How we can encourage young people to engage with politics
By Alan Bullion
Talking Point March 21 2018 for Sevenoaks Chronicle
Young People in Politics, by Ed Waite, Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats
Ed Waite first came to Sevenoaks in his late teens, and has lived in Japan. He now serves as Town Councillor for Sevenoaks Eastern ward
Q. Should more be done to encourage our local young people into politics?
All political parties advocate more involvement of young people in politics at all levels. The young are, after all, the future. So the answer to the question has to be a resounding YES.
But many young people (and older voters) feel disenfranchised by the political system. In Sevenoaks it will take a political earthquake to elect an MP from a party other than the Conservatives.
However, Sevenoaks local government politics are far broader than many imagine. At District level there are Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and UKIP councillors.
Young people will have increasing influence in Sevenoaks as numbers of students in new and existing local schools expand. Most (if not all) of our schools have some form of School Council open to students to stand for election. This is a crucial starting point. It is a great way to encourage young people to learn how politics works, the importance of negotiation and the necessity of compromise.
Where students have already made a difference - for example through the Youth Town Council - they have shown themselves to be thoroughly capable of organising events for young people, and in campaigns such as safer streets, public transport and cycling.
Our Youth Council shows how local young people tackle serious issues and make things happen. It makes the case - which Liberal Democrats support - for votes to start at 16 in local and national elections. If that happened local Youth Services would be better targeted as the young would have more political power.
Had 16 year olds been allowed to vote in the European Referendum, as they were in the Scottish Referendum, then it is possible that there would have been a different result. As Liberal Democrats pointed out in Parliament - that vote was about their future.
We all gain when young people are encouraged to be involved in politics, because they come with different ideas, energy and often a real desire to change things.