On June 8th, it is crucial that young people head to the polling station and cast their vote in the General Election. Whatever changes are being implemented now, they will affect our generation – young people – more than they will ever affect the politicians implementing them. This election in particular is extremely important, since the next Parliament will be shaping a post-Brexit Britain. Therefore, we must ensure our interests are represented and considered when conducting negotiations.
Moreover, a high turnout of 18-24 year olds will put young people’s issues on the political agenda. Once we turn out to vote, we send the message that young people are engaged, aware and want to influence their future. We will have to be heard by decision makers.
A significant issue that I am very passionate to see the next Parliament implement is a real national living wage, for young people. This is a key issue for my generation, since the minimum wage for under 25’s is lower than for those over 25. The Real Living Wage is an hourly rate of pay, calculated independently that reflects the cost of living in the UK. It is set as £8.45 across the UK with the exception of £9.75 in London. However, the government’s current living wage falls short of the real living wage by a considerable margin, and is only £7.05 for under 25’s. This is not good enough. Young people across the UK should be afforded the right to earn a wage that enables them to live.
What’s more is that young people can be paid less than their older counterparts for the same job, same hours and same work! This needs to change, as the assumption that young people don’t need as much as over 25’s to live is absurd. A real national living wage for young people has been a key issue that young people raised and was our national priority campaign following over 200k votes in our Make your Mark consultation in 2015.
I hope that the next Parliament will make this a priority and start a dialogue with young people in shaping the future of their country.
The British Youth Council is launching ‘Our Vision, Our Parliament’, a manifesto which outlines our vision for the next Parliament. The manifesto sets out the six priorities that we want the next government to address the issues of young people including better mental health provision for young people and an opportunity for young people to influence Brexit negotiations.
Young people want the voting age to be lowered to 16, mental health services for young people to be improved, the introduction of a real living wage for everyone, the restoration of funding for youth services, first aid taught in schools and the opportunity to actively participate and meaningfully engage in the Brexit negotiations.
The British Youth Council has written to 17 political parties – including the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, SNP and Labour. Each party has been asked to respond with their thoughts on our top six issues. All responses will be published ahead of polling day on June 8th.
The manifesto forms part of our wider General Election campaign calling on politicians to not just talk about young people but to listen to their concerns and do something about them. Following the General Election, the British Youth Council will be lobbying the Government and calling on politicians to keep their promises to young people.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It’s imperative that candidates across the country listen to the issues that young people are passionate about and tell young people what they plan to do about their priorities. I’m really looking forward to hearing back from each political party so we can share their responses with young people.”
If you were to google ‘millennials are’, the words that come after are not inspiring; ‘lazy’, ‘stupid’ or ‘screwed’. This isn’t by chance, it’s part of a wider narrative.
My generation – those who are currently under 25 – are constantly undervalued and undermined.
We’re seen as selfish and entitled, bone-idle and boorish.
Nothing could be further from the truth – young people care. We care about our families and our friends, our schools and hospitals. We care about our future employment and the future of the earth.
Why are we not listened to, or taken seriously?
The first answer is very simple – often our legitimate voices are taken away from us. It simply makes no sense not to enfranchise 16 and 17 year-olds.
The Scottish Referendum showed us that 16 and 17 year-olds will make their views heard if given the opportunity and that all votes are equal to others.
The idea that you can work, pay taxes, marry or die for your country but can’t vote for the people who make those decisions – based on arguments that have essentially boiled down to mental capability and societal norms – is obviously nonsense.
They’re the same arguments that were used to not extend the vote to women and BME communities, many years ago.
We would urge the next government to extend this long denied right, which is quickly becoming a consensus opinion.
This could be the first step of many in making politics accessible to young people – electoral reform, localism, greater representation for young people and digitising our democracy would all give voice to those who are currently voiceless.
The second is that it’s far too easy to ignore us, even when we turn up. Brexit being the prime example. 70% of young people voted Remain, and were outvoted by older generations who won’t have to see the long-term consequences.
Which was an act of democracy, which we respect. What we cannot respect is the systematic undermining of the voices of young people over the single most important issue of the next 10 years. Education funding, Erasmus Plus, free movement, employment and jobs will be shaped for generations to come without input from the generation that it will come down on.
We would urge the next government to involve young people in the future of Brexit as soon as possible.
This will be the shape of the next five years, and a priority for the Government. There are opportunities in Brexit, as well as risks – A Brexit that puts young people’s futures at risk is not a Brexit we can get behind. Young people need to be able to travel to work and study, to share with different cultures and to have clean air to breath.
One clear ask of the next government – give young people the voice we deserve.
Because if you give young people the power over our futures – we won’t just change a Google search term – we’ll change the world.
The next few weeks are going to be full of general election talk. We’ll hear many politicians make promises, targeting the segments of the electorate that they think will turn out to vote, which isn’t young people. Back in 2015, it was famously said that a politician with a spare hour to canvas should choose an old people’s home rather than a sixth form college. And we need to change this story.
As the national youth council for the UK, the British Youth Council will be championing the view of young people throughout this election campaign and demanding that Parliamentary Candidates talk to us, not about us. We have consulted extensively with young people about the key issues that are important to them in a general election and we are asking the political parties to tell us what they are going to do about these issues:
- A youth voice in Brexit – Young people will live with the consequences of Brexit for the longest and need to be a meaningful part of the process. We want a commitment to young people being at the heart of the negotiation process.
- 16: A new age for democracy – Over 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds are currently denied the right to vote. We want a commitment to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in all elections and referenda across the UK.
- Our minds matter – The Youth Select Committee on Mental Health found that young people’s mental health services do not have equality of funding with adult services. We want a commitment to improving the access to and quality of our mental health services.
