Politics - Westminster election 2010 - An apathetic generation?

16th April 2010 at 01:00
Thousands of teenagers will have the chance to vote for the first time on May 6

But with only 37 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds choosing to do so in the 2005 general election, political detachment is a big problem among the young. Nick Eardley asked six voting-virgins what might inspire them to go to the polls.

Amina Iqbal, 18, studies primary education at Glasgow University. She lives in Glasgow North, which, with eight candidates, is one of the most hotly-contested seats in Scotland.

"Politics is not very accessible for young people," says Ms Iqbal. "I don't think that parties focus on us; they focus on people who are going to vote for them. They need to get the message across in schools and places like that so that people become interested when they are younger.

"The first issue for me would be the voting age; it should be lower, so I will be looking for parties that would change that. I also think the minimum wage and tuition fees are important because I don't know if I will have to pay them when I leave university.

"I'll probably vote Labour, just because I don't want the Tories in."

Ailey Burns, 19, is in her first year of studying to become a primary teacher at Edinburgh University. She thinks it is time for a change of Government.

"People my age have different interests and politics is not a topic that many of the people I know are interested in," Ms Burns explains.

"Unfortunately, if there is nothing to engage them now, there are not many reasons why they might become interested in the future.

"The issues that interest me in the election are the economy and the environment. I have strong opinions on them.

"I plan to vote for the Conservatives. I think there must be a party that can run the country more successfully than Labour and it appears the Tories might be able to fulfil that role."

Archie MacGregor, 18, is a first-year history student at St Andrews University. He lives in the North East Fife constituency where former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell has been the MP since 1987.

"I'm not sure who I'll vote for at the election, but I'm leaning towards Labour," says Mr MacGregor. "The main issue is probably going to be the economy - I don't know if there are going to be jobs for me when I graduate and my parents work in the public sector.

"The parties are trying to appeal to young people, but I am not sure if the system itself is accessible. As we are not taxpayers, we perhaps aren't as angry about expenses as others, but not many know how politics works beyond Prime Minister's questions."

Jodie Campbell, 18, is studying law, psychology and politics at Strathclyde University. She won't be voting at the election.

"I feel there are other ways to influence politics and I don't think that my vote would make any difference," says Ms Campbell.

"It would be more interesting if the parties were different; there's nothing that separates them from each other. There's more of an option with the SNP and its policy on independence, but that's the only difference. The parties should take more of a stance and say what they want to do and want to achieve.

"I think your involvement in politics depends on how you have been brought up. If your family and friends haven't been interested, then it can be quite hard to access."

Siobhan McCulloch, 18, is starting a course in primary teaching at Aberdeen University in September. She lives in the Ross, Skye and Inverness West constituency, a Liberal Democrat stronghold at Westminster.

"Youth issues will be important to me at the election; young people should be treated the same as everyone else," reckons Ms McCulloch. "There is too much focus on youth crime, but it's not as bad as people think. Also, coming from the Highlands, transport issues are key.

"You get politics in school and at the last Scottish Youth Parliament we were trying to get modern studies taught in all schools so everyone can learn and get a good idea about politics. People who are interested in politics read the leaflets they get, but many young people don't.

"A lot of people up here vote for the Lib Dems because their policies appeal to them. I'll vote for them."

Andrew Ashe, 18, studies law at Edinburgh University and is campaigning for the Liberal Democrats in three-way marginal Edinburgh South.

"The policy of no tuition fees is important because I would like to finish my degree. I don't come from a very well-off background and I think that everyone should be able to go to university," says Mr Ashe.

"Politics is reasonably accessible for young people, but there is a difference between politics in places such as the Scottish Youth Parliament and coming to vote, when it becomes much bigger and scarier, with the media trying to give you lots of information."

What the teachers say, page 27.

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