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I am not going to pretend that politicians are honest; they are not. However, I don’t believe they are any more dishonest than the average person or that politician’s dishonesty is the real reason for lack of interest in politics. Like everyone else, politicians are put in situations where lying or manipulating facts benefits them more than being honest and the temptation is often too strong. More honest politicians usually fail to be elected in the first place or when they are, they are not considered realistic leader figures by the electorate. People don’t like being lied to but usually prefer to vote for someone’s lies over the truth, which is not as nice to hear. A good example is the recent Scottish National Party landslide in Scotland. In a five year period where their grant from the UK government is going to be cut significantly, they promised several big ticket spending increases and no major spending cuts, despite the Scottish Parliament not having significant tax raising powers. They promised a fantasy budget and the Scottish electorate loved it. I agree that politicians should be responsible enough to be honest but it is an equal to the electorate’s responsibility to reward honesty, rather than punish it.
Idealism is a problem that plagues students participation in politics. The hero worship of Obama in 2008 or the Clegg-mania of April 2010 highlights that students want to believe that a politician can change the world or at least this country. Barrack Obama has achieved great success through introducing universal healthcare in the USA but has been incredibly unpopular for much of his time as
president; he is likely to be re-elected simply because there is currently no good alternative within the Republican Party. He has lost a significant amount of his support amongst young people who now believe he lied to them. I would argue to some extent he did, but that for the most part he has worked hard to implement his reforms. When he has failed it has occurred because even the president cannot force through reforms by himself. Unfortunately a lot of his former supporters lack the pragmatism to accept how venal and complex politics is and that while he has failed in many areas he deserves their full support for his successes.
Another reason why students don’t get involved in party politics is that they usually focus on one issue. In many ways this is very beneficial, often supporting good causes such as Amnesty International, combating climate change or third world poverty. However, political parties campaign on an enormous range of issues. They do not chase one issue and instead seek to introduce an entire range of policies to be implemented if they win power at either a local or national level. This requires compromise between different policy areas as the party seeks to form a coherent plan for governance. If a coalition between policies is necessary, then the compromise will be even greater. A neutral and detailed analysis of the Liberal Democrat’s efforts in government shows that they have or are implementing huge sections of their manifesto. Their problem is that they tend to be the less well known policies. Many students voted on one particular issue such as tuition fees and when they failed with one specific policy a lot of students lost interest not just in the party but often with politics itself.
A final issue that I think is over looked is that most young people do not get involved in politics because to a large extent we do not need to. Unlike students who fought in Tarrir Square in Cairo, our prospects are good. Despite our economic and unemployment problems, and the cuts that inevitable have to follow, our standard of living will remain incredibly high by world standards. This combined with a society with decent social mobility and freedom of speech means there is little need for most people to get involved in politics. While this country has problems they are not considered big enough for most people to dedicate significant amounts of time and effort to a political party seeking to solve the problems.