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In The Eyes Of Young People, Politics Takes An Age

05/06/2017 12:34
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Harold Wilson once said that a week is a long time in politics, but to me it seems like only yesterday that we were going to the polls to vote on Brexit.

With three national votes in three years - or four in four years if you're in Scotland - it's not surprising that a lot of the adult population has 'election fatigue'.

Brenda from Bristol's reaction summed it up for many grown-ups on the day the snap election was called. "You're joking?! Not another one?" she asked the BBC reporter, incredulous. I knew how she felt and so did many others; #WeAreAllBrenda trended on Twitter.

But for a young person, a year or two - which would go by in the blink of an eye for me - can seem like an eternity. Mainstream politics can be incredibly frustrating for them; decisions can be years in the making and it can, in the eyes of the young, be an awfully long time before any tangible change is seen.

Nonetheless, young people are politically engaged - I've argued in the Huff Post before about how they do not deserve to be labelled apathetic or narcissistic - and recent figures prove it. Since the election was called in April more than a million 18-24 year-olds have registered to vote, with almost a quarter of a million registering on the final day.

And we know that they also participate in other ways, though direct action, protesting and signing up to campaigns and petitions. But they can become frustrated and disengaged when they see no tangible results. They are trying to exert their influence and have their voices heard but, when they perceive that politics moves at such a slow pace, it seems like nobody is listening.

Talk of triple lock pensions, social care and of returning to the 1970s can seem alien to young people. Politicians need to engage them on the things they care about: equality, education, housing, poverty and living standards.

These issues are all the more important for the young people Barnardo's supports. Most young people benefit from ongoing support from their parents, whether they're living at home for longer or they're getting financial help from the bank of mum and dad. But what if you don't have that kind of support? For the country's most vulnerable children and young people the challenges are immense.

Young social entrepreneur Kenny Imafidon recently argued that if all eligible young people voted they could shake up British politics, creating a more diverse and forward thinking parliament and a more just and inclusive civil society based on the thoughts and voices of all its citizens. Let's hope he's right and that young people all  #TurnUp on June 8.

Of course, politicians who want to engage young people need to set out what they want to do and what change they want to make, but they must also stress how it will happen, what steps will be needed and that things are unlikely to change over night - these things take time.

But they should give young people a tangible time frame. What results can we expect and by when? If young people can see politics delivering for them - while they're still young - they may be more likely to get engaged and stay engaged.

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