How the Tories see young people

So after a particularly long Reading Borough Council meeting I’m sat here in my room, unable to sleep because I’m so wired about some of the debates we’ve had tonight.

Tonight was the first time I’ve presented a motion, seconded by Cllr Ashley Pearce and envisaged by Ellie Emberson, the Member of Youth Parliament for Reading. The motion (which can be found here on page 2 and reported on in Get Reading) is all about reaffirming votes at 16 and asking Councillors to provide unbiased political talks based on Bite the Ballot resources at schools. This aims to inform young adults about political processes and encourage them to register and vote.

The motion passed with full support from the Labour benches, Liberal Democrats who submitted a good amendment and the Greens. However the Conservatives, as per usual, gave a shockingly offensive contribution based on archaic perspectives of young people. The Tories, via Councillor Robinson, suggested that young people should not be able to vote as they did not contribute as a result of being in full time education. To say that in the presence of young people who spent the best part of a Tuesday evening listening to politicos babble on – is problematic enough. More concerning though, is that this perspective clearly excludes a large group of young people who work part time, are active in their communities, do charitable work and undertake caring responsibilities. From my personal experience for the past 11 years, since the age of 15, I have worked to support myself and in that time I have paid national insurance and taxes to the state. As a young adult, I also sang in retirement homes and was chair of a local youth club.

The trauma didn’t end there however, the right to vote was cheaply likened to the ability to purchase a phone contract or get a tattoo. Hmm.

Subsequently, it was argued that votes at 16 would be beneficial to the Labour Party because young people would not remember the record of the last Labour government. My response was simple, the record of this current Lib Dem and Tory coalition government is robbing young people of education maintenance allowance, tripling tuition fees and making vulnerable families suffer at the hands of ideologically damning policies such as the bedroom tax and benefit cuts.

The result of tonight is that local politicians will be in Reading schools talking to young people about politics and voting. The Tories have exposed themselves this evening as having outdated, inappropriate views of 16 and 17 year olds, enough for me to question whether any of them have spoken with this age group at all.

It is crucial that we encourage and inspire the next generation to take part in the decisions which affect their lives. Politics currently fails young people and we cannot allow that to continue any longer. Taking action like this is the whole reason I got involved in politics in the first place and with or without the Tories, we will do what we can to ensure every young person has the chance to shape the society they live in.

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