At first glance this may seem like a totally ludicrous and outlandish proposal. After all, can you imagine a teenager poised at the despatch box in Prime Minister’s Questions? That would be a very attractive proposal for a young political enthusiast like me, but certainly not one of logic. However, there are many other ways we can attempt to interest young people in politics and current affairs.
There has been a recent and dramatic surge in political disillusion among the public particularly with the young. Could a youth body with real power be the lifeblood of a future politically active population?
Many propositions were discussed by various youth organisations in the U.K. The first of which is a specialist advisory panel of youths who would regularly make analysis on policy and proposed legislation directly impacting young people. A system like this has already been put in place by the B.Y.C., a Youth Select committee. However, this is not a group which makes regular analysis on a wide range of legislation.
A new group, with likeness to the Youth Select Committee, could be formed and would not require legislative power, but would act as a young team of advisers. Furthermore, adaptations could be made to the existing panel to allow for more regular scrutiny on a wider range of issues.
Another possible solution would be to create a smaller and less powerful third house containing only youths. Admittedly, this is a huge and challenging proposition, but one that still deserves some serious consideration.
A third house could complicate an already complex legislative process. It would be hard for students to find the time to scrutinise legislation between school work and personal lives on a daily basis. This could become a full time job and some would argue that it should be left to those with experience and the time to do so.
However, young political activists have argued that this could be the key to unlocking political interests in the young generation. It would give them a stake in the political mechanism of the land; inspiring them to contribute and driving them to push for the productive change that they often long for.
The idea of a House of Young Legislators could easily be related to the argument of an elected second chamber. Could the House of Lords be replaced with a democratically elected house of young people? This could have a huge impact on the state of U.K. politics. The second chamber would be formed of the younger generation, compared to the older generation which currently inhabits the House of Lords. I argue that this would make for a more liberal second chamber. Whether this is a positive or negative is subject to your own opinion.
It was suggested , on a more modest and achievable strain of thought, local youth councils. An elected group of youths from the borough would meet once a month, debate and discuss an agenda and finally present it to local politicians.
I agree that a grassroots scheme could be less daunting, more attractive and easily achievable. However, some argue that funding could be an issue, as seen in Northern Ireland.
Nevertheless, the generally politically active youths do not seek extravagant sittings and a large expenses bill. Rather, a room to debate, an occasional audience of local politicians and real proof that they are having a positive influence on decision making. If it is possible for a school rugby team to gain a sponsor for match kits, it is possible to acquire one for youth democracy. I cannot realistically see this breaking the bank.
When I have discussed this topic previously it has been suggested that lowering the voting age to 16 would be a better option. It would be less costly, more interactive and better suited to a wider variety of young people from various backgrounds. I agree that the voting age should be lowered to be in line with other adult activities that 16 year olds can take part in. For example, sexual activity and service in the army. This should only be implemented alongside an educational programme to inform the new group of voters.
However, while I do see this as a credible long term desire; I think it is necessary to analyse all possible options for re energising political interests among the youth. If we succeed in integrating young people to the political community from the grassroots, lowering the voting age may appear more attractive to those currently sceptical.
All of these propositions are highly credible and worth considering. If you don’t agree with these suggestions, you should agree that something needs to be done to ensure we don’t end up with a further disenfranchised electorate. Whatever your opinion on the youth is, they are the future generation of voters.