FO­CUS ON YOUNG VOT­ERS

With the Gen­eral Elec­tion loom­ing the turnout for young vot­ers is as low as ever. A new cam­paign hopes to use so­cial me­dia to en­cour­age more un­der-24s to cast their votes

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

FACE­BOOK and Twit­ter could be the key to help­ing dis­en­chanted young peo­ple to take an in­ter­est in po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sions.

Deputy leader of Bucks County Coun­cil, Mike Appleyard, will high­light the is­sue of a decline in young peo­ple’s votes at the county coun­cil meet­ing on Thurs­day next week.

He will ask coun­cil­lors to do some re­search in their di­vi­sions to try to find out why young peo­ple have be­come dis­en­gaged with pol­i­tics and lo­cal is­sues.

Mr Appleyard said: “The re­al­ity is that there ap­pears to be a de­clin­ing in­ter­est in vot­ing by young peo­ple and that is some­thing we ought to at least men­tion. We need to take ac­tion to try and im­prove the sit­u­a­tion.”

A Bri­tish elec­tion study shows that the per­cent­age of un­der 24s vot­ing de­clined from 76 per cent in 1964 to just over 51 per cent in 2010 and 38 per cent in 2005.

He said: “Clearly we are not com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them in the way that young peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate. We need to start to com­mu­ni­cate with them by so­cial me­dia rather than news­pa­pers and so on.”

Mr Appleyard has sug­gested there could be a Face­book page where young peo­ple can dis­cuss their views about po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions to­gether.

He said: “They are prob­a­bly not now al­ways lis­ten­ing to the news on the ra­dio or watch­ing it on the tele­vi­sion, they are tak­ing their news from so­cial me­dia and if no­body is get­ting through to them about the fact they are vot­ing for things that are go­ing to af­fect them through their whole adult lives.

“Th­ese peo­ple who are closer to leav­ing this world are mak­ing the de­ci­sions for them in the long term. I think that young peo­ple have got to re­alise that po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions are made and

they very of­ten have a very long term ef­fect. They are the peo­ple who will be around for the next 50 years and they must make them­selves heard, vot­ing is im­por­tant.”

Mr Appleyard did not think that young peo­ple should be less in­clined to vote be­cause Buck­ing­hamshire has tra­di­tion­ally been a Con­ser­va­tive strong­hold.

He said: “There is a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity that in the next elec­tion, at least one MP in Buck­ing­hamshire could go un­der, with UKIP for in­stance.

“Their vote does count and it is per­fectly pos­si­ble in a Con­ser­va­tive county to get Con­ser­va­tives out if that is what they want to do.”

Com­mons Speaker John Ber­cow’s Dig­i­tal Democ­racy Com­mis­sion has also been look­ing at why peo­ple, es­pe­cially young adults, are be­ing alien­ated from the world of West­min­ster.

Mr Appleyard sug­gested that schools could ig­nite more pas­sion for pol­i­tics by teach­ing young peo­ple more about it, in­volv­ing cam­paigns in the cur­ricu­lum and en­cour­age de­bat­ing.

He said: “It is about en­gag­ing chil­dren from all sorts of schools and get­ting them out to talk about things.

“We have seen over the past few years how vot­ing for dif­fer­ent par­ties has changed the way the health ser­vice op­er­ates, it has changed all sorts of things.”

Mr Appleyard thinks that it is vi­tal that young peo­ple un­der­stand that they can make a dif­fer­ence by vot­ing and pol­i­tics is rel­e­vant to their lives. He added: “Po­lit­i­cal par­ties are very keen to hear from young peo­ple and what they want. They are not hear­ing a lot and that is se­ri­ous.

“It is a big elec­tion year and no­body quite knows how it is go­ing to turn out and hope­fully the run up to the elec­tion will be quite ex­cit­ing.

“I think they [the youth] need to be heard. It is old duf­fers, like me, who are mak­ing all of the de­ci­sions about their fu­ture,” the politi­cian said.

He added: “Young peo­ple need to speak up, oth­er­wise as the public purse shrinks they will be­come side-lined in na­tional and lo­cal gov­ern­ment poli­cies in favour of those who vote in greater num­bers – the over 65s.”

TAK­ING AC­TION: Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil cabi­net mem­ber for ed­u­ca­tion and skills Mike Appleyard

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