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Giving Young People a Political Voice

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When George Osborne pulled a pensions rabbit out of the hat during his most recent 2014 Budget, it did feel like a magic trick. After-all, the policy - to allow people to draw down all of their retirement income at once - managed the rare feat of being both hugely popular and a money saver.

But while the content of his offer was a surprise, the group that Mr Osborne had chosen to target was not. Just over a year before a General Election, this politically-minded Conservative Chancellor obviously had votes in mind.

And one thing that we can all be sure of is that next May, older people will be the most likely to turn-out in rain or shine.

Young people have long argued - and did so strikingly during the 2011 riots - that politicians and the media do not listen to them. Yet how can they be heard if so many of them fail to speak?

Frustrating though it must be, in politics one of the loudest and clearest ways to express yourself is through your vote (even if the active choice is 'none of the above').

The fact that just 44% people under 25 voted in 2010, compared to 61% overall, is part of why those same voices were not the focus of this year's Coalition budget.

Pointing that out is not to say that voting is the only way to have a political voice. Interest groups show that isn't the case as they lobby their way into the earshot of policymakers and journalists. For young people social media is becoming an increasingly important tool.

Yet those that get the biggest response - from the middle class parents to countryside campaigners to pensioners and so on - make both these efforts. They shout but they also vote in much larger numbers than their younger counterparts.

At a time when so many issues, from the cost of housing to university tuition fees to unemployment, impact heavily on Britain's youth there is an urgency to tackle this trend.

That is part of the reason Sky News has launched a new campaign called Stand Up Be Counted. Those behind it hope that a digital platform, through which young people can post videos, articles and comments about the issues affecting them, will trigger political debate and encourage people to sign up to the electoral register.

Recent news reports suggest that hundreds of thousands of potential voters under the age of 21 are missing from that list. When their chance comes to have a say they won't be in a position to carry it out even if they want to.

But there is a selfish motive for Sky News too - that correspondents like myself would love to tap into. After-all, these young people are full of fascinating news stories that the media want to be talking and writing about. Hearing people's concerns is how we decide what issues will pique our viewers' interests.

I don't doubt that Sky News will access a great deal of excellent content through this new platform. I've had sight of some of the videos received ahead of the launch and they each trigger ideas that could result in news pieces.

Take the concern raised by one woman about an internet phenomenon - thinspiration - in which pictures of horrifyingly skinny women are used to urge others to lose weight. Or the young man who talks about the perceptions of young people, asking why it is that people always describe him as a "chav". A woman's anger that female sports stars face inferior treatment and pay than their male counterparts is likely to be shared by others.

It is great that young people want to speak out. It would be even better if they chose to follow it up with a 2015 vote.

Around the Web

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