I actually got a little bit angry today, which in itself isn’t a big deal, people get angry all the time, its healthy to experience some emotion. But it was the thing I got angry at which was bizarre. It was a question on a questionnaire, asking if i’d ever been involved with a youth council, or youth parliament. It was a reasonable question on a questionnaire asking for youth (under 30) responses to the role of town and community councils.
But youth councils and student politics are one of those things that I seem to have a great disdain for, I think it harks back to my time in university, when people were campaigning g for NUS elections I was actually campaigning for my first City Council election (I lost, it was depressing, I’m over it), and I even said it at the time, on the student Television network, that I really didn’t give a damn about student politics, because I was busy with the real thing.
And this is how I feel about youth councils, youth parliaments, funky dragon (the youth Welsh Assembly) and to a lesser extent model UN’s, it just feels like playing. The word youth or young attached to anything is almost an apology. It screams please don’t take us seriously, we’re only young. It loses all credibility, just at the title.
But that being said, I get why young people don’t feel confident putting themselves forward in what I’m going to call “real politics”, its still seen as the domain of the middle aged (and older), and to someone fresh out of their teens it can be pretty intimidating, and in a few cases pretty boring (if I live to be 1000, the only argument regarding standing