Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Labour's Leader in the House of Lords
From pastygate to the granny tax, from the jerry can gaffe to the deportation debacle, and not forgetting the unfolding events surrounding Jeremy Hunt, the Coalition Government’s veneer has been scratched off to reveal ineptitude and inequality on a massive scale. But it’s not just vacuous policy leavened by displays of sheer incompetence that have become the hallmark of this government, there’s also its attacks on young people.
Tuition fees trebled. EMA decimated. Youth unemployment soaring. It’s a modern miracle that young people aren’t angrier today than they already are. And for me the frustration is that the Government seems to think that they can get away with it.
They can’t, at least not if young people say no more to being relegated to the sidelines and ensure that their voice counts in the May elections.
Oft-repeated claims that young people are apathetic about politics do little more than foster myths. Go to any community centre or youth centre (at least those that remain open) any pub or any university and you will see debate and discussion burning bright as ever.
In a world of politics apparently dominated by political strategy, floating votes and the latest poll ratings, it’s time to hit this Government where it hurts: at the ballots. Young people must get their voices heard and when it comes to long fought for democratic power, it is in their self interest to cast their vote.
There is of course so much more that political parties can do too, whether offering progressive, youth friendly policies or ensuring everyone knows exactly what the political system is doing for them.
In Wales for example, the Labour Government is set to save those Welsh university students due to start their courses this September around £18,000 of debt. That is a life changing amount of money, and by ensuring that young people are aware of the good in politics, and not just the bad, will help build greater trust in politics.
We must also ensure that knowledge is there to back up our rhetoric. When it comes to political inclusion, education is the key. Education about the importance of the political system coupled with education about our country’s rich political history.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with the Harlow Youth Council and young supporters of the Labour Party, all of whom understand the need to vote but who were also bursting with ideas about how to improve the democratic engagement of young people.
They are just some of the young people spearheading campaigns to encourage more young people to become involved in politics. Such enthusiasm is infectious, and experienced political heads need to do more to ensure that that enthusiasm spreads far and wide.
In the meantime, next Thursday will hopefully be the day when many young people take the first step to being the change they hope to see in our country.