Statistically, more young people vote for who wins The X Factor or I'm A Celeb than for who runs the country. This is a scary statistic and it is frightening to see that young people can relate more to reality TV stars than to politicians- but perhaps it is true? To fix this anomaly, two things need to happen: politicians need to reach out to young people, and young people need to reach out to politicians by showing that we are politically engaged and educated, and that they simply cannot ignore us if they want to win an election.
Most young people see the people inside Parliament as part of the "Westminster Bubble" (as described by Andy Burnham during his leadership campaign.) They think politicians are from another planet and frankly haven't experienced the real world. They also see a lack of diversity in the chamber, as all of the MPs appear to be male, pale and stale. Also, there are 15 million people under the age of 19 in the UK, and yet we only have one representative in Parliament, the 21 year-old SNP MP Mhairi Black. I think that at the next election all parties need to select more young candidates like Mhairi Black so we can have our voice heard at last.
Parties can afford to avoid young people in their manifestos because they know that we are the age group with the lowest turnout every year at the election. However in this year's General Election I noticed that Ed Miliband had included some policies which would certainly benefit millions of young people like myself. Some of these included: votes at 16, cutting tuition fees and raising the minimum wage. What Ed Miliband started to do was to get young people interested in politics by showing us all that things can get better if we vote for it. As a result, 43% of all young people aged 18-24 who voted decided to vote for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. This was significantly higher than any other party (the Conservatives gained just 27% of votes from this age group.) It is vital that in the future politicians learn from this and include policies that benefit young people in their manifesto.
Nationally, the political education in schools is abysmal. I am lucky that in my high school we had one full day learning about politics, and covered what the UK Parliament is in our R.E course. I thoroughly enjoyed these lessons, but I feel that there should be a greater political education on the national curriculum. There was also a trip to London (although this was only open with limited places) which I was lucky enough to attend. But I feel that every student should get the chance to visit Parliament at least once in their time at high school so they can see where our country is governed from, and where laws are made and debated. Our local MP came into school on one of the days to answer some questions from the pupils which was really interesting and brilliant to see so many people asking engaging questions. However, I am aware that there are many schools that didn't have an event like this. Also, since our MP is from The Labour Party, there was no balance or true debate, so I think that it would have been interesting to have held a hustings between our MP, and councillors representing different parties. There was also a very entertaining school 'mock election' in May (which I was delighted to have won) which had a decent turnout. However, many people abused their right to vote by voting for the UKIP candidate 'as a joke' and without any knowledge of the party or its policies. I think that schools should offer compulsory unbiased education on what each of the major UK parties stand for so young people can decide which party is closest to their beliefs and ideas.
It's also vital that young people keep up to date with politics and current affairs so they know what is going on in the world around them. Politicians make decisions that affect them every day, and keeping up with them will give us a better understanding of our country and the world, and how we can make it a better place in the future. One way that we can achieve this is if more young people became columnists and expressed their views!