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Channel 4 Streams the First Ever 'Youth Leaders Debate' - And It's About Time!

07/05/2015 08:26 BST | Updated 06/05/2016 10:59 BST

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Seven youth party leaders took to the stage to debate key issues affecting young voters, ahead of the General Election May 7th. The debate was an online exclusive by Channel 4, in association with independent news network Shout Out UK, aired live on 28th April.

The studio audience was made up of young diverse voters across the country, who grilled the campaigners on their party policies. For many of the audience this would be the first time they cast their vote in the election.

I just happen to be one of them. Having attended the debate I was one of the so called 'confused youth' who had no political lenience to any party. So like many other people my age, I headed to the debate to understand what the parties had to offer for my generation. I even had the chance to pose my question which is very close to my heart, regarding the funding of the NHS.

To my mind this debate was most definitely needed, to engage the young generation into politics. Having spoken to many of the youth regarding the politics of today, many seem put off by all the jargon and general lack of engagement.

I feel my generation should not be held to the phrase 'the youth aren't engaged', when in actual fact many are engaged, and want to listen. The problem is that the effort has simply not been made with the younger generation to help them understand. The underlying problem lies when not enough platforms have been given to drive healthy discussion and debate for the youth to share their views. This is exactly why we need to push for more youth involvement in politics, so the young generation become interested and active in politics in general, not just in the election.

The panellists included young campaigners of the Labour (Finn McGoldrick) , Conservative (Alexandra Paterson), Liberal Democrats (Alex Harding), UKIP(Jack Duffin), SNP(Chris Glendinning), Green (Hannah Ellen Clare) and Plaid Cymru (Glenn Page) party, as they battled head-to-head in a debate chaired by Channel 4 reporter Fatima Manji.

Surprisingly to some, in this debate all seven parties attended, and to my understanding when people say the youth have no interest in politics, this just serves as an example of the willingness for the youth to be engaged in politics.

The issues explored in the debate flowed from talking about the all-important youth issue of tuition fees, to a number of other key issues. Including Immigration, the NHS, Trident, Climate Change, Housing, zero hour contracts, cost of living and the youths disillusionment with politics.

Some of the issues caused quite a heated debate, undoubtedly in particular the issue of tuition fees proved popular with the audience, with them booing and clapping to the panellists' answers. Immigration and the issue of trident were also fiery topics as panellists interrupted another to put their views across.

Although this event was created to help youngsters vote, I feel these types of debates should not just be limited to time of the election, but should be had at any and every opportunity. It's sad to see that many are quick to dismiss the power of the youth and therefore side-line us when it comes to taking on opinions and suggestions. When in fact the youth are a force to be reckoned with and should be given more of stage to be involved and engaged.

Matteo Bergamini, founder of Shout Out UK said:

"I am 22 and for my generation this is a huge event as for the first time in Britain, we are actively able to debate in our own event.We have the power to speak our mind and engage in anyway we want, it is our right as well as our duty to make the most out of it and demand a better future."

Tom Porter, Channel 4's News & Current Affairs Commissioning Editor adds:

"Young people often feel that their interests are ignored by political parties. We hope that by bringing the youth leaders together we can engage as many young people as possible on the issues that matter to them in this election and encourage them to vote."

The youth are the future and should be valued in their opinions and thoughts, especially when the young generation will be the ones who will deal with the faults and achievements of governments. This is why the youth need more engagement and need to be more educated by parties on their pledges, and that can be accomplished by simply informing the younger generation of what parties can offer them. This is the only way we can progress in having youths using their vote and being more attracted to politics. It's not about the youth being lazy and uninterested, but about providing a platform for that engagement to happen.