To become passionate about something so that you grow to respect it, it must be understood why that something is necessary. Politics is necessary and we want young people to appreciate that by educating them better

 

The 14th of October saw Parliament play host to Shout Out UK’s latest event ‘Politics and Schools: How to get more young people involved’. Chaired by Channel 4’s Fatima Manji, the panel included Bob Blackman, Tory MP and event sponsor; Charlotte Hill, CEO of Step Up to Serve; Kirsty Blackman, SNP MP; Alexandra Paterson, leader of Conservative Future and Connor Hill, 15-year-old Member of Youth Parliament.

Representatives from the Crick Centre, the Universal Peace Foundation and a range of schools and universities were in attendance as over 100 people gathered in a bustling committee room overlooking the Thames.

Proceedings began with a well-received speech from Bob Blackman who praised the audience for their interest in politics before urging them to ‘take the opportunity to articulate your voices’ adding that ‘there’s an opportunity now that was never there when I was your age’.

Each of the panellists then took turns to explain how they first entered politics and it was Kirsty Blackman who raised the most smiles with an inspiring yet comical story of her grassroots beginnings in the SNP. Joining at just fourteen, she rose through the ranks to become what would’ve been ‘the youngest councillor in Scotland, but for [her] mischievous younger brother who also got elected’.

As the discussion began to gather pace Bob Blackman’s attendance was unfortunately cut short due to parliamentary duty, leaving Alexandra Paterson to face some disgruntled sections of the audience who were unhappy with the Conservatives’ cuts to youth funding.

One audience member asked: ‘How do the Tories expect to retain the support of young people when they’re cutting our grants and funding?’

But rather than allow the discussion to descend into party politics, Paterson responded by apologising that the audience felt this way and asking them what the Conservatives could do to appease young people.

Responses were varied but pupils from Harrow Boys School — one of the first institutions to take on Shout Out UK’s Political Literacy course — suggested lowering the voting age to 16.

Connor Hill agreed, believing that if the voting age is to be lowered then it must be coupled with further political education stating: ‘We need to be taught about our political system; we need to understand our political system and we need to realise why politics is important’.

It was this notion — of the need for further political education — that was the principal conclusion of what was a riveting debate. It was truly refreshing to see politicians, journalists, activists and students from all areas of the political spectrum put aside their differences to collaborate on an issue that so many feel so passionately about.

By Tom Bennett