Young say they feel left out of politics

9th January 1998 at 00:00
Tony Blair is not the only one to profess a passion for education, education, education. It also came top in a poll of the most important issues in young people's lives.

Employment and drugs came a close second in the British Youth Council survey of 500 young people.

Most wanted to see a minimum wage for under-25s, were opposed to higher education tuition fees, and thought cannabis should be legalised.

Many also thought young people were unfairly labelled as apathetic and apolitical when they actually wanted to be taught more about politics in school.

Eighty per cent said they had not learnt enough about political issues, 84 per cent thought politicians did not listen to them and almost 80 per cent thought young people's interests were not represented in Parliament. If there was an election tomorrow half said they would vote Labour and 17 per cent would vote Liberal Democrat, with only 7 per cent voting Conservative. Thirty per cent said they would not bother to vote.

Martin Wilson, the 20-year-old chairman of the British Youth Council, was not surprised by the findings. He said: "We did ask for the most important things, not the most fun, so we were expecting some fairly sharp answers. Since the election there has been a great deal of optimism.

"Young people my age have never known political change and it has affected us.

"But at the same time there is this sense of urgency to wake up and realise that we are competing on a much broader international scale. Our lack of basic language and numeracy skills compared to the rest of Europe are a real concern. We want to see a marriage of academic and vocational qualifications, and big improvements in both."

The council has just put forward an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons calling for citizenship to be made a compulsory part of the curriculum, as in France and Germany. Forty MPs have so far signed the motion.

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