What good is a great idea unless it affects everyone? | Kevin Brennan

As someone whose work is all about tackling injustice and inequality, I’m anxious for the health of our democracy. Throughout the course of a parliamentary term, as MPs’ bills are passed and defeated, we hear often about the cost of politics and the need for money for politicians’ offices. But whether we talk about big cash, TV advertising or salaries, it’s just as important to hear about small cash.

I’m always trying to bring to parliament – like you – representatives who have been fighting to create more opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to stand for office and act on their plans for reforming our society.

We hope that, in the same way that Tim Farron’s energetic new edition of Resolution Magazine caught the attention of MPs last week, we can move house and remind politicians and the public that we all have a role to play in improving the lives of the people we represent.

We know that recent research by our thinktank, Demos, reveals that nearly half of voters want people their age to be the face of politics, and that they are the most likely to want strong and inspirational leaders. And our survey found that twice as many of those who vote Tory are worried that Britain is “stagnating and declining” as those who voted Labour.

We find that voters are quite confident that MPs make enough efforts to listen to them. The poorest are most confident that MPs are listening and empathising, while voters earning less than £35,000 are least sure. And even those who think that politicians need more pay do not think they have the power to change much, and they are least optimistic of being treated fairly.

There is a renewed sense of optimism among voters and a growing enthusiasm to become involved in politics.

It’s tempting to criticise local schools and community projects as evidence of an intergenerational breakdown that we should be tackling, but this is a starkly backward view of society. Far from being a reflection of failing schools, this growing support for politics is the result of young people feeling empowered and empowered to make a change.

When presented with the opportunity to vote – as they have recently been, or will soon – children across the country have been getting involved in local campaigns for issues such as the environment or climate change. Our new research shows that almost half of 16- to 17-year-olds are interested in politics, even if they haven’t been involved directly.

As they become more aware of the opportunities presented by politics, even if they don’t do anything themselves, they are beginning to speak out. Six in 10 16- to 17-year-olds say their school has a positive attitude towards the activities it has encouraging pupils to participate in local campaigns. I hope that this shift will continue and that all schools will see that these young people are increasingly present, and interested, in the political process.

Politicians are committed to tackling issues like youth unemployment, exclusion and loneliness, but we need to be aware that young people are under great pressure right now. Often, what drives young people towards politics is support for causes such as the environment or climate change, and some young people are experiencing problems with addiction and mental health.

That’s why, as MPs, we need to be both prepared and able to respond to issues that young people and older generations are facing, and also interested in fighting our own battles – or defending what we have fought for in our constituencies. Many working people are now only relying on their house or their social housing for the first time in their lives. Many have experienced a reduction in the quality of their old-fashioned pensions. Almost a third of our country now live in social housing, which makes it more important than ever to ensure those that are disadvantaged and vulnerable can benefit from the rights and benefits that society offers.

The changes we make to our politics can only benefit all generations. These are not abstract ideas or fashionable one-off debates. They are changes that will make a huge difference to our country and what it says to the world.

You can make an incredible difference. You have the power to demand your own salary is the lowest in parliament, to publicise cuts in school dinners or benefits, to help your local community campaign for the best school buses for children and parents.

Change can happen. When faced with a problem that concerns people – whether it’s the public’s ability to afford the repairs to their homes, or access to the public realm, or the widespread danger from drone technology – politicians should listen to the concerns of their constituents.

I want our democracy to be

Leave a Comment