Parliament. Not that parliament, the Youth Parliament. You’d be forgiven for not really knowing much about it. In theory, a parliament run by young people dealing with issues sounds like an excellent idea. Surely having a bunch of GCSE students decide on the new GCSE system is better than having Michael Gove sitting in his faraway Westminster lair? Unfortunately for young people, the Youth Parliament is useless.
First off, diversity. Although there is more gender and racial equality in the Youth Parliament, almost all MYPs (yes, that is a thing) are from middle-class families and tend to live in London or thereabouts. As with the actual parliament, this lack of diversity is not only unfair but also goes against the very purpose of an elected body. There is absolutely no point in having a Youth Parliament where the vast majority of young people do not have any representation.
To make matters worse, the UKYP has no actual legislative power. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how small an audience it serves compared to Parliament, but it does undermine the whole concept of a youth-run parliament. In reality, all the UKYP does is act as a think-tank to come up with new (often cancelled or failed) initiatives to improve young people’s lives. This isn’t a bad thing, but many of these groups exists and most (sadly) have not achieved much. Of course, the UKYP does have its uses. Politicians, when accused of being out of touch with young people (as they often are), point to the UKYP and their support of it as proof that they have given young people a voice. Where exactly this voice can be heard is a mystery. As a young person interested in politics, I voted once in my local MYP election. I didn’t see the outcome and have not felt any change in my life after the new MYP was elected. I’m not alone. A DfE survey found that none of the young people interviewed had heard of the UKYP.
Of course, there is an easy solution to this. The government (whichever party it’s led by) could stop treating young people like an annoying bunch of hooligans and actually give us a voice. Not a sickeningly patronising voice like we are given now, but the same sort of representation that is given to any other age group. The voting age should be lowered to 16 for a start. Some parties have promised this, but it doesn’t tend to be very high on their agenda. Next, there should be more young politicians, especially in areas where there is a large young population. The fact that the youngest MP is 30 is disgraceful. That means that the youngest MP is older than 37.5% of the population. Maybe, just maybe, the solution to youth disengagement could be enabling them to become engaged?
If not, then young people will take matters into their own hands. The youth makes up the majority of those who take part in protest actions. They will force change if necessary. Let’s not let it get to that.