19/01/2015 06:47 GMT | Updated 18/03/2015 05:59 GMT

It's Time Young People Took Center Stage


In a speech to students at Sheffield Hallam University, Ed Miliband, has today (Friday 16th January 2015) made a pretty damning statement, blaming the coalition Government for making a move that could see up to one million people "missing" from the electoral register, adding that students in particular would be affected.

The a new system which was introduced in June last year requires anyone wishing to vote to register individually.

Mr Miliband, was adamant on making it clear that the number of young people missing was a 'scandal' and pledged a "national mission" to stop young people "being denied a voice" at the election.

The Cabinet Office have responded by making it clear they feel the accusations are "premature" despite the fact we have less than 4 months left until voter registration closes.

"Individual Electoral Registration has replaced the outdated head of household voter registration system and is both increasing the accuracy of the register and giving people more control and ownership over the process," a spokesman said.

Now I think we can all agree that the move, which now means we no longer rely on the 'head of the household', is one that has simplified registering and made it easier but I can't help but think that this has been poorly planned. Charities like Bite The Ballot have been reminding political parties, Parliament and Government since 2013 of a similar issue which became apparent after the introduction of the Electoral Fraud (Northern Ireland) Act in 2002 which led to individual electoral registration in Northern Ireland.

Oliver Sidorczuk, Policy Coordinator at Bite The Ballot, said: "Bite The Ballot welcomes today's announcement but its come very late when voter registration is closing on April 21st"

Putting today's scandal aside, I think its important to remember how much we really need to come together for the sake of democracy as a whole to ensure young voters don't just visit the polling stations, but have they have an authentic opportunity to really understand what political parties are putting forward and more importantly have a chance to scrutinise those plans.

Oliver went on to say: "Parties need to come together to grab this by the horns" and I agree, this is bigger than party politics and its short sighted to believe otherwise.

A recent joint report of Demos and vInspired made it very clear that although young people could be crucial in 'swinging the vote' it was evident that political parties would need to up their game in order to win votes. The poll suggested as many as 3 million young people were undecided about who they would vote for in the 2015 General Elections. The findings also show that all political parties have a strong case for ensuring that they are proactive on social media, engaging with campaigns like League of Young Voters and ITV's Leader's Live debates which David Cameron is yet to appear on.

Young people are said to be really concerned about the cost of living as appose to immigration which is constantly pushed in our faces by programmes like BBC Question Time. There has never been a better time for political parties to reach out to young people, who might be disillusioned by the simple mention of 'politics' or at the sight of largely white men shouting at each other from across the Commons but are definitely switched on to the issues that we face in the 21st century.

Mita Desi, Chair of the British Youth Council had it very right when she said: "We say to the all the party leaders and candidates - listen to us - listen to young people - talk to us not about us."

Let's remind parties not only to reach out to young voters, before the election but afterwards too when its important that politicians are held to account for their promises.