The momentary ‘earthquake’ of European politics had already passed young British people by the time the election results were announced. Having voted three days before, large gains for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) were expected, but a small drop in turnout from 2009, just 33.8%, helped UKIP finish top of the elections with 24 MEPs.
Polling just before the elections suggested that only 30% of 17-21 year-olds were certain to vote. Those who did, took part in ‘the last public test of opinion before the next General Election’ rather than as good Europeans fulfilling a democratic duty. The fact that local council elections were held on the same day will have helped increase the meagre turnout among young voters, eager to take part in what is traditionally seen as an opportunity to punish the incumbent parties.
Despite UKIP’s success nationally they remain weak among young voters and Nigel Farage’s populist rhetoric resonates more with ‘left behind’ members of the working-class. Equally, UKIP still has an uphill struggle to overcome the ‘First past the post’ UK voting system to secure its first seat in the House of Commons.
At the excellent event that the “European Parliament UK office” (http://www.europarl.org.uk/) hosted, there were a few more ‘young people’ than you might have expected among the crowd, but they were a self-selected group. While the rest of Europe watches David Cameron’s quiet rebellion against the Spitzenkandidaten nomination for Commission President over the next few days, most people in the UK will be more interested in the return of Parliament from holiday and the upcoming bye-election in Newark.
This article is a part of a series of reflections by young Europeans, prepared in cooperation between FutureLab and Süddeutsche Zeitung Online. To read the original click here.
About the author: Mathew Shearman, 25, is political editor of Europe & Me magazine and a contributor to New Eastern Europe and Visegrad Insight. He writes on UK and German foreign policy, the EU and Eastern Europe and has appeared as a political analyst on BBC News 24. He currently works and lives in London, UK.