Political freedom, parity, and equality are fundamental concepts that underpin a true democracy. This means giving every citizen of a nation the unqualified right to cast a vote on who they believe should be representing them on a local, regional, and national scale. In many cases, however, the youth are treated as an exception to this principle.
The British Youth Council, as well as many municipal youth voice vehicles and organisations across the UK, compose a Coalition that believes that sixteen and seventeen-year-olds deserve the right to vote to much the same extent as legal majors. The British Youth Council launched its ‘Be Seen Be Heard’ Campaign in April this year to help promote this view, in collaboration with The Body Shop.
On the 27th of April, young people from across London and the wider country were invited to an event at Portcullis House, a subsidiary of the House of Commons, to celebrate the launch and hear from a panel of experts and parliamentarians. Youth delegations arrived from Westminster, the City of London, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsa, Harrow, Barnet, the South-East, and many other regions. Different tenets of the British Youth Council’s campaign were discussed by panel members. The panel included senior members of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, The Body Shop, the British Youth Council, and the Votes at 16 All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), which is made up of MPs who actively support and advocate for this Campaign.
After the panel spoke, there was then abundant time for a Q&A with those present. Much constructive debate took place, and ideas were floated by the young people there that were very much taken on board by the panel. Many MPs, from both within the APPG and outside of it, came into the room to contribute to the discourse taking place; we were very grateful for this input. Finally, the evening ended with the opportunity to network and get to know other people with similar objectives and opinions.
We at the Westminster Youth Council were greatly honoured to be invited to this event and found it extremely useful for the continuation of this very important and topical discussion. Be Seen Be Heard is now becoming more and more prominent and is finally on the mind of key decision-makers and thinkers across the country and the wider world. Our immense gratitude goes to the British Youth Council, the APPG, and the rest of the Coalition for their effort, time, and funding. Hopefully, we can continue to further Votes at 16 until it becomes the national standard!