Liberal Democrats Party Conference- Sunday 23rd September 2012
Panel discussion based upon young people’s issues
On one of the most politically distinct weeks in the Liberal Democrats’ party history, with the broken pledge of their tuition fees promise, I got exclusive access to the Liberal Democrat Party Conference to speak to Former Police Commissioner Candidate,, and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes. Other guests on the panel included members of O2 Telefonica and Members of the Liberal Democrats Policy Committee.
Lowering the voting age to 16
Then asked by a member of the audience about the right to vote in general elections at the age of 16, there was a unanimous agreement to lower the voting age by two years across panel. Brian Paddick said, “If 16 year olds are allowed to bear arms on a battlefield, why can’t young people vote at that age?”
The answer from a senior member of O2, who deals largely with young people’s social-media, said “young people will not trust the Liberal Democrats after such a torrid week.” It was followed by a British Youth Council trustee admitting “it could be a result of the political process”. This was hotly rejected by members of the audience who stood up a listed several reasons, on the contrary, as to why young people feel apathetic towards their party.
Simon Hughes said, “Lowering the voting age is an issue that matters to many young people. I’ve come across some young people who are under 18 and would not like the thought of an introduction of a lowered voting age. It shouldn’t be about party politics that should encourage or deter young people from becoming interested in politics, but it should involve the issues they are concerned about.”
There was then an interactive vote, by which the audience voted on the issue discussed via electronic keypads. This was particularly biased, as out of the 40 (or so) in the audience; I counted at least 9 members who were Liberal Democrats, who were adults. And they are Liberal Democrats who support a democratic, fair and proportional society? I’ll leave you to make your own mind up about that. Now back to the discussions....
Work Experience, careers advice and apprenticeships
A BYC trustee, who presented the awards at the start of the evening, said “work experience will not get people a job, but merely provide them with a few relevant skills and something to put on their CV.”
The Chairman for Liberal Youth admitted, “Investing in young people is a risky thing.” Then, Hughes discussed that a committee earlier this week discovered a flaw in the relationship between careers advice in schools and the entire work experience system which “is not good enough”. But Paddick was annoyed at the comments made about “risks” related to “youth employability”. “Young employees usually carry greater skills than older people; they are faster learners and more energetic.”
Schools and employment services should “tailor the careers advice for young people to the individual”, Paddick went on to say.
Liberal Democrats’ policies for young people over the next year
I then had the chance to ask a question: “What policies do the Liberal Democrats have in place for young people around the UK in the next Parliamentary year? And can you make sure that you will commit to them?” This was particularly interesting seeing as members of the Liberal Democrats (and the subsequent panel sitting in front of me) have just faced huge criticism for allowingto apologise for his promise to keep tuition fees levels low, which he didn’t keep. However, he didn’t apologise for the action taken by the Government to raise it by £6,000 every year for each University student from 2012, only the promise he kept.
Simon Hughes replied, “Our main issue is ensuring as many young people find employment in the next year as possible. We have to allow more businesses to take on skilled apprentices, who are currently unemployed. In our Autumn (work) Budget we will discuss just this. We haven’t cracked how we deal with this.”
He also announced an initiative that they want to follow through by gaining full support from the Conservatives: mentoring for every young person about careers advice through a scheme conducted by local authorities. He also wants to ensure no “time-wasting” in rolling this out.
The Chairman of Liberal youth “wants to bring an end to unpaid internships”, due to his personal experience of feeling less of a member of staff in his employment.”
Simon Hughes: “There should be more and shorter apprenticeships. The Liberal Democrats also want face to face careers advice for young people.”
This is opposed to the Conservatives currently endorsing online or independent careers advice.
How young people are represented through the media
The O2 member said, “There needs to be a change of attitudes”, in regard to representing young people through newspapers and other traditional media. “Youth should be promoted in the right light. There needs to be a decision on who should be the right role models in life.”
The BYC trustee said, “Young people need direct decision-making in Government. The youth have a keener grasp of the new media. You can use this to amplify the positive message of young people.”
The Policy Committee Member for the Lib Dems said, “People who have power don’t want to give it up.” This was more generally targeted to those older Members of Parliament.
Simon Hughes finished on an encouraging note, “Older people across the country will be fantastically positive about young people, but they can’t speak for them. You need to speak for yourselves. Newspapers are going to die and make sure that Sky broadcasting doesn’t take over the entire media platform.”
By Ceirney Eddie