Five, four, three, two, one … applause. On air. Shout Out UK and Channel 4 teamed up and now the seven representatives of the UK’s major parties’ youth sections are standing in front of a young audience, discussing the hottest topics of the upcoming election in Britain’s first ever Youth Leaders’ Debate.

The panel consist of, Hannah Clare, Young Greens Senator; Jack Duffin, Young Independence Chairman; Chris Glendinning, National Convenor of SNP Students; Alex Harding, National Chair of Liberal Youth; Finn McGoldrick, Chair of Labour Students; Glenn Page, National Chairman of Plaid Cymru Youth and Alexandra Paterson, National Chairman of Conservative Future. Chairing the debate is the Channel 4 reporter, Fatima Manji.

We are approaching an election that is likely to be remembered as the one with the lowest number of young people voting. It’s predicted that on the 7th of May, although 3.3 million young people are entitled to vote, only 41 will go to the poll. Something needs to be done. And here it comes, the project of the debate: If we want to know why the younger generation is not involved in politics, then we should ask them. If we want to understand what young people care about, we should give them a voice instead of trying to guess. They will give us the answer and maybe even more.

The debate lasted an hour an a half, with a format that was a mockery of the regular ‘TV quiz’. The aim was to follow the questions coming from the audience. For each question, the routine was: Fatima Manji summing up and then, fighting for the first buzz to gain the first free 60 seconds before discussing the issue.

The kick off was on the job market with zero-hours contracts and poorly paid short-term jobs. Then, the debates went on to education, funding and tuition fees before jumping over to housing and rent, with an emphasis on unaffordable prices. These are the themes youngsters care about the most.

The leaders had different positions, ideas and attitudes and backed their official party lines to the best of their abilities. Of course the first to be called when talking about disappointing the students, was Alex from the Lib Dems. While everyone booed a bit when Jack, from UKIP spoke on his ideas about immigration. Alexadra from the Conservatives went against the tide when talking about tuition fees. Glenn stood strongly for Wales, exactly as Chris did for Scotland. Finn put a strong accent on the fact that the Labour Party is not going to promise things that they can’t deliver and Hannah from the Greens, was on form talking about renewable energy.

Training or not, some of the representatives seemed to feel particularly comfortable after a little while in front of the camera. In the end, it’s about delivering a message, and your tone and body language are half of that if you are on the screen. Sarcasm gave the debate some flavour and wholesome fun. Everybody was immersed.

The question that really managed to get all the speakers though, was the very last: ‘If you couldn’t vote for your own party, who would you vote for?’ To hear the answers? You should stream it. Now it’s on All4, Channel 4’s digital platform, ready for everyone to view.

The youth leaders’ debate demonstrated that there are young people who actually care about politics and that there are also other young people who try to do politics, and meet these needs. So as Hannah said at one point: ‘Please, just go out and vote’ and raise your voice so it can be heard.


By Federica De Caria

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