The national dilemma of political apathy amongst this country’s youth is an issue widely covered in many branches of the media, especially at election time. Politicians are the first to complain about it, but seem the last to take action to improve the situation. I believe that simply including young people more in the political process would help overcome the problem.

Many fantastic organisations like the British Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament are dedicated to the cause; now we just need some effort from Westminster parliamentarians to back it all up.

Labour’s manifesto for the election just gone by featured an entire chapter on what they would deliver for elderly people, a group well-known for its tendency to vote in large numbers. But why not have a similar section of the document devoted to young people? The answer: because we are not expected to turn out in the same magnitude.

There was a “Children’s Manifesto”, but to me it seemed merely a tokenistic gesture – like most government initiatives of similar nature. In a meeting with young people from the UK Youth Parliament, which I attended, the party’s election supremo Alan Milburn admitted that before the document was produced there had been no real consultation with its target group. This is not adequate.

This whole situation is a vicious circle. Politicians complain about the problem and resulting low electoral turnout amongst young people, however seem unwilling to make any attempts to reverse this worrying trend. They prefer to merely talk about it, hoping the problem will somehow solve itself. Our disgraceful portrayal in the media doesn’t exactly help either.

At the next general election I would like to see every major party making a real effort to win the youth vote. In my constituency, it was only the Liberal Democrats who did anything remotely resembling that – a young people’s survey was sent out to every newly registered voter. More things like this need to happen and, more importantly, have the results listened to.

The youth of today are the next generation of responsible citizens and decision-makers. Every member of society has responsibilities; that is the essence of democracy. It is the government’s duty to ensure young people do not grow up ignoring or neglecting these responsibilities and go on to exercise them properly as adults.

Published in Young People Now, 25/5/05 – click here for original.