By James Fuller, Politics & Media first year
Political party membership is at an all time low. Young people don’t vote and appear apathetic to party politics. So, what are the parties going to do about it?
The Politics & Media degree hosted an afternoon event at the end of September that set a challenge for MPs and representatives of the Labour Party, Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Democrats, and UK Independence Party: make a case for party politics to the audience you’re struggling to reach – young people.
Political apathy seemed a world away, however, as students from Bournemouth University and surrounding schools packed into the hall in order to question an invited panel of guests including The Conservative MP for Bournemouth West Conor Burns, Local Liberal Democrat Annette Brookes MP, Prospective UKIP candidate Robin Grey, Leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett and Former Labour Defence Minister (and Bournemouth University visiting fellow) Bob Ainsworth MP.
The event kicked off with BU Public Relations 2013 graduate Felicity Pentland delivering the results of her dissertation: Apathetic or Uninformed?: Political Participation Among Young Voters. She concludes that young people are not apathetic to politics, but distance themselves from it, in part, because of gaps in their political and civic education that make it difficult to get involved.
After some engaging speeches, spirited debate ensued between the audience and the members of the panel who although acknowledging that young people are becoming more politically disengaged couldn’t agree on a specific reason why. The panel did strongly agree that politics is a vital component of our democracy and our very way of life before urging the gathered young people to engage themselves in politics and not to allow the negative media image of politics to distract them from their duty to use politics positively to engage, benefit and empower future generations.
Leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett commented later on twitter “It was a good day – good discussion and debate”.
A very audible highlight of the event came in the form of a much fevered debate about Margaret Thatcher. This very impassioned exchange of views could only be seen as an omen that although young people’s interest in contemporary British Politics may be dwindling, that it certainly isn’t dead just yet.
The day closed with a networking session and a chance for the politicians and parties to talk with young people individually.
For more on the Why Politics Matters event, read about what the politicians said at the event check out this post. And for a reflection about the event by second year Politics & Media Student Alison Smith visit her blog.