Local youths want political voices heard

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Cllr Anna Rothery talking to young people about politics at Merseyside Youth Association (MYA)  © Carolyn Boyce

Cllr Anna Rothery talking to young people about politics at MYA, Liverpool © Carolyn Boyce

A youth leadership charity is taking part in a nationwide scheme to encourage young people to stand up and be heard.

Merseyside-based ‘Uprising’ is taking part in ‘My Voice, My Vote’ which is offered to National Citizen Service graduates (NCS) and will be running up until the March 2015 general election.

It encourages people aged 16-20 to develop their social action and leadership skills.

National programme co-ordinator and Liverpool programme manager of ‘My Voice, My Vote’, Carolyn Boyce, told JMU Journalism: “It is an amazing opportunity to run the ‘My Voice, My Vote’ and core leadership programmes in Merseyside as the skills and knowledge sessions help young people campaign on their issues whilst unlocking power with key leaders in the city.”

A recent study carried out by political think tank group ‘d|part’ found that lowering the voting age to 16 and 17 year olds permanently would encourage more young people to engage more in politics.

Conducted by a team from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, the study also noted that an improvement in political education in schools was required to ensure young people understood why they were voting.

The researchers said: “Discussions of political issues within the school environment would increase students’ political confidence and therefore schools must do more to encourage political debates.”

September’s Scottish Referendum was the first UK ballot to include young people and many politicians were shocked by how many 16 and 17 year olds got involved in the debate.

University of Liverpool’s senior politics lecturer, Dr Kevin Hickson stressed the importance of young people voting in England and in particular Liverpool.

He told JMU Journalism: “The voting age should be lowered, 16 and 17 year olds have a stake in society, they have opinions on economic and social issues which politicians need to take into account. The political elites would need to find ways to engage them in the democratic process.”

There has been a lengthy debate regarding the lowering of the voting age to 16 as just under two million teenagers in the UK would be affected.

Since the Scottish Referendum the Labour Party, among others, has addressed the issue. At its recent party conference, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “It’s time to hear the voice of young people in our politics,” as he pledged to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote if elected.”

Next week young people from Liverpool’s ‘UpRising’ have been invited to talk with leaders at the House of Commons about issues they feel are currently ignored in local and national politics that affect them.

About Melissa McFarlane, JMU Journalism