The world is on the brink. A shattered environment, gargantuan inequality, a burgeoning mental health crisis, fascism openly spreading across Europe, public services at breaking point… but also the possibility of more radical and progressive change than we’ve seen in decades. Higher education specifically also faces two radically different paths ahead of it: continued marketisation, eroding academic integrity, burdening a generation with enormous debt, crushing academics under enormous workloads, increasingly insecure employment and workplace stress – or publicly funded higher education that opens up space to imagine and create a different sort of campus.
Brexit, of course, will be a big issue this election, but there are so many other crises in which our time to act is narrowing. One way or another, this election will be a defining one for our generation. We’re facing the fight of our lives.
Having our voices heard as students and young people is going to be more important than ever. Traditionally, we’re less likely to be members of parties or unions and less likely to vote than older generations (although some evidence suggests this may have started to change in recent years). I don’t buy the narrative that this means we’re ‘apathetic’ about political issues. For years, young people have been in a state of absolute despair about mainstream politics – an understandable reaction.
But time is running out. We desperately need a resolution to the Brexit saga and a coherent national response to the legion of crises we face. I won’t tell you how to vote in this piece, but I think there are radical alternatives to the status quo on offer in this election that we have to fight for. Mainstream politics is still deeply flawed and undemocratic, but we have to engage with it now and put forward our generation’s voice. It’s too late to do anything else – the planet and millions of people on it need us to get involved.
So, what can we do?
First things first: make sure you’re in a position to have your say. You can register to vote here before November 26th. And don’t stop there – get others registered too. Share that link on social media, and message people individually, especially those you know aren’t registered or engaged. We need to connect with and reach those people more than ever.
If you’re a student, it’s key to know where your vote will make the biggest difference – at uni or at home?
If you have time, go a step further. Organise a registration drive on your campus or at your workplace. You can download materials to help with this from NUS. Trade unions and local councils can usually provide materials too. Get your college or university or Students’ Union, your employer or workplace union, to encourage their members to register as well, and maybe even approach them about hosting a hustings to help students and young people make up their mind. Do what you can to make sure fellow students, colleagues and neighbours know where their polling station is going to be.
If you’re a student, it’s key to know where your vote will make the biggest difference – at uni or at home? Find the seat that has the smallest difference between the two frontrunners and use your vote there. This site can help you make that decision.
Get involved in campaigning. Local parties will be dying for volunteers. Drop them a message (they should be easy to find) and they’ll bite your hand off for an hour of your time. Most will have a variety of activities you can get involved in – leafleting, door knocking, working through phone banks or data entry. Most will be really friendly and appreciative of your time and go out of their way to give you some training or pair you up with someone if it’s your first time – and if they don’t, you can help point out where they’re going wrong and improve things for the next volunteer.
Your vote is important, but so is what you have to say, or sing, or spray onto walls
Single-issue groups or campaigns within parties are great to get involved in too – most will have online info about your nearest campaign. Labour for a Green New Deal have this site, for instance, and Momentum have this one, both helping you find your nearest campaign group and how to get involved.
There’s more stuff below if door-knocking isn’t for you, but if you can, give it a go. Every little thing helps, whatever it is, but nothing beats face to face conversations on the doorstep.
Write, draw, sing, dance
Bread and butter party campaigning isn’t the only effective way to influence people at election time. Increasingly people can be reached and convinced via social media, so if you have a talent that can be shared that way, share it. I write, so I write blog pieces. Others can sing and write music as a way of expressing their politics – if that’s you, upload a video of it and get sharing. Your vote is important, but so is what you have to say, or sing, or spray onto walls. Be part of the conversation and try to convince a few people along the way.
Artists, dancers, vloggers, meme-lords – whatever your thing is, point it at this election and start firing. And if you’re not sure where to publish it, the Norwich Radical will welcome creative content on important election issues.
Talk to people
Talk to your friends and family about why you’re voting the way you are, and why they should too. It might be daunting to break social or familial conventions, but you should do it all the same. Too much hinges on this election for us not to at least try to bridge political gaps. Take the plunge.
Don’t stop on election day
Elections are short periods of intense campaigning where a little effort can make a huge difference – but this doesn’t mean we should limit ourselves to these moments. Stay in touch with the campaign groups, local parties and contacts you make during the election.
Whether a radical left-wing government or a reactionary right-wing nightmare is elected on December 12th, the fight won’t be over. We’ll need grassroots activists to keep fighting, to hold politicians to account on their promises, or to fight tooth and nail against dangerous projects that will harm society and the environment. Whatever we wake up to on the 13th, this election needs to be the start, not the end.
Together, we can forge a better future. It starts with an email, a conversation, registering to vote. Step by step, little by little, we can change the world.
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