Posts Tagged ‘young people’

Want to engage young people? Lower the voting age to 16 and build up citizenship education in schools

09/10/2012, 02:41:49 PM

Last week Lucy Rigby won the “top of the policies” vote at Pragmatic Radicalism’s event at Labour party conference. The winning proposal tackled the question of how to engage young people in politics

Most people with even a vague knowledge of politics know that the way we do politics – in this country and others – is in deep, deep trouble.  Turnout, in every type of election, is low – which, amongst other things, raises all manner of questions about legitimacy.  People feel disengaged from politics, particularly young people.

You don’t need to be a canvassing enthusiast to be all too familiar with phrases such as “they’re all the same” and “voting doesn’t change anything”- that’s just the standard office view (on the few occasions politics is talked about).  There doesn’t seem to be much of an explicable connection between physically putting an ‘X’ in the box of a candidate in constituency Y, and the prime minister that appears on the television a day later.

In essence then, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the mechanics of our democracy is in crisis.  It’s the responsibility of our generation to solve it.

First then, let’s enfranchise 16 year olds.  Currently, a 16 year old can get married, fight for their country, pay income tax and national insurance and become a director of a company.  But they can’t vote.  That’s not fair and it doesn’t make any sense.  Let’s change it.


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How do we re-engage young people in the electoral process?

03/09/2012, 02:38:52 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

Being politically active should be exciting and challenging, something to relish and throw your energies into. But with voter turnout declining sharply and only about 1% of the British population currently card-holding members of political parties, engaging young people in politics and the electoral process has never been more important.

So how do we do it?

Reducing the voting age to 16 could be a good place to start. To rehearse the well-worn argument, if you’re old enough to pay tax, marry, have children and fight and die for your country in the armed forces, surely you are old enough to vote about who runs the country?

Studies have shown that online and text voting would increase voter engagement in young people. Fraud is a huge concern with this route, but something has to change with the times. Would Saturday voting instead of the traditional Thursday help?

Raising turnout in UK elections amongst young people, maybe helped by having more young candidates to choose from. Bristol Labour party is fielding a range of young candidates at the next round of local government elections in May, including Mhari Threlfall, new student enterprise advisor at UWE (University of West of England), who tells me:

“I feel a duty to support young people. It is a bleak picture for younger people, with the average age of a councillor being 60 and rising, now more than ever it is important that young people have a voice, especially at a local level.”

Participation from younger voters might be enhanced with electronic voting options but to really improve engagement, better local and national voter registration is critical.

Traditionally, most first time voters are registered to vote by their parents or guardians, when they register the household. The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill will change all that, introducing individual electoral registration (IER). However, without direct action to encourage the young to register, apathy may be the biggest vote winner, if young people don’t bother to fill out the forms required by local councils.

The registration process for young people needs to be driven by enthusiastic young ambassadors, who can lead by example. An Operation Black Vote style campaign could galvanise a step-change in registration among young people.

Yet, on its own, a renewed registration drive will not be sufficient.


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People are rioting and politicians are revolting

11/08/2011, 08:00:46 AM

by Peter Watt

Politics has never had such a bad name. Well, that is one of those slight exaggerations that help to colour opinionated blog posts like this one. But there is surely no doubt that politics and politicians are pretty unpopular at the moment. A succession of scandals, and a sense that they are in it for themselves, has meant that most people look on politicians with disdain. The ongoing hacking furore has just added to a sense that those inside of the elite bubble don’t live in the same space as the rest of the country. This isn’t just a UK problem, but that hardly matters to those who live here and are disdainful of UK politicians.

A large part of the problem is that people just don’t think that politicians get their lives. That the language used, and the solutions offered, just don’t resonate with their own experiences. For instance, for years people have felt that some young people have been out of control. Not many, certainly nothing like a majority, but some. No one seems to be in charge of them and they don’t seem to listen to anyone or respect or fear authority. They put their feet upon the seats of trains and tell the guard to “fuck off” if they are asked to move them, with no apparent sense of embarrassment. They mouth off at anyone who looks at them in the wrong way and are never at school, college or work. Normal deterrents, like parental sanction, fear of arrest, fines, public shame or worse, don’t seem to work.

Over the years, politicians’ responses have included more education, boot camp style discipline, national service, more youth clubs or more benefits. Most people knew that there were elements of a solution in all of these, that some would benefit from each. But they also knew that it wouldn’t help those who were really out of control, because the problem for them was something else. It was a problem with parenting or rather the lack of parenting.

Politicians from the right would demand tough love, and those from the left more understanding. But people out there knew that the real problem was that for some family life was not providing the support, discipline and example that we all need to become responsible adults. In fact, for some family life was providing exactly the opposite. It was nurturing irresponsibility and lessons in how to operate outside of the mainstream. (more…)

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