Social media is brimming with reblogged petitions, blunder GIFs and tumblred memes which point out the failure of our politicians and authorities. Messages are being shared and the youth voice is heard, read and spread. It’s just that 61% of Britain’s 18-24 year olds aren’t voting. That’s the problem they say, their voices not being counted. It’s not the lack of caring – it’s the lack of voting.
As part of Parliament Week this year Portcullis House threw open its doors to hundreds of young people for an event called ‘In the House’, organised by Parliament working with the Mayor’s Peer Outreach team featuring the theme ‘Do Democracy’. The event invited the engaged and intrepid young person to meet MPs, take part in seminars and perform music. It’s heartening to believe that young people are in fact engaged – and experiencing the buzz of the day quite tempting too – but the wider picture shows that events like this are much needed. The stat above is from the Electoral Commission’s report on voter engagement among the young, which also happens to cite the fact that only one in ten 18-25 year olds are interested in politics at all.
I was there at the event on behalf of A New Direction, mic in hand, cameraman in tow trying to take the temperature of youth politics of young people’s politics, their lives and their priorities for London. Electoral reform seemed to be on everyone’s mind in the guise of online voting, a reform that is perhaps overdue for today’s tech savvy contingency. A great cross section of young British society was represented including articulate young people from such diverse groups as the Royal London society for the Blind, The Traveller Movement and Islington Youth Council.
BBC3 Free Speech’s Rik Edwards was there on the day – the civic minded young person’s alternative to comrade Brand – urging young people to vote and give themselves a voice, though some would say that the type of young person who would head out to Portcullis House on a bracing Saturday morning in November suggests someone ready and willing in the first place. Events like this are clearly worthwhile and it would be great to think about how other kinds of organisations open up their decision making and share power with young people.