Conservative Conference 2

At the recent Conservative Party Conference fringe events held at the Library of Birmingham on Tuesday 2 October, we were delighted to host a panel event on how young people can be better engaged in politics.

Demonstrating our commitment to public engagement, the event offered attendees the chance to ask questions and raise points with the panel, which comprised:

  • Jack Brereton – MP for Stoke-on-Trent
  • Anna Humphreys – POLSIS student and President of UoB Conservative Society
  • Ellis Palmer – former POLSIS student and journalist for BBC News
  • Reece Roberts – President of UoB Guild of Students
  • Dr Tim Haugton – Reader in European Politics

The panel, chaired by Dr Tim Haughton, shared their views and perspectives on a number of issues, including young people holding positions in Westminster, diversity, legal voting age and social media engagement. Recurring themes arose throughout the panel event, such as the stigma that comes with politics and certain political parties, and information about important political changes being inaccessible and jargon-heavy (i.e. Chequers).

Anna Humphreys opened the panel discussion giving her perspective on youth engagement in politics, “Three things sprung to mind when I thought about youth engagement. I thought about engagement through discussion on basis like this, on a sort of one-to-one, small group discussion. I thought about the fact that we're a social media age and how we need to use that as a tool for good, and then finally I thought about the need to perhaps remove stereotypes for young people in politics.”

Reece Roberts gave his insight on bringing teaching politics into the education system, “At a younger age, I think that there needs to be an institutional push on educating young people in politics, and not to one side or the other, but in a non-biased, non-partisan view of how they can engage in politics.”

The audience for the panel session was a wide and diverse mix of students (from both UoB School and the University), academics, party activists and members of the general public. Those present had the opportunity to ask questions to the panellists.

Answering a question from the floor as to whether young people have enough ‘worldly experience’ to have a role in Parliament, Jack Brereton MP responded, “I think youth is an advantage certainly. I would encourage more young people to be involved in our democracy because the wider variety of views that we have, the better our democracy will be, the better the quality those decisions that we make will be.”

Finally, responding to whether young people have a place in Westminster, Ellis Palmer commented, “In our Parliament, in our governing bodies and in our news organisations it's about representation, it's about having all groups represented, not just young people or old people, but all bits of the population. Fundamentally, you've got to have democratic organisations that are stocked by the people that they aim to serve.”

To close, Tim Haughton commented, “The panellists have raised a number of key issues, highlighting the importance of the medium that we use to communicate, as well as the content of the messages conveyed, but they have also addressed deeper challenges of building trust in our democratic system.”

You can watch the full panel session on YouTube.