Northampton North parliamentary candidates agreed that more needs to be done to encourage young people to take a more active role in politics.
Members of all five political parties shared their views on why younger voters have become disillusioned with politics, during a hustings event at University of Northampton yesterday in the run-up to this year’s elections.
Conservative candidate, Michael Ellis, said: “Young people feel like politicians are in it for themselves and cannot be trusted.” But he added that he had been ranked fifth MP in the country for voting efficiency, having voted on 92 per cent of parliamentary issues he was eligible for since 2010.
Angela Paterson (Lib Dem) argued that it was a case of boredom and mistrust with the voting system itself, as well as the media portrayal of politicians.
She said: “Young people are bored with the same old first-past-the-post system and the way it reduces voter choice.
“Engagement is paramount. As politicians we need to be taking the initiative to reach out and connect with the issues that are important to them, and work against the disgusting behaviour of some politicians that is shown in the media.”
Standing for the Green Party, Tony Clarke also focussed on involving young people in political discussion. He said: “We need to actually give young people something to vote for in the first place.
“Voting itself is the end product: it’s about developing a strong opinion on something and sticking to it, no matter what other’s think. It’s a measure of self worth.”
During the event, candidates responded to questions from the audience of more than 60 university students and staff members on issues that concerned them.
Responding to questions about climate change and the environment, Sally Keeble (Labour) said: “The consequences of ignoring environmental issues are disastrous, but it is something that all countries to buy into together. It is something that requires a change in lifestyle.”
Young people feel like politicians are in it for themselves and cannot be trustedMichael Ellis, MP for Northampton North
Mr Clarke said: “Other parties are too concerned about growth to focus properly on these issues but, for us, it is our reason for being.”
UKIP candidate Tom Rubython added: “UKIP’s policy for the environment sucks, but at least I’m admitting it.”
Meanwhile, Mr Ellis commented on threats to national security as a result of dependence on other countries for fossil fuel supplies.
Other issues discussed included the abolishing of tution fees, support for international students and lobbying legislation.
Speaking about tuition fees, Mr Rubython said: “Higher education should be free at the point of need and UKIP would see fees abolished within five years.
“Students should not be walking into life with a debt of almost £50,000 hanging over their heads already. It lowers morale and gives you a completely different feeling just walking down the street.”
Conservative and Lib Dem candidates supported fees, however, and Mr Ellis said: “The majority of the current taxpayers did not go to university, so is it fair to ask them to pay for students now?”
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