Youth Parliament sees spike in young voters

By Laura McCardle

| 14 October 2014

The prominent role played by young people in the recent Scottish independence referendum is likely to be behind a huge surge in interest in the UK Youth Parliament, organisers say.

UK Youth Parliament will host its annual debate at the House of Commons in November. Image: UK Youth Parliament

More than 865,000 11- to 18-year-olds cast a vote in UK Youth Parliament’s eight-week Make Your Mark ballot this summer, an 81 per cent rise on the 478,000 who took part last year.

During the ballot, which closed on Friday last week, members of British Youth Council visited schools and ran online campaigns seeking young people’s views on 10 topics, including youth service funding and mental health services.

Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs) will take a shortlist of the five most popular issues (see list below) forward for discussion during their annual House of Commons debate, chaired by Speaker of the House John Bercow, on 14 November.

After the debate, MYPs will vote on the topics they want to take forward as their priority campaigns. Last year, MYPs chose votes at 16 and a curriculum for life as the issues to campaign on.

Mita Desai, chair of the British Youth Council, thinks the Scottish referendum on independence, which saw thousands of 16- and 17-year-olds vote for the first time, spurred more young people to take part in the ballot.

She said: “In 2014, 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland were enfranchised for the independence referendum, and lowering the voting age to 16 is now a policy of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

“The more politicians have demonstrated a willingness to listen to us, the more young people have faith that politicians are actually listening.”

Desai hopes the Conservative Party will follow suit and is not deterred by former children’s minister Tim Loughton’s assertion last month that a pledge to lower the voting age to 16 is unlikely to feature in the party’s election manifesto.

She added that it was "only a matter of time" before votes at 16 are introduced.

The topics that will be discussed during the UK Youth Parliament’s annual debate at the House of Commons are:

  • Votes at 16
  • Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage
  • Mental health services
  • Work experience
  • Bring back exam resits in Maths and English

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