At the heart of much of this election has been ‘young people’. ‘They haven’t grown-up yet’; ‘They don’t understand the real world’; ‘They’re susceptible to this lefty hoo-ha’; whilst simultaneously, they are also ‘the future’. Will they actually turn-up and vote? Why aren’t they engaged enough? Following years of cuts to education, a stagnating minimum wage and an economy offering fewer and fewer stable jobs, such questions were naturally going to dominate this election. Undoubtedly, many young people are feeling a lack of connection with the Westminster establishment.

 

Yet with the ubiquity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as alternative news sources and the phenomenon of Fake News, what we are witnessing, gradually (particularly amongst young people), is a shift of the collective consciousness away from an unchallenged acceptance of what we see in print media.

More young people do use social media than the older generations, this I understand. What is important to acknowledge is the fact that, with increasing access to information and a growing number of ways for us to involve and engage politically, we are seeing political awareness on the rise. Everyone knows that Murdoch owns The Sun and The Daily Mail. Likewise, everyone knows that The Guardian is a bit more on the left, and everyone knows that most media operates at the behest of global corporations. I challenge anyone to look at the events of the Arab Spring and say that, especially within the realm of political activism, the connectivity engendered by social media is not revolutionary.

On the eve of the election, an organization that directly represents young people is The British Youth Council, who just launched their manifesto: ‘Our Vision, Our Parliament’ — which outlines their vision for the next Parliament. In their words, ‘Following the General Election, the British Youth Council will be lobbying the Government and calling on politicians to keep their promises to young people’. The six main points of the British Youth Council are:

1) Young people want the voting age to be lowered to 16
2) Mental health services for young people to be improved
3) The introduction of a real living wage for everyone
4) The restoration of funding for youth services
5) First aid taught in schools
6) The opportunity to actively participate and meaningfully engage in the Brexit negotiations

Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: ‘It’s imperative that candidates across the country listen to the issues that young people are passionate about and tell young people what they plan to do about their priorities. I’m really looking forward to hearing back from each political party so we can share their responses with young people’.

This manifesto forms part of a wider general election campaign, calling on politicians to not just talk about young people but to listen to their concerns and do something about them. Aside from the point on Brexit negotiations, the remaining five points of the manifesto are the same as the British Youth Council’s demands from their 2015 manifesto. Evidently, this suggests that young people don’t feel that their demands are being met. In the sector of education alone, much of the Conservative government’s focus has been on converting schools into academies and bringing back grammar schools — instead of dealing with issues such as reducing class sizes and ensuring teachers have sufficient resources available. A good friend of mine is a young primary school teacher, who tells me that another term of a Conservative government could mean cuts of around £330,000 to his school alone.

Let’s pressure whoever comes into power on June 9 to take the ideas of the British Youth Council and make them heard. After all, we do live in a representative democracy, don’t we?