On 20 April The Independent newspaper launched its Independent Live! Election debates in Brighton. It also launched a re-vamped version of the paper which went free for three weeks in the run-up to voting day. I attended the debate and, in all honesty, it very nearly swayed my vote. Yet, although the turn-out was good, I couldn’t help noticing a lack of young people at the event. I took it upon myself to stand around Brighton Station and bully every person that came in or out looking between 18 and 25. I asked them if they were going to vote, who they were going to vote for, and what the name of the Brighton Pavilion candidate for their party was. I have to say that the majority of the people I encountered who had a clear idea of what party they were voting for did not know who their MP would be should they win. I realise that Brighton is perhaps not the most political of areas, yet if we pride ourselves on our culture of social diversity, artistic excellence and personable tolerance, wouldn’t it follow through to be engaged in the aspects of politics that most affect our daily lives?
I think that one of the main issues which no party seemed to be addressing was the lack of free spaces where we can just go and read, write, knit, tweet, or just stare out of the window and think for a while. Those of you who are familiar with the Cowley Club – opposite Somerfield on London Road – will know what a novelty it feels to be able to sit down with an 80p filter coffee and not feel that you’re being willed out by a waiter who needs to clear the table for the next paying customer.
Although I recognise that the following admission might make you groan and roll your eyes while reading I have to say it: I love libraries. The best one I’ve found so far is the Cambridge Central Library. It’s calm but not silent, it’s got great resources without being overwhelming and they have a café where you can get freshly-made soup and a bread roll for £2.55.
As you might imagine, libraries don’t take priority in Ibiza, and yet even they are less disappointing than the Jubilee library in Brighton. Without getting into the minor details of the reason I have boycotted it for good, the one glaringly obvious deficiency is the lack of wireless internet, so you are forced to use their computers which you only have access to for an hour. Hence me sitting in the White Rabbit, sipping an exorbitantly expensive hot chocolate while I write this column.
How come no one has spoken out and held the candidates to ransom to our demands about issues that affect the majority of Brighton residents? If there were a city in the country where young people could speak out and make this election about them it would be here. Brighton is a vibrant, fascinating, colourful place to be, but there are things missing and that’s what our MPs are here to sort out. We pay our taxes – some of us in the form of student loan interest – we contribute to our society; it’s time we began to demand something in return. Perhaps once politicians realise that we are interested in their agendas and we have something to add, it will be easier to get them to make policies that benefit the sections of society which are so often left out of the equation.
So, to all the students, artists, unemployed, retired, single parents, bored teenagers and out-of-work writers – speak up, and make Brighton even better!