- A real living wage for everyone – In April 2016 the government introduced a higher minimum wage rate for all staff over 25 years of age, although it doesn’t pay what people need to live. We want a commitment to equal pay for equal work, whatever your age and a wage that meets the cost of living.
- Save our youth services – Youth services have suffered as a result of financial cuts and restrictions. We want a commitment for existing youth services to have funding priority over new initiatives.
- Teach first aid in schools – First aiders can be the difference between life and death. We want a commitment to equip young people with the first aid skills to save lives, empowering them to become active citizens in their communities.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be seeking a commitment from the main political parties on these issues as well as sharing a series of blogs from young people on this issues that are important to them in this General Election.
How you can get involved:
With just over a month to go until the General Election, Girlguiding is calling on the media to stop commenting on the way politicians look. This call comes as part a charter which also asks the media to ensure young women’s voices are represented in political coverage, and that the diversity of young women’s voices are recognised.
As this election will have a massive impact on important issues like Britain’s future with the EU, it’s more important than ever the media change how they present politicians.Ever since I was old enough to start understanding politics, I’ve felt that becoming a politician was one of the ways I could get my voice heard and make a difference.But as I grew older, I realised I hardly ever saw the media show female politicians and, when they did, there was always some kind of comment about their makeup, clothing, or hair.
The day after the televised debates for the General Election in 2015, I opened the newspaper to find an article discussing how Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood needed a make-over – because apparently her hair and clothes were considered old fashioned. I couldn’t get over the fact the article had completely dismissed the policies she’d discussed the night before in favour of something so superficial.
At this moment, I realised the chances of me being taken seriously as a female politician were slim. Even if I managed to break the glass ceiling surrounding politics, I would most likely have my views trivialised or ignored by the media.However, I didn’t give up on having my voice heard. I constantly reminded the people around me about the importance of voting and being actively interested and involved in politics.
After the Brexit vote, where young people voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, I was reminded of the power of our voices. I was reminded that we have the power to decide our futures by voting for the politicians who we believe best represent us.
In the weeks leading up to the General Election, I want the media to stop portraying women’s looks as the most important thing about them. It seems to me that the media forget these politicians have immense power over our country’s future. We deserve to know what they stand for and what we’re voting for.If the media change the way they report about female politicians, they can avoid disappointing young women like me, who want to have their voices heard but can’t see themselves represented anywhere. The media have the power to inspire a whole generation of new politicians through factual, truthful, and diverse reporting. This needs to be easy to understand, but not patronising.
I hope that through Girlguiding’s charter, the media will start paying attention to how they portray politicians and begin to take responsibility. Young women are political, and if they see all politicians being taken seriously by the media, they will know their voices are being heard and feel inspired for the future. On that note, I want to ask all young women to make sure they’re registered to vote on 8th June. Sometimes it may feel like no one is listening to you, and that your vote is just a drop in the ocean, but I can assure you people are listening and your vote matters.
Last week Members of Parliament backed the Prime Minster’s bid for a snap election on Thursday 8th June 2017. In an open letter sent to all political parties, organisations from across the youth sector are now calling on all party leaders to make a firm commitment to young people across the country.
The open letter, which is signed by the British Youth Council and other leading youth organisations, requests party leaders make an explicit commitment to represent young people’s demands in their upcoming manifestos. At a time when Parliament will be shaping a post-Brexit Britain, young people’s overwhelming demand to be part of the political process must be acted upon.
The joint letter comes following our initial call to politicians last week which demanded politicians talked to young people and not about them.
— ITV News (@itvnews) April 26, 2017
The Prime Minster has announced her proposal for an early General Election. The election is due to take place on Thursday 8th June 2017, however, Members of Parliament will vote on the proposal in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19th April 2017. In response, the British Youth Council calls on parties and politicians across the country to talk to young people not about them.
Young people are passionate about the future and must be given an authentic opportunity to have a say, influence the debate and set out their priorities. The upcoming election will hold more importance than usual as political parties set out their plans for a ‘Post-Brexit Britain’ and young people must be included in that conversation.
We’ll be reminding parties to keep the promises they have made to young people – especially the five priority issues set out in our 2015 General Election Manifesto ‘Our Parliament. Our Vision’. The issues included improving mental health provision, saving youth services and creating a real living wage for everyone.
The June snap election will also mark yet another election in which 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote. We call on all parties to ensure that all 16 and 17-year-olds of the future are no longer turned away from the ballot box.
The British Youth Council will be contacting the Government and the Electoral Commission to discuss voter registration for the General Election. We proudly supported sector-wide efforts to get young people registered to vote in the lead up to 2015 General Election and the EU Referendum in 2016. In the meantime, the British Youth Council is urging young people across the country to register to vote as soon as possible to ensure they can have a direct say in the direction of the country.
We are currently working with Parliament to establish how this will impact the Youth Select Committee inquiry on Body Image and the UK Youth Parliament which is due to sit in the House of Commons in November 2017. More details will be released in due course.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Politicians across the country must engage young people in a meaningful way ahead of the announced snap election. They have 7 weeks to convince young people that they can deliver on the issues that matter to them. Those who seek to represent us must talk to us and not about us.
“It is however of great concern to us that once again 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote in an election. Political parties now have a real opportunity to ensure that this is an issue of the past. Empower young people and give them the voice they deserve.
“Lastly, I’d like to call on young people to register to vote, research the issues, and then turn out on June 8th! Young people will be greatly affected by the next Government’s decisions, particularly as our next Government will be tasked with negotiating how we leave the European Union. Let’s send a clear message to politicians in June!”