When I attended Patchwork Foundation’s Youth Debate earlier this week I felt there was a general consensus that people just want politicians to be more frank- we’re not looking for miracles to quickly solve the country’s problem, but instead honest and realistic answers on how to approach this. Here are my three main takeaways from this experience:
“Coalitions are diverse, diversity is strength”
It’s no surprise to anyone that the next government will be a coalition, but as quoted by Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, “Coalitions are diverse, diversity is strength.” I’ve realised that we should start to focus on more the similarities between parties and their policies. The constant media circus of the traditional of slandering MP’s and fuelling ‘party politics’ as opposed to actual politics distracts us from understanding the real issues. The candidates agreed that coalitions could become the norm since other parties are coming up strong, so instead of trying to fight it, we as a society should learn to better use it in our favour.
“People need to realise that the men in ties don’t hold the power, WE do!”
The topic of whether young people are apathetic to politics sparked a lot feeling from both the audience and the panel. One young member said people aren’t apathetic, but the rigid system doesn’t allow us to pick who runs the country, so even if you have the best local MP, the person in No.10 doesn’t represent you. Although this gained a lot of nods and applause, the candidates responded with a different perspective. Chukka made a good point that actually people need to understand better how political decisions trickle down onto a local level. It’s the fault of the government and the public of not emphasising and realising this connection enough. One young person summed this idea up well, “People need to realise that the men in ties don’t hold the power, WE do!” (Annalise Mensah, 18, CitizensUK)
Give young people opportunities to discuss and engage!
Attending debates like this are great, if not for the chance to see politicians painfully grilled by the public, but the opportunity to meet other like-minded people. I felt privileged to network with ordinary young people who study and work, but who also want to play a significant part in shaping their own future by getting involved with various social, political and business opportunities. It’s vital that campaigns such as action/2015 or organisations like Patchwork exist as it gives young people the platform to really reach their full potential.
“I want to see more opportunities like Patchwork and CitizensUK for youth everywhere! I’d definitely get involved with the action/2015 campaign!” (Lateefat Babalola, 18, CitizensUK)
Even after the official debate had ended, a group of us stayed for an extra half hour evaluating the evening and starting our own heated discussion on the ‘role of young people’ today. Clearly we have a lot to say, but whether we’ll be heard over the course of the next five years is the real question.
By Takyiwa Danso, action/2015 UK Youth Panellist
This was written after I was lucky enough earlier this week to attend the Patchwork Foundation Youth Debate, hosted at KPMG HQ, London. Working in partnership with CitizensUK, Mosaic, UpRising, Three Faiths Forum (3FF), Brondesbury College and other various organisations that work to empower young people across the UK, this debate saw three candidates from the major political parties grilled by their young constituents. Mediated by Jon Pienaar, BBC Radio 5 live Chief Political Correspondent, the party representatives Chris Grayling (Conservatives), Chukka Umunna (Labour) and Ed Davey (Lib Dems) debated over economic cuts and spending, education, immigration and young voters’ apathy.
For more information on the action/2015 campaign and youth click here. The action/2015 Youth Panel is co-facilitated by British Youth Council, BOND, Islamic Relief, Progressio and Restless Development and Y Care International.