The headlines have recently featured news from the Labour Party in Bath, which is preparing to contest the town’s constituency (currently held by Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster) with their new candidate: Ollie Middleton.
Why is this topic important? Well, it’s because Middleton is only 18 years old; only just old enough to vote himself and yet could, theoretically, be standing as an MP in 2015 if he were to win his parliamentary seat. But another question: Why is this surprising? There are the obvious reasons that he is, especially in politician terms, rather young, and consequently there were other people available who may be assumed to have been better candidates due to more experience and knowledge.
However, I don’t believe that people should be amazed by this decision; indeed I believe it should be a more regular occurrence. Young politicians will potentially bring with them new ideas and solutions to a world that they have recently grown up in- a society which they will be able understand far better than the majority of current MPs. They will also be more able to learn; to adapt; to change, allowing them to react to professional criticism and improve their own ideas as well as those created by the parties they represent.
Teenage politicians hold the opportunity to erase the detrimental stereotypes current MPs have created for themselves; such as all politicians being untrustworthy and unnaturally greedy. New life will also be injected into the political system, with more young people taking an interest in current affairs and politics as they feel more able to relate to it.
Many teenagers appear to understand little about current affairs and politics, mainly because they don’t find the topics interesting, which is a concern. I don’t find I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! interesting, but then again whatever ridiculous task Joey Essex has been told to perform doesn’t carry the same weight as what George Osborne announces in his budgets in my book.
Politicians (Don Foster’s leader Nick Clegg included) are often seen trying to persuade more people to vote at elections as turnouts are consistently low (with only a 65% turnout at the last general election in 2010). One answer to this problem would be to incite enthusiasm in upcoming teenage voters who currently lack interest in elections and governance as a whole. Many young people are disengaged from the political system and current affairs as they feel that the issues debated have nothing to do with them, that subjects such as scrapping a proposed increase in fuel duty will not impact them in any way – not stopping to think that the more money their parents have, the greater the likelihood of them receiving that longed for iPad off Father Christmas.
Perhaps an introduction of more young politicians will allow an increased amount of teenagers to become updated on subjects that will influence their not-so-distant adult lives and encourage them to at least attempt to make a change in the way the government runs the country by casting a vote. They may follow the simple idea that if a teenager can potentially become an MP, then a vote can potentially create a difference. We are forever seeing the same old political faces appear, disappear and then suddenly reappear as the years go by. In a few years’ time Gordon Brown could be back in the limelight. Now there’s something to think about. We need more fresh faces, and that’s what young candidates can provide.
I sincerely hope that more teenagers and young people are fielded as election candidates by political parties in the near future to facilitate the engagement of those of similar age groups. And as for Ollie Middleton, good luck to him, I’m sure he will set a great standard for what teenage candidates can offer.
By James Morris