Monday, February 05, 2007
The Young Ones
But not before I fill in my membership extension form to Liberal Democrat Youth and Students. It turns out that, since I am about to turn 26, I am no longer automatically eligible. But I can continue to be a member until 30 if I pay them money. I don’t begrudge them a few quid, given the work they do to attract young people to the party, so a few quid of mine they shall have.
I think it’s a real shame that more young people aren’t involved in politics, at a local or national level. People under 26 make up a sizeable chunk of the population, and yet virtually no elected representatives are young. Of 20,000 local councillors in England and Wales, only 62 were under 26 when the last census was taken in 2004. That barely a quarter of one percent. The youngest Councillor in Bury is older than that. And of course there are very few young MPs indeed.
Young people like me have so many concerns that government (local and central) have control over. The national curriculum, student loans, rising house prices, you name it. And yet we seem unable to attract young people to the party and to formal politics.
So many young people speak to me about the issues they’re really bothered about – the environment, the war in Iraq, the value of their degrees – and yet won’t make the leap from talking about it to doing anything. A few may sign petitions for Friends of the Earth, but nobody seems willing to go beyond that.
I think a lot of the problem is to do with communication. Most of the people I speak to can’t see beyond the leafleting and the endless committee meetings. But the leaflets spread the message, and the meetings get results. The only way to change things is to be involved, and decisions are made by those that show up. We need to get more young people showing up.
Work with young people from school, through university and into their working lives to show them how what we do makes a difference, and how they can stand with us and make a difference too. Mock elections in schools are fantastic – lets see more of them. Engaging with young people about issues, giving them information to debate the topics and get involved themselves is great. The amount of people who marched on the fees issue when I was at university was brilliant. We need to strive to keep these people, and get them involved locally and nationally. And to do this we need to keep the pressure on – get into the schools and talk to them. People are shocked when I turn up at places and say who I am – they expect someone who looks like my Dad.
Organisations like the LDYS do a great job. I only hope that if I become more influential, or get the opportunity through the Bury Liberal Democrats to get more young people involved in politics, I will take the opportunities.