Young people are outraged at the result of the EU referendum, and rightly so. Their response has been, understandably, an emotional one. However, they must shoulder some of the responsibility for Britain voting to leave the EU.
Compared with older people, the young massively failed to turnout in sufficient numbers. Here some credit can be given to the argument that young people are disillusioned with politics; both the remain and leave campaigns seemed like the same old establishment trading playground insults. The disillusionment that young people feel with politics is an issue that goes beyond the EU referendum. To solve it we need to completely reshape political education. However, this problem could have been eliminated in the EU referendum. The young people that were engaged, myself included, failed to stand up and help those disillusioned with the political elite realise the profound affect that leaving the EU could have on their futures. This once again meant that there was no campaign aimed at young people, leaving many of them to feel that the voice of the young was a voice that no one wanted to hear.
Now that Britain has voted to leave the EU we must look forward and not lament the referendum result. TV presenter James Corden remarked after the result on Friday: “I can’t get my head around what’s happening in Britain. I’m sorry to the youth. I fear you’ve been let down today”, and indeed he is right – the youth have been let down but by themselves. We cannot continue to blame older people for voting to leave. We must accept that leaving the EU was the decision made by the people of the United Kingdom through one of the most direct forms of democracy.
Since Friday morning young people have rushed to make the point that they will have to live with this decision for up to 70 years. And they’re right, leaving the EU will have a massive impact on their futures, but older people also have a future. However short that future may be, they have a future and the right to determine it. Stop blaming the babyboomers!
In a post ‘Brexit’ UK the onus now falls on young people to help shape the country. With this referendum success for the right wing of the Conservative party, it is paramount that Labour develops a strong, vocal and progressive opposition, the opposition they did not provide in the referendum campaign. Labour must look for a fresh voice to take the party forward; they could be either a low profile backbencher like Bridget Phillipson or a more outspoken MP, such as Jess Phillips. These are the people that can restore trust in Labour in its traditional Northern industrial heartlands, by once again embracing trade unionism, standing up for an increasingly marginalised working class. However, they must recognise the growing divide between the rural and metropolitan working classes, and indeed it is trade unions that can stop this divide growing ever deeper. If this can be combined with a progressive business friendly attitude towards social justice then the Labour Party can again become a fighting force at elections. Both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Labour divide the party and now, more than ever, the Labour Party needs to be unified.
Jeremy Corbyn standing for the Labour leadership last summer helped bring new, young, members into the Labour Party – people excited by a new brand of politics. While it must be recognised that Corbyn has made a significant contribution in engaging young people he has not, thus far, shown that he is able to deliver the strong and credible opposition that the new members hoped for. Someone must build on the momentum of Corbyn within some sections of the Labour movement, while encouraging consensus between young and old. There is also a need for this person to try and build consensus outside of the party, encouraging a politics of compromise rather than a politics of division.
Young people must now reflect on this decision, not looking for someone to blame but taking responsibility for our inaction. But we should also look forward, creating a Labour Party that is progressive and exciting. Dare I say it, a Labour Party much like that of Tony Blair. However we choose to do this, young people must stand up and take back control of their futures.
Mostyn Taylor Crockett
Mostyn has just finished his A-Levels. He writes as a Labour Party supporter.