Hoor Pathan, project manager of LetsTAP (Let’s Talk About Politics) wowed the Fabian Summer Conference when she asked Ed Miliband directy to engage young people in political discourse. Here, she talks about the principle behind the project.
Young people are often brushed off the political landscape as apathetic, unrealistic or just not bothered at all with politics as a whole.
However, the truth is far different. With the rapid changes for the worse that the Coalition has brought in, and the massive cuts taking place across all sectors which affect young people both directly and indirectly, the young are being forced to face challenges of a magnitude they have never imagined.
Tuition fees trebled. No guarantee of work after graduation. A Tory peer recently said “Britain’s never had it better.” As an 11-year-old in Britain today, I say: “Britain’s never had it worse.”
But the recent problems go far deeper than just university fees and cuts to services. The biggest problem today is that young people are trapped in a type of poverty which many have not noticed. It isn’t financial poverty, although this remains a huge problem which politicians have yet to face. No, the poverty I’m talking about is the poverty of aspiration, and the poverty of hope in politics.
You could blame the disappointment of ‘Clegg-Mania’ for this. However, the problem goes further than simple partisan excuses. Young people aren’t switched off; they just haven’t had the chance to get their voice across. The dissatisfaction isn’t about policy alone; it’s about being heard by those in power.
So what needs to be done? The good news is that Labour has already started taking steps in the right direction. Ed Miliband promised to focus on young people when he said “The work of a new generation has begun” in his acceptance speech after becoming leader. He’s already proved this isn’t just empty rhetoric, that he really means it, by holding talks with young people across the country.
But it doesn’t end there. Like in other walks in life, getting young people engaged in politics is a process of ‘Follow the leader.’ Members of the shadow cabinet, junior ministers, and local politicians including councillors, mayors and local cabinets need to go out and reach out to a generation who feels like they have been abandoned. A generation who feels as if a parent has left them and forgotten about them, a generation who feels that the government has lost love for them.
Both national and local politicians need to hold meaningful, rather than tokenistic, talks with young people where young people can actively raise their voice, put forward their concerns and feel as though they are being heard. Then we can move on to the bigger challenge, putting politicians into a position where they have to admit to the young where they’ve got it wrong and show how the ideas young people have are being used to shape policy.
As the political spectrum changes once again, the future of progressive politics lies with involving the young. The new centre ground is where the young who come from generations of non-voters feel inspired to go home and get their disenfranchised families out to the polling station come May 2015.
Hoor Pathan is project manager of ‘LetsTAP’
LetsTAP is a project aimed at involving young people in dialogue and debate with key local and national politicians, heads of services and decision makers in order to provide a safe platform for regular dialogue between decision makers and the young people.
LetsTAP aims to not only open channels of regular dialogue between decision makers and stakeholders, but also provide young people with a chance to actively scrutinize policy and services which affect them through various different methods, each relevant to the specific area of discussion.