Political Promise

Political Promisers Unite: Let’s Have Younger Politicians

In Jonny Roberts on December 20, 2010 at 9:00 am

Jonny Roberts is launching a campaign for the Labour party to adopt all under-30 shortlists in Parliamentary candidate selections. 

Young people are rioting in the streets of London, protesting across the land and angry almost all – This is England 2010. The banners bemoan the high debt being hoisted upon the shoulders of the next batch of students by a Parliament where all but a very few paid any fee for university and not one would have paid more than £1,200 a term. The howls of derision come from young hearts angry at a debt mountain in exchange for a degree which may provide access to one of ever-decreasing graduate job opportunities with ever-decreasing starting salaries as they dream of joining the housing market, all the while these MPs of an older generation sit in one of their two mortgaged houses claiming expenses for doing up the dining room. There is real, genuine anger in this generation.

Ed Miliband wants to answer some of the anger and say that his ‘new generation’ Labour (crucially not ‘New Labour’) has some of the answers. I voted for Ed, I applaud his ambition to represent the fears of young people and I urge all young people to contribute to Labour’s policy review with their ideas but also their fears or frustrations. I want to believe Labour can be the party of radical change to help my generation but I cannot help agree to an extent with my peer’s in feeling unrepresented.

I can also sympathise slightly with those who think those out on the streets protesting are in the majority ‘middle-class’ and not the poorest in our society for whom the ambition of university seemed pointless before they even reached school. I can sympathise with those from a racial background who still continue to suffer from disadvantage and racism, I can sympathise with women who continue to suffer from sexism and unfairness.

Blair’s Labour Party introduced controversial all-women shortlists but it had an amazing effect in increasing the number of women in Parliament that now represents women’s views far more effectively. This positive discrimination was controversial and certainly isn’t where we want the world to be but it was drastic action taken to achieve radical quick-fire results – it worked. The same hasn’t happened for young people, those with a different ethnic background or the poorest but there have been steady increases in the number of BME MPs (around 4% of the Commons, with 9% of the UK population BME) and the average age of MPs has dropped too, especially in terms of party leadership where it now seems impossible for anyone outside of the 38-52 age bracket to reign supreme. Nonetheless more can and should be done.

Ed Miliband should introduce schemes to encourage more working-class candidates to put themselves forward for nomination. With a cabinet stuffed with millionaires Labour needs to reengage with the poorest, the poor and the low-to-middle earners who are increasingly conspicuous in their absence from the Commons. All-BME shortlists in certain constituencies would help double that aforementioned 4% to nearer the 9% that would reflect the BME population of the UK. Young people are the other group missing here. The youngest MP is 27, most have to wait until at least their 30’s before they could even get a nomination. Labour has a strong history of young candidates but if Ed is serious about this being a new generation he must support All-under 30 shortlists too, thus thrusting young twenty-somethings or even the odd 18 or 19-year old into Parliament.

I’m not suggesting some teenage takeover of the Commons but I am saying that if young people feel unrepresented by the sea of 40+ men in suits sat on the green benches they could do with seeing at least 20 or so MPs under 30. So here it is. I call on all Political Promise readers and writers to join me in calling for Labour to ring fence at least 20-seats at the next election to have ‘all-under 30 shortlists’. I will be launching this campaign in the coming weeks and in the words of Lennon “I hope some day you’ll join me”.

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  1. While attempts to get younger people involved in politics would most certainly be a positive move, would this not further bolster the charge, already present and rearing its head from time to time, about career politicians knowing nothing about the real World and having no real life experience outside of the Westminster bubble?

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