For many years young people have been ignored, left behind and branded ignorant or uninterested in politics. This myth is finally being blown out of the water. Ever since the 2015 general election, young people have been the ‘sleeping giant’, slowing waking to broken dreams, uncaring policies, and seemingly insurmountable societal odds.
They are angry.
Young people have been, for many years, the easy cut for politicians. They did not vote or engage, so naturally politicians have ignored them. However, things are changing, and now political parties are trying to engage with the younger generation, with some being better at this than others.
I attended the latest Conservative Party conference, and there was a very direct and heavy emphasis on young people in almost all fringe events and main conference speeches. Whether that’s because of the youth sector pushing the vote, or the momentum that has awoken in the next generation, the Conservatives have clearly taken note. They are listening and are on a mission to drive their message to young people across the UK.
The main politician who has managed to engage young people is Jeremy Corbyn, the turnout of young people at the last General Election was astounding, as was the way in which Labour encouraged them in their campaign. I’m sure this is something Theresa May doesn’t want to hear or do, but it may be time to take a leaf out of Corbyn’s book - after all he invigorated the younger generation to vote.
The Conservatives have a lot to do before young people would even consider voting for them or Theresa May, especially considering her current record. Take the BBC debate in the last General Election for instance - not that Amber Rudd didn’t do a fine job - however, it would be nice for the Prime Minister to fight her own battles. This showed her to be incapable of speaking and debating her own policies against the other party leaders, which was further exacerbated on the Conservative Twitter account which was getting trolled while the debate was going on.
Young people want humanity and genuine purpose, qualities Theresa May has yet to display
There is no excuse for not standing up and speaking about your beliefs on a debating stage, after all isn’t that a show of confidence in your policies? Judging by the disastrous result of the snap General Election, it’s understandable why the Conservatives may have decided to keep Theresa May away. However, they underestimate the frustration young people feel from politicians not listening to them and because of it, the damage it caused their campaign to have the Prime Minister snub the BBC debate, just reaffirms the younger generation’s belief that she has no time for them.
Coupling the above with the completely set up nature of her appearances, from the campaign trail to tragedies like Grenfell, where she didn’t speak to anyone and then recently at the 6-month memorial, where she arrived via a side entrance. It gives the impression that she fears the people she is elected to serve.
This all paints a picture of a person unable to connect with people, something the next generation value greatly, especially due to the scepticism of politics. Young people need a politician that is open and inviting, someone that builds trust in politics. I run a youth news network called Shout Out UK and we run a political literacy course in secondary schools across the UK and one of the biggest issues we have found is trust in politicians, especially Theresa May, due to the constant U-turns, the Grenfell Tower disaster and of course the £1.5billion sent to the DUP for votes.
It is often assumed that young people are disinterested, uncaring of politics, or even shallow. However, I have found this to be the complete opposite, they are interested, engaged and becoming increasingly involved. All the mistakes politicians make, no matter how small some may seem, are relevant and shape our opinion of politicians, especially our Prime Minister. No matter how many times she repeats catchphrases like ‘strong and stable’, the reality is that politics in the next generation is moving away from catchy tag lines and spin. Young people want humanity and genuine purpose, qualities Theresa May has yet to display.