Political Promise

So, do young people have a voice now?

In Charlie Edwards on October 20, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Charlie Edwards was in the studio for BBC Three’s “Young Voters Question Time” and gives his thoughts.

It was another Young Person’s Question Time tonight. Did you watch it? Well, it was on the “Young Persons Channel” aka BBC Three? But it was on at the same time as Waterloo Road (demographic = young people) and did feature 90s star Richard Bacon as host.

There is no denying this was not a Young Person’s, but a “Dumbed Down” question time. The comedian Rufus Hound gained early favour with the blood-baying audience of first-time voters and students by making light of the BBC’s attempt to “get down with the kids”.

And what an attempt it was. Besides Richard Bacon’s insistence of calling upon the audience as “his gang”, the logo and theme music was “funked up” to quench an apparent thirst for words at jaunty angles that us young people are famous for. Why not go the whole hog and give one lucky viewer the chance to write a rap about the panel.

The whole point of nights like tonight is to engage our generation in politics. Why should this be a novelty? Websites such as this one tackle these issues and more every day. Why not encourage more young people to participate in the real Question Time audiences? Why not have young political activists and bloggers on the panel more regularly? (by the way, I am free most Thursday nights if you book me enough in advance… Just saying)

Political participation among youth should be a permanent fixture in 21st century politics. I find apathy rather tedious. Generations previous have moaned. Today’s generation must now act. What can we do?

The answer is not another pithy, condescending outreach initiative, where council pyschocrats decide that the gaping hole in our unfulfilled lives is an “Eco-centre” in the local woodland.

Centralising the decision-making process when trying to “find things for young people to do” only distances itself further from those it aims to benefit.

This is where the Big Society comes in. Participation in politics is limited for 99% of us to the annual vanity contest of the local Youth Parliament elections. We can and should do more to improve society. We should have more youth representation at a local and national level. We should run open meetings where any student can contribute to the decision-making process. We hear “cuts” so much, how about engaging in these meetings to suggest what we think should be cut, as we are after all, the greatest beneficiaries of local spending.

We should also have permanent representation in the House of Lords, in the form of a group of recent graduates, regionally elected by students in schools and universities. A Young Persons Peerage would actively show how our views are being implemented within Parliament. Where our voice can take part in debates, discuss, amend and influence laws being passed in this country.

Politicians do not focus on the issue facing our generation because of an obsession with polls, think tanks and middle-aged, middle-class media.

So let’s get youth issues into public focus.

As of tonight, we will advertise any rallies or campaigns that you are involved with for free. If you have a cause that you are passionate about, we can help you spread the message.

This can be beyond party politics. I felt insulted by tonight’s programme, not in terms of its content, but by a continual need for dumbing down and flashy gimmicks to promote political engagement among my peers. Treat us with dignity and we will respond accordingly. It’s easy to blame those in charge, however, so I also offer a call to arms to you, my friends, to get involved. Prove them wrong.

You can watch the broadcast here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vhzy2

  1. “We should also have permanent representation in the House of Lords, in the form of a group of recent graduates”

    Why should a university degree be a perquisite for this new form of representation you propose? Plus the whole point of the lords is having peers who have life long experience in there above the general political fray. I find the idea of a ‘young peer’ a gimmick frankly.

    It would probably be more effective to get young people more engaged in the evolution of legislation, during white paper and committee stages if you want to get real acknowledge of young people in law.

    Anyhow, I was appalled and embarrassed by some of the stuff that apprentice woman was coming out with. Amazing that people can still dogmatically sing the praises of the unregulated market in the post-crisis world. I would have asked her if she loves and believes in the market so much why don’t we deregulate and privatise our armed forces, shouldn’t that ensure we get the best defence for the UK? A mentalist that does not understand you cannot reduce everything down to economic terms, placed there by the Beeb to piss off the kids.

  2. Ok, people under the age of 25 Mike. When we are currently so severely ignored by the mass media, frankly a “gimmick” doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

    How would you get people engaged in these stages of the legislative process without having some form of representative in Lords/Commons?

    Free-market economics ie minimal state, freedom for businesses to start, thrive and fail, and a transparent market is, I believe, the only long-term approach to a state’s involvement in its own economy. One of the problems with having such an involvement means it can be used for political ends (ie Sheffield Forgemaster loan booby trap by Peter Mandelson, securing child benefit and scrapping income tax for the lowest on the income spectrum (a target Tory demographic of voter) Regardless of which side of the dispatch box these politicians currently sit, they are all taking our money, or talking about taking our money, and fighting for their political futures disregarding the real people fighting their futures.

    The Beeb pissed off the kids without realising. Its aim was not to piss us off. We were pissed off anyway! I think it was a poor excuse for a non-politician right-wing voice, and I think she needs to rethink and reword some of her beliefs. Whilst I agree with her views on Europe (apart from the Al Murray-style racism) grammar schools and pride in this country, I certainly would not vote for her based on Wednesday’s performance.

    If it wasn’t for the deregulation and denationalisation of markets in the 1980s, the “sick man of Europe” tag may still have applied today. The keenest advocates of a free market are those who witnessed and studied intensely the great crash and resulting depression in 1929. So I disagree with your view that free-market economics is dead.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Mike, really appreciate your views.

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