“There is nothing they fear more than a registered voter with a grievance”

Kirsty McNeillInstitutions don’t change the world, incentives change the world. The policy failures which underlie Europe’s scandalous youth employment rates are less to do with the governance of the European Union and more to do with the electoral incentives set by the gulf in turn-out between younger and older voters. Public resources flow up Europe’s age ladder because our young people don’t turn out in large enough numbers to make their interests a political priority, meaning that everything from climate change to the cost of private rented accommodation gets pushed to the bottom of the list.
The United States, by contrast, shows what can happen to the policy process when young people access the political one. It isn’t an accident that student finance was a 2012 electoral battleground: Rock the Vote have calculated that 80 electoral college votes were determined by the 12,000 Millennials turning 18 each day. In his post-defeat call with campaign donors, Mitt Romney put his loss down to the “gifts” the President had bestowed on growing demographics, totally misunderstanding that reaping an electoral dividend from changing the lives of millions of people is exactly how this democracy gig is supposed to work.
Electoral politics is slow and hard and often boring, but Europe’s young people simply can’t reverse the coordinated austerity which is costing them their futures without it. No matter how afraid our leaders are of the press barons and the bond markets, there is nothing they fear more than a registered voter with a grievance. Their failures are costing you your jobs – it’s time to remind them you have the power to cost them theirs.
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Kirsty McNeil (@kirstyjmcneill) is a consultant advising progressive organisations on strategy, advocacy and organisational development. She was previously Head of External Affairs in Downing Street and was on the board of Make Poverty History. She blogs at Global Dashboard.

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