Young people need a voice in local politics

Why an 18 year-old student wants to become Manchester’s youngest ever councillor.

In 50 days at the time of writing this, voters in Manchester will go to the polls to choose their new city council in the first all-out elections since 2004, and therefore Deansgate voters may be puzzled to find a candidate on their ballot paper who was just 4 years old when those last all-out elections happened.

That is because, along with studying for the first year of my degree at the University of Manchester, I will be bidding to be not only a councillor for Deansgate ward, but also Manchester City Council’s youngest ever councillor at just 18 years old.

They will ask why an 18 year old student is spending time fighting for a more transparent council and for more planning consultations on future developments in order to ensure homes remain affordable, rather than drinking cheap vodka and staying up till the silly hours of the morning to start an essay due the morning after.

These are perfectly reasonable questions to ask and they may be accompanied by fears of inexperience, therefore I wanted to write this article to answer these questions and explain that I am certainly not put off by my lack of experience, and voters shouldn’t be either.

It all boils down to the fact that our current crop of politicians and representatives seem to be totally inadequate at representing my generation. I say this as a member of “generation rent,” where incompetent councils have made it highly unlikely that I’ll ever afford my own home. I say this as a member of the age bracket with the lowest voter turnout in any election in living memory, fuelled by a feeling that politicians couldn’t care less about our issues and why would they when they don’t need to win our votes. I say this as someone, who according to the Independent Office for Budget Responsibility will be 64 years of age by the time any Brexit bill is settled.

Whilst my retirement and future is threatened before I’ve, not only are Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May bickering on a national level about whose damaging Hard Brexit will contain the most unicorns and candy floss, but at a local level in Manchester, the unopposed, one party state have recently presided over the development of 15’000 new homes in the city centre and shamefully, not a single one is affordable.

As a result of my age, I was unable to vote in both the EU referendum and the General Election despite the fact I was politically engaged and actively campaigning in both votes. I always felt it was unfair that I was denied a voice in two votes that would have such a lasting impact on my own future and so it is genuinely exciting to be approaching an important milestone in being able to cast my first ever vote in the Manchester Council Elections on May the 3rd.

And yet, I’m often concerned as to whether such an important vote would be going to waste in Manchester. Our way of voting means my one vote will be insignificant against a one-party state that holds a monopoly of power so it can cosy up to developers, has Councillors who would rather throw around insults and claims of “fake news,” when a story doesn’t work in their favour electorally instead of representing the interests of their constituents and most gut wrenchingly of all, promotes a form of social cleansing by giving one-way tickets out of Manchester to desperate rough-sleepers. This does not represent the society that I want to see and it does not take the fears and burdens of my generation into account for a second.

Perhaps that is your answer in the simplest terms. I have been denied a voice on my own future up until now; those who have had a say on my future have been completely inept in dealing and so I simply want to get someone who not only empathises with, but lives with the concerns of the forgotten generation. So that we not only have a voice at the ballot box, but in the actual decision making process. Ironically for a Liberal Democrat candidate, I want to take back control of my own future.

I know that the future of my generation is more secure if the council has a functioning opposition that will subject its decisions to scrutiny and insist on the transparency expected from a democratic representative body. I know that the future of my generation will be safer if we are able to transition onto the housing ladder with the aim of buying our own home, which is sadly a reality slipping away in Manchester City Centre. Finally, while I respect the referendum result, it does not change my belief that my future will have far more opportunities if Britain remains a member of the European Union and I will continue to convince people to change their minds.

This is possibly the most important council election that Manchester has ever faced. I’m sure you’ll be bored of reading this word by the end of the article but do not forget that when you cast your ballot on May the 3rd, you are making your voice heard for the future.

George Rice
Liberal Democrat campaigner and Candidate for Deansgate Ward

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