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If We Want the Young to Vote We Need to Offer Some Inspiration

01/05/2015 15:44 BST | Updated 01/05/2016 10:12 BST

On March 28th hundreds of activists walked through the centre of Leeds to demonstrate against the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

Among them was Leeds MP Hilary Benn, who was part of the last Labour cabinet when NHS services were being farmed out to private companies at a fairly rapid rate - their involvement rose from 2.5% of total services in 2006 to just over 4% by 2010.

I decided to tackle Mr Benn about his presence and suggested it was hypocritical of him to attend. If he felt that strongly shouldn't he have resigned his position as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs?

As you might expect he made a very robust defence of Labour's NHS record and it was the start of a 15-minute conversation which broadened out into other areas.

Towards the end I suggested people - and especially younger voters - are disillusioned with politics, partly because there is a lack of vision. Successive governments do not have truly 'big' ideas and the last one you could put in that category was the creation of the NHS.

Benn didn't agree and tried to list a few of Labour's 'big ideas' but struggled after saying the minimum wage.

I countered by saying the minimum wage could not be classed as big and if that's what today's leading politicians consider ground-breaking, then we have a serious problem, especially if we are going to inspire young voters to re-engage with the political discourse.

Those aged under 30 tend to talk in broader brush strokes and are craving solutions to big geo-political issues they feel are not being confronted - the likes of a developing a more sustainable economic system and climate change. Meanwhile the older you get the more you tend to gravitate to concerns like 'who is going to take more of my money off me?' and 'will there be a bed for me if I need to use the NHS'.

But it is a shame we don't have a political process that can really take account of young voters' concerns and current system falls down in three main ways:

1) We have a political system that works in five-year cycles and now that the two main parties have got a bunker mentality, their policies are all rooted in consolidation and not innovation. They can't take 'big risks' as the 70-year process, that is seeing the world's wealth gradually evening out, is accelerating. In other words their policy decisions are based around hanging on to what we've got. If you know you can't halt the geo-political tide you have to manage expectations while playing smoke and mirrors with the facts. That's why leading Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem politicians sound more alike the bigger the issue gets.

2) Governments can't commit themselves to bold yet advantageous projects because the rate of decline is too unpredictable. For example wouldn't it be wonderful if every new house was built so it could power itself? Just imagine all the benefits of doing something so forward-thinking and bold. We have a shortage of affordable homes in this country and long waiting lists for social housing so wouldn't it make a lot of sense to embark on a generation-defining programme of utilising all available technologies so, not only were they energy sufficient, but many would end up putting electricity back on to the national grid? In an era of increasing energy provision instability, wouldn't that make a lot of sense? Of course it is incredibly ambitious but so was building the NHS.

3) Sustainable living means upsetting those who make all their money and hold power because they provide oil and gas. Can you imagine how the energy companies might react if Ed Miliband came out and said he wanted every house in the UK to be self-powering by 2100 with the back-up of a new national network of renewable energy sources? It might upset OPEC and the chief executive of EDF but just think of the security that would give to a country who would no longer be reliant on supply chains of oil and natural gas being transported halfway around the world.

Huge infrastructure projects of the magnitude I have outlined are not pie in the sky. Of course they are incredibly difficult but some things are worth doing if they help secure our way of life for generations to come and inspire millions of younger people to believe their politicians do have their best interests at heart.

If you want younger people to vote give them a vision they can get inspired by and be honest. If we collectively face up to our responsibilities to future generations then those 18-25 'non-voters' might start listening again.