It is time to trust our young people


Author: Cllr Cameron Palin, town councillor and deputy mayor, East Cowes Town Council

Both Scotland and Wales have votes at 16 and 17 which have cross-party support, the policy has been a gleaming success proven by the high-quality debate and extremely high voter turnout! So why has England still not followed suit?

As someone who has been extremely politically engaged from the age of 14, I have seen first-hand how young people's thoughts, opinions and ideas are brushed aside. “You don’t understand”. “You don’t have enough life experience”. “When you grow up you’ll realise we were right”. These are just a handful of the things I got told by those who supposedly knew better. This ageism often isn’t spoken about as our young people because it has become a social norm but also, they do not have the same channels to highlight this inequality and discrimination. When you hear about ageism it is often older, more mature individuals saying that they feel like the ones being discriminated against and excluded from society in one way or another, but they are doing it to young people too.

My own lived experience of this has made me think differently of politics, it has made me want to address this issue head on and do politics differently. It is more important than ever we end the status quo of shutting down young people, making them feel small and insignificant. We can and should change this. As an elected councillor, deputy mayor and a teacher I would never think of putting our young people down. We should be setting an example, inspiring them, showing that change is possible and ensuring that they are included, not just as a token gesture but genuinely valued and heard. 

Everyone has their own unique experiences, but particularly our young people, seeing things in a fresh new light and highlighting issues that affect them. 

Who was it that led the climate strikes? Our young people, they know it will be them that are left to deal with climate and ecological breakdown, some of which is already happening right now. Who are the ones currently going through the education system and experiencing the national curriculum? Our young people, they are the ones experiencing a system solely based on exams and not progress over time, a rigid curriculum that does not teach life skills, political education is massively lacking and does not have sufficient support due to direr funding for schools.

Our young people go through so much, experience so many societal pressures yet have no way to make their voice heard! It is all well and good trying to convince parents, careers, friends and neighbours but why not just offer them the vote? We have many different levels of government, let's start by giving them the vote in local government elections and let them prove they will use their vote to change their local communities. If that is a success then roll it out to police and crime Commissioner, mayoral and Westminster elections. 

As we all know, local government is the cornerstone of this country. Our young people should have a say about how local precepts should be spent, do they want better skateparks, toilets, libraries, and recreational facilities? I know they do as I speak to young people day in, day out in my job as well as in the local community but how many other councils and politicians know that? Often, voter turnout is low in local elections so by engaging with young people we will not only increase voter turnout but hopefully bring a livelier debate about what our communities want and need. 

So what can we do? Lobby your MP to support the vote at 16 campaigns, get your council to  support the campaign like in Wigan, demandbetter political education in schools, sign the petition or share vote at 16 on social media.

The following blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional or legal advice. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Association of Local Councils. Any links to external sources included in this blog post are provided for convenience and do not constitute endorsement or approval of those websites' content, products, services, or policies. Therefore, readers should use discretion and judgment when applying the information to their circumstances. Finally, this blog post may be updated or revised without notice.

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