Why government and young people can’t relate

It is a misconception that politics is the reserve of the middle-aged, Middle Class man, but a mistake that is easily made.

It is a misconception that politics is the reserve of the middle-aged, Middle Class man, but a mistake that is easily made. Many demographics feel disconnected to MPs and believe that the British political system provides little for them. And now, after the era of the Baby Boomers, we face a new Lost Generation unlike any this country has seen since the First World War.

A recent survey conducted by the University of Essex revealed that only 31 per cent of 16-24 year-olds have an interest in politics, while a staggering 42.4 per cent take no interest whatsoever.

This is a concerning statistic that needs to change. After all, young people grow older and will eventually be the political leaders, journalists and voters who are responsible for bringing growth and change to our society. That is why the chasm between the young and politicians, as well as the mainstream media who should be bringing the two together, must be filled.

Two weeks ago during Prime Minister’s Questions, young people’s issues were brought up six times in the space of 30 minutes. Now, it would be inaccurate to say such precedence of the subject is a weekly occurrence, but one cannot deny the needs of young people are being taken seriously by MPs.

So why do so many in this age group believe the opposite?

Problems Rooted in History

Unfortunately for many demographics including young people, the history of the British political system does not work in their favour. The workings of the UK Parliament are based on an elitist society, where the wealthy elected the wealthy to look after their interests. Just look at the concept of the House of Lords: a group of Peers who have done nothing to prove their worthiness to preside over political matters, except inheriting a title.

Of course times change, and we live in a much fairer and equal society than in days gone by. But in many ways politics and its coverage is still rooted in the outdated values of the past.

This is displayed in the relationship between journalists and Westminster. Firsthand coverage of the House of Commons is limited to a group of around 240 journalists, who are privy to information shared in the lobby of Parliament and statements from the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary.

These lobby privileges are reserved for reporters from the major media players, such as national newspapers and the BBC. This means freelance journalists, bloggers or anyone else not affiliated with a media source deemed worthy by the government has little or no access to the on-goings in parliament.

This is an entirely outdated and irrelevant concept to our new media age. The fact is young people today just are not that engaged by the traditional news outlets that held precedence in their parents’ time.

Keeping up with the Times

It is untrue to say the government is not trying to keep up with the times, it is just that it does not quite get it. Remember when Gordon Brown said he liked the Arctic Monkeys? Well many British politicians’ use of social media is much like that incident, an awkward attempt to try to ‘be down with the kids’ which fails miserably.

It was only last week David Cameron tweeted a picture of himself posed on the phone to Barack Obama regarding the Crimean crisis. It was not long before he received a barrage of mocking responses, including one from actor Sir Patrick Stewart, who posted a picture of himself holding a can of wet-wipes to his ear and tweeted: “I’m now patched in as well. Sorry for the delay.”

All jokes aside, this was a cringy and clumsy attempt by Cameron to appeal to a group he just cannot relate to.

On the other hand, we cannot attribute the sole blame to the government; young people have plenty to answer for themselves. It is sadly often the case that he who shouts the loudest is the one who is heard. So, if young people really want to see the government work for them, they have to get involved.

The Baby Boomers may have had a bright future handed to them on a plate, but the youth of today are going to have to really work for it. And if they do, the lesson learned could be just what is needed to bring about real change not only for themselves but all the disillusioned voters out there.

Now that would be something this Lost Generation could be proud of.

What do you think about the relationship between Westminster and young people? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Aimee Rivers