DO NOT USE - Youth Parliament sees spike in young voters

Laura McCardle
Monday, June 6, 2016

The number of young people voting on the issues they want to be debated by youth leaders in the House of Commons has risen by 81 per cent.

UK Youth Parliament will host its annual debate at the House of Commons in November. Image: UK Youth Parliament
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 took part in UK Youth Parliament’s (UKYP) eight-week Make Your Mark ballot this summer, an increase of 81 per cent on the 478,000 votes cast last year.

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

Members of Youth Parliament will take a shortlist of the five most popular issues forward for discussion during their annual House of Commons debate, chaired by Speaker of the House John Bercow, in November.

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 admission last month that a pledge to lower the voting age to 16 is unlikely to feature in the party’s election manifesto.

Commenting on his priority to focus first on increasing the number of 18- to 24-year-olds that vote, she said: “The more politicians have a genuine intent to listen to these voices, the more young people will listen [and vote].

“Loughton was one of the first MPs to be scrutinised by our groups – we need more politicians like that and I think there is a move towards listening to young people more.”

UKYP’s annual debate will be held at the House of Commons on 14 November.

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