It is by no means a secret that we at The Globalist do love a global debate. As a society we aim to provide a platform for discussion of the world of current affairs, in order to allow students from the Global 21 network to engage with the international issues affecting our lives. So, as classes commenced, in week two we thought we would ameliorate our timetables and attend a series of alternative social gatherings which promised to provoke such global discussion. That is, a series of events we hoped may be a more interactive and thought-provoking way to engage with the global news than our 9AM LSE100 lectures.

Our first event fell on a miserable and gloomy Monday evening, but we decided to brave the rain and disembark from the LSE campus and walk along the Embankment towards the Houses of Parliament. The Globalist Team had been invited to Shout Out UK’s ‘Making a Better Future’ discussion – an open forum on the future of Economic Democracy. Shout Out UK is an Independent News Network which aims to involve under 25s in politics, through the medium of journalism. It aims to ‘open the minds of a voiceless generation’ through events, workshops and an online publication, solving political apathy through the promotion of citizen journalism. In the archaic grandeur of Westminster, a setting which both impressed and intimidated in equal measures, the round-table discussion invited speakers from both sides of the spectrum, to put forth their views on the complex question of: ‘How do we make a better future?’. The Globalist was intrigued to find out the answer… 11

Our chair opened the floor to the first question of the night: ‘Should governments take more direct action to prevent climate change?’. As a topic coined by the international media as ‘the most pressing challenge facing the global community in the twenty-first century’, the question of how far government intervention can remedy the environmental failings of the market, is one of not only ideological intrigue, but active importance.

Miss Emily Barley form the Conservatives for Liberty Party opened the discussion with a traditional, yet controversial, libertarian stance. She claimed how ‘we as individuals have our own priorities’ and as such, it should be left to individual choice rather than government intervention to self-remedy the free market failings. Peter Green from the Left Unity movement quickly questioned how wise it is to leave businesses and corporations to be trusted to forsake their profit-driven self-interest for the common environmental good. In light of the financial crisis and phone hacking scandals in the world of journalism, is our confidence in the deregulated industries slowly dwindling?

As deliberations continued, a general consensus emerged between speakers and the audience about the need for collective action. Julian Huppert MP, representing the Liberal Democratic Party deemed it the responsibility of the Government to act and resolve the environmental tragedy of the Commons. And whilst there was some dissent from Jack Duffin, Chairman of the Young Independence Party, over the effectiveness of the government’s intervention, it was generally agreed that leaving multinational corporations and economic powerhouses to ‘rape the environment’ was in the words of our speaker ‘a recipe for disaster’.

It seemed almost fitting that the initial debate was rounded off by LSE’s own Environmental Columnist Lily Lower. With a poignant insight commended by the room, she highlighted how the Climate Challenge had fundamentally moved beyond individual choices. As a collective we can no longer afford to simply ignore the plastic waste islands floating in the Pacific. It must be the responsibility of both the government, but more importantly the younger generation, to be proactive in the campaign towards sustainability.

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Moving from the international to the domestic, the panel then questioned how British Democracy is being undermined by a lack of education within schools regarding the political, legal and economic system. As a former teacher and current member of the Left Unity movement, Peter Green called for the urgent need to diversify our learning style from the ‘textbook’, to worldwide current affairs. We must engage the ‘plugged-in generation’ through the interactive online medium. Liberal Democrats MP Julian Huppert suggested the only way to resolve current political apathy, is to reduce the voting age to 16. With nothing but a hint of irony given his party’s recent history, he suggested young people would see more of an impact of their ideals, if the jobs of the leadership parties were actually threatened by their action and their vote.

What seemed another undeniable consensus in the room was that young people do not lack an opinion or interest on the political issues of the day. What they do lack, however, is any kind of trust or interest in the political system, and an effective platform to have their voices heard. As Jack Duffin rightly put: ‘Disengagement with party politics is almost inevitable when the three parties are separated only by the colour of their ties. It is no surprise that the same old tired rhetoric from Westminster is seeing young people turn off the news in disillusion, in favour of more engaging alternatives’. 9

A final anecdote from the audience highlighted how worldwide, students are still actively involved in the democratic movement through, focusing on the recent protest movements in Hong Kong. She revealed how in Hong Kong students take a compulsory Liberal Studies class, a class she believed had been effective in probing students to question the concerns of the twenty-first century. Whilst it obviously goes too far to suggest the recent pro-democracy student-led movement is a direct result of such a scheme, the movement which has captured the international media headlines,continues to highlight that young people are still actively concerned about the pledge for effective universal suffrage.3

As the official Shout Out UK debate dwindled to a close, The Globalist Team could not resist continuing our Westminster adventure. Climbing the dimly lit corridors, we removed our bags and phones at security and entered into the heights of the Public Gallery. The evening backbenchers were voting on a motion to formally recognize the Palestinian Statehood. After the summer conflict in Gaza claimed in excess of 2,000 lives, the search for a two-state solution has been central not only to regional political tensions but also as a dominant feature of global international tension. Nevertheless, as student spectators it was relatively easy to feel out of place. It was not simply the three-inch glass barrier that separated us from the chambers, but a disappointment that a half-empty chamber of monotonous politicians were left to debate with lacklustre such a pressing issue. With a guard that lauded us whenever we raised an eyebrow, and having been cut off from the world of social media and any interactive debate, the formal nature of official Party politics seemed even more distant and outdated. We could not help feeling that a completely different approach is needed if we wish to see young people engaged and interested in the British political sphere.

Fortunately, a series of LSE societies are following in the footsteps of Shout Out UK’s movement to create a different platform for both engagement and debate. Dare to Think, an alternative think tank promoting fearless thinking, held an AGM on Thursday evening – one which provoked an intriguing discussion on the topic of ‘how far nationalism is currently impeding world peace’. It resulted in a heated debate not just during the event but in the pub afterwords as well. Our very own ‘Give-it-a-Go’ on Friday aimed to challenge some of the most recent controversies in current affairs, from the international health crisis to issues such as the ‘power of the protest’ and transnational gender politics. In a relaxed setting of pizza and friends, students were able to offer insightful critiques to the questions affecting our society today and were encouraged – through confidence and support – to put their thoughts on paper and write an article to express their opinions for our online blog.14

It is clear that the ‘voiceless generation’ still has quite a way to go if we wish to provide a true platform for Global Debate in which our opinions are actually considered legitimate in the international political world. However, the interest that these above events garner, from The London Globalist and groups such as Shout Out UK, has indicated that there is an innate desire amongst us young people to politically engage with the world around us. If we keep the momentum going, the possibility of where this could lead to will no doubt be exciting.

Erin Duffy
The London Globalist President