THE BLOG

'No One Ever Told Me About Politics' - The Generation Politics Is Missing

17/10/2014 16:01 BST | Updated 17/12/2014 10:59 GMT

My generation is amazing. People in their 20s and 30s have created inventions like Facebook, sparked revolutions like the Arab Spring and can mobilise millions of people around causes we care about, like with the #IceBucketChallenge and #NoMakeupSelfie. But when it comes to politics in this country, where so many important issues are decided, far too often people of my age are absent from the debate. At the last General Election less than half of people under the age of 35 voted.

In my case, we only had a one hour class on politics at school and we never really talked about it at home. I always felt stupid when politics came up in amongst friends because I didn't know the basics. When I started to work in the Charity Sector, on issues like child trafficking and drug abuse, I realised that so many things we wanted to change to improve people's lives depended on decision-makers - and they were politicians. I decided I didn't want to look in from the outside anymore, and I ended up getting involved in politics in my late 20s. Once I'd battled through the confusion and jargon myself, I became more and more convinced that it wasn't fair that people are shut out because no one ever told them about politics.

I am not the only one who has felt like I didn't know anything about politics. Research by the Hansard Society shows that 59% of 25-34 year olds feel they know very little or nothing about politics. This is a massive number of people in their 20s and 30s - 3 in every 5 - who feel like politics is a world they don't 'get' and don't know hardly anything about.

There are assumptions made all the time that people in their 20s and 30s are disengaged, and some are, but there's another problem - many lack the knowledge and confidence to participate. I think people should really be asking 'Did anyone engage them in the first place?' Why would key definitions that underpin politics, like 'left' and 'right', make any sense if no one ever told you about it? Our democracy needs people in my generation but we're ignoring them and, if we continue like this, what state is our democracy going to be in 20 years time?

Interestingly, research from the Hansard Society shows that although younger people know less about politics, 61% of them they would like to be better informed. This should be a loud wake-up call to political parties and anyone who cares about our democracy in the UK.

That's what the cross-party campaign I've set up called No One Ever Told Me About Politics is aiming to tackle. We're a group of volunteers in our 20s and 30s who have come together with a single mission: to make politics make sense to people in their 20s and 30s, and to narrow this gap between our generation and politics. We aim to inform and inspire without jargon, for example through our website and a new app we are developing called Ask Amy, which makes finding out about politics as easy as texting a friend. You type a question about politics to Amy on your phone and she messages you right back. She's a young, fresh voice who can explain politics in a new way and she even has a sense of humour!

And as for political parties? They need to relate to people in my generation without the jargon, without making assumptions that everyone knows who the politicians are and what the parties stand for, and by tackling issues that the younger generations care about, like housing and finding jobs. And their communication has to be relevant to Generation Y, for example by using technology, being creative and crowdsourcing ideas.

Let's start to take notice of a generation that is being ignored, and let's bring the energy and ideas of the 17 million Brits in their 20s and 30s into politics, and change our country for the better as a result.

www.tellmeaboutpolitics.com

@explainpolitics