is changing, whether the gatekeepers like it or not.

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