On Tuesday 24th March, Channel 4 ran an ‘If We Ran Things’ event where young people, including myself, had the opportunity to voice our concerns to MPs in the run up to the General Election.
After hearing three mini-Ted talks by young people and one by an MP, we then gathered around a table in our groups that had one MP allocated to it to discuss what had been said.
Some of the issues raised by the young people were:
- Social mobility: how the economic gap has widened and the poor are becoming poorer meaning they have less opportunities open to them, particularly with regards to education.
- Drugs: the decriminalisation of drugs rather than criminalising drug-users.
- Diversity: the lack of diversity in jobs and universities.
- Domestic violence: improving the justice system and getting rid of victim-blaming.
- Political education: how politics is difficult to understand and that there is not one source that does not presuppose knowledge of political stories. Also the need for citizenship lessons in schools.
- Education: the school curriculum needs to stop churning out exam-pressured masses but rather needs to recognise individuality.
Sadiq Khan, MP for the Labour Party, was quickly blasted for saying that essentially if you do not vote you should not complain. However, MP Tim Loughton, political for the Conservative Party, reiterated MP Khan’s sentiments by stating ‘those who don’t do politics get politics done to them’.
Of the issues raised by the speakers, I agreed particularly with the point of political education. Media biases make it difficult to filter through to the core of a story and consequently to the truth, making it difficult to construct an informed opinion. Whenever I am trying to understand a story, I have to read numerous publications to filter the biases and know the crux of it.
I also went with my own concerns and stated: If I ran things I would create gender, racial, and economic equality.
- Gender equality: for those of you who have read my Blog or know me, you will know this is one of the issues at the top of my personal agenda. Women face inequality in the workplace with unequal pay; illegal questions surrounding maternity leave; are still not making the top positions in companies; and are still being excluded from many professions such as tech and engineering. However, another key concern for me is gender inequality in minority ethnic groups that are being avoided and dismissed because of the fear of seeming racist. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), grooming and sex-selective abortions are still concerns for minority communities.
- Racial equality: particularly in football we have seen cases of racism yet not enough is being done to promote diversity in jobs and therefore understanding and tolerance between communities.
- Economic equality: as was mentioned by one of the speakers, the gap between the rich and poor is widening. There needs to be more social mobility for equal opportunities.
The discussion itself was not as productive as the productivity that can come through action as a result of the discussion (the MPs had to shoot off halfway through to vote) such as working with local councils and voting; even if the First Past the Post system is disproportionate and not entirely representational.
I also felt that the MPs know what young people want but that we are at the grass roots in comparison to policies regarded as more important such as the economy and immigration.
Our voices aren’t reaching the glass ceilings to break them.
Every MP urged we voice our issues and use social media to round the masses but we already know and do this. In fact, we are the most politically engaged generation regardless of the fact only 45% young people voted in the last General Election.
We know the medium in which to politically engage but how do we change policy? How do we actually get through to Parliament?
I have to say, I didn’t feel this was done effectively by some yesterday with voices being raised and finger-wagging at MPs. Even I, as a young person and fellow, could not relate to this so imagine how disengaged the MPs must have felt?! I can understand others’ anger and frustration but isn’t the schoolboy jeering something we all feel disconnects us from politics?
Mutual respect, in my eyes, goes both ways.
The MP assigned to my table was extremely engaged particularly when I suggested more referendums. After all, we live in a democracy so why can’t we vote on key issues that affect us? I certainly wish I could have voted for tightening laws on sex-selective abortions.
Another suggestion I have always promoted is to work with your local MP to create change locally; and then see the wave of change spread. In practise, it is your local MP that can really take your issues to Parliament and affect policy-making.
And a final note. As much as I love Russell Brand, I believe we should all vote. Quite simply, how can you score a goal and change the game if you aren’t even on the pitch?