Young People and Politics


The political climate has changed significantly in the past 4 weeks, affecting not least the youth of our country. Which leads us to ask - why are young people so disillusioned with Westminster, and how do we get more young people involved in politics?

After the EU Referendum, there has been an outcry from young people that a decision has been made by the older generation that we will have to suffer with for the rest of our lives. There have been protests at Westminster and a petition supported by 4.1 million people calling for a second referendum, with one of the biggest groups of supporters on Twitter and Facebook coming from the younger generation. As someone who supported this petition and expressed my fervent anger on Facebook, I am one of the disillusioned youths. But it does beg the question whether the politically aware, politically involved teenager is in the minority.


How involved are young people in politics now?

In the days following the EU Referendum, there was data that suggested just 36% of young voters (18-24) had their say in the result. It has now been shown that turnout for young people was more like 64% of those registered to vote. Although this is significantly better than previously thought, it still shows how a large proportion of young people eligible to vote did not. Furthermore, that is not including those who were not registered to vote in the first place. There are also the 16-18 year olds, who may have voted, had they been granted the right by Parliament. After the success of lowering the voting age to 16 for the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, where 84.6% of those eligible to vote did, it would be at least expected for Parliament to more seriously consider a voting age of 16 for the EU referendum. The anger and frustration felt post referendum at the lack of power to show our views, has only increased disillusionment and so therefore reduced political involvement of young people.   


It is easy to argue that in the social media age, young people are becoming more involved in politics. Social media, particularly Twitter, allows for minute by minute updates on the goings-on in No. 10 Downing Street and Parliament and also allows for young people to express their opinions. It is also much easier to organise protest events and the like. Even though this is all true, it is unrealistic to expect that any tweets have a significant impact on how the country is run. Members of Parliament, and members of Government, take the most serious action when their job or position are at stake:  during elections and referendums, not when faced with criticism on twitter or other social media sites.

Is this a problem?

Yes. Disillusioned generations will be less likely to vote in the future and reduced involvement in the democratic process will considerably reduce the legitimacy of the elections. Therefore, more has to be done to boost political participation now, to prevent the voter turnout falling even further.

What could be done by Westminster to increase participation?

The most obvious solution to me is to lower the voting age. At the age of 17, I will be of the voting age by the end of this year. However, I still staunchly believe that the voting age should be lowered to 16 if political participation is going to increase, not just for young people, but further up the age brackets. If the voting age being lowered is coupled with compulsory education on politics is PSHE, the result would surely be young people being much more motivated to get involved. Starting voting young would also lead to increased participation further down the line because it will quickly become normal to turn out for elections. Moreover, it would allow young people to see how politics is relevant to them! Without the vote young people don’t have an impact on the opinions of politicians. There are only so many angry tweets and protests a young person can post before they don’t see the point anymore. Trust me, I know. jeremy_corbyn.jpg

Maybe the answer is for a new kind of politician. Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party, has led to more young people seeming to relate to Westminster. This is due partly to the socialist policies he champions, but could also be due to the fact Jeremy Corbyn is not like other politicians. He is not the charming, charismatic individual, born to be a leader, that many politicians can seem to be like. And it’s refreshing. Jeremy Corbyn is by no means the perfect leader, but he must clearly be doing something right, shown by his popularity with Labour members (if not Labour MPs). This would suggest the answer to increasing political participation, particularly participation of young people, is to have more relatable people representing us, rather than the Eton-educated, Oxbridge white men who have dominated the British Political system for centuries.

Will anything be done?

The simple answer is no.

The last debate in the House of Commons on the voting age was in January 2013, where the motion that the voting age should be reduced to 16 was passed 119 votes to 46, and yet there has been no follow up and there is no suggestion that the voting age will be reduced soon. It is simply not a priority for political parties.

There is some optimism that MPs will become more relatable, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn on the left, but the constant spate of recent revolts within the Parliamentary Labour Party suggest it is almost inevitable he will not be Labour leader for long.

Is there hope?

YES. Although it does look very bleak and hopeless and this can be a reason for young people to simply feel like there is no point, there is still hope in the fact that there are tens of thousands of young people who are not put off by the inaction of parliament.

The only way young people can get their voices heard is through protesting, voicing their opinions on social media, signing petitions, becoming members of the youth wings of political parties and so on. The building up of pressure from young people will eventually leave the government and Westminster no choice but to listen to the views of young people on issues such as the economy, the welfare state and tuition fees, to name just a few.

If those committed to the cause of giving more of a say to young people can lead to a breakthrough, maybe it will lead to more young people choosing to participate in politics, and create a fairer, more equal society.



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Showing 2 reactions

commented 2016-07-29 07:24:58 +0100 · Flag
Climate Change and mounting national and personal debt are the twin difficulties that the present generation are leaving to the next. Let Labour acknowledge them and unite to deal with them. But the politician replies, “Climate Change and Deficit Reduction call for sacrifice and turkeys don’t vote for Christmas”, but turkeys protect their young and we are capable of greater love. Alan Doel
commented 2016-07-26 17:08:59 +0100 · Flag
Not having Blarite MPs denigrating the newly engaged youth into the Labour Party would help. Suggesting they are entryists and trots and denying them the right to vote for the leadership just because they have recently been enthused to join a political party does not help. Denying them the right to take part in the Labour Party Conference because they have been part of Labour for less than a year also doesn’t help. Making them pay an additional £25 to vote on the leadership out of student grants, minimum wage or unemployment benefit will also be unhelpful. The message being subliminally sent out to people who have become members of the labour party by members of the PLP is……we don’t want you. The question you asked was, ‘How do we get more young people involved in politics.’
Its easy….

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The political climate has changed significantly in the past 4 weeks, affecting not least the youth of our country. Which leads us to ask - why are young people so disillusioned with Westminster, and how do we get more young people involved in politics?

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