By Maximilian Jenz
Meet Sir Nigel Fancypants, Member of Parliament for Upper Crustshire and self-appointed expert on all things elitist. He really shines in front of the cameras. Saying everything, but nothing at all. However, it’s time for the annual photo op virtue-signalling to the public that he truly cares about young people’s concerns. Therefore, Sir Nigel agreed to an unfiltered interview with three young people getting into politics.
With his polished demeanour and aristocratic air, Sir Nigel is the epitome of old-world privilege. Sir Nigel is a devout believer in the holy trinity of wealth, status, and power, and he’s not afraid to wield it to defend the interests of the elite. To him, the needs of the working class are merely an afterthought, like the garnish on a plate of caviar.
Voter apathy in the younger generation
Nabeela Mowlana, 26, is a Labour and Co-operative Councillor for Park and Arbourthorne in Sheffield, and chair of Sheffield Young Labour.
Before the last general election, she had been heavily involved in student activism and her local community. Labour’s inspiring vision resonated with her and many others, attracting 100,000 young members.
As the chair of Sheffield Young Labour, she canvassed and spoke to friends, family, and neighbours to promote the party’s bold and alternative solutions. Joining the Labour Party had been a natural choice for Nabeela due to its vision for a better future.
Sir Nigel: “Young people love to spend hours and hours ranting about political issues on social media, but when it comes to actually getting off their couches and heading to the polling stations, well, that’s just too much effort, isn’t it?”
Nabeela: “Well, what inspiring vision are we putting forward to young people? We can’t ignore the fact that many young people are struggling with precarious employment and housing insecurity, often just one paycheck away from homelessness. The Labour Party must step up and fill the political vacuum by boldly addressing these issues and presenting a vision for a better future.
“Let’s tackle the climate crisis, secure good, well-paying unionised jobs, and create affordable housing for all. We owe it to young people to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met.”
Sir Nigel: “Will that make a difference? I’m not sure they care enough or are informed enough in the first place.”
Nabeela: “At the last general election, over 60% of young people aged 18 to 24 voted for the Labour Party. This shows that when political parties put forward an inspiring vision that speaks to the issues young people care about, they will vote.
Nabeela: “I support the vote at 16. We’ve seen the turnout for the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum among 16-17-year-olds was 75%, which was significantly higher than the overall turnout of 84.5%. In the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, the turnout among 16-17-year-olds was 55%, compared to the overall turnout of 55.8%.
“Westminster should take note- young people are becoming more politically active and aware of the issues that affect them. 16-18 year-olds are equally important as 18-25 years-old voters, and should get their voices heard.”
Representation in politics
Django Perkins, 16, a Sheffield Youth Cabinet Member, gives young people a platform to influence local, regional, and national decision-making on issues that matter to them.
He is creating presentations on various topics, such as LGBTQ and hidden disabilities, to promote in schools. Additionally, he’s collaborating with organisations like Co-op to raise awareness about mental health support in schools.
Sir Nigel: “Do you feel represented in politics?”
Django: “Not really. It’s cool that there’s a young Labour Party, but it’s not great that they automatically consider everyone who joins from age 14 as part of the party.”
Sir Nigel: “Why is there still apathy among young people then, if people are allowed to get involved so young?”
Django: “It’s not until you’re 18 that you actually feel like you’re part of the party. Plus, I feel like politicians aim their content at specific people, but they’re not really talking to young people in a way that works. It should be more engaging such as live Q&As.
“The Labour Party also shut down the Young Labour Instagram because they were posting stuff that didn’t match up with the party’s views.
“It feels like they don’t care. For instance, the Votes at 16 campaign was held in Westminster in the middle of a school week. Let’s be real, what 16-year-old is going to show up?”
Sir Nigel: “For both of you then, how much of this “diversity and inclusion” will actually be enough for you? Isn’t the current cabinet and the Prime Minister an example of diversity in politics?”
Django: “It would be great if he had at least one young representative in the room during meetings impacting young people We also need to have a fairer voting system through proportional representation. So that young people’s votes, along with other people, actually matter.”
Nabeela: “Absolutely. From my experiences, including as the Chair of Young Labour, it can be daunting to advocate for your generation when you’re the only one in the room.
“The Tories have a long history of using tokenism to justify their harmful policies. It’s not just Suella Braverman, who promotes racist and dehumanising politics, but a tactic as old as time. We need to move beyond representation politics and focus on class solidarity and transformative change.
“Just because someone from your community is in a position of power, doesn’t mean your life is magically better. It’s time for real change, not just symbolic gestures.”
The biggest threats facing young people in the UK
Dylan Lewis Creser, 18, was a Green Party candidate for Fulwood ward in Sheffield, for the May local elections. They joined the Green Party at 13 years old and are passionate about environmentalism and social justice activism.
Sir Nigel: “My generation had it way harder. You lot need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, surely?”
Dylan: “I disagree. Climate change is a huge problem and it’s putting our way of life at risk. Even with just a small increase in temperature, we’re seeing big problems with nature, food, and disasters.
“It’s not just affecting older people, we young people are going to be around for longer and will probably feel the worst of it.”
Sir Nigel: “That’s a global issue though. Doesn’t the UK have enough options catered for you lot?”
Dylan: “The right to protest and the anti-trade union sentiment that is being pushed through in Bills, are real attacks on our democracy. We need to resist these attempts from the government.
“My message to young people is to stay optimistic and to channel the anger and disappointment into local change-making.
“Let’s make a difference one step at a time.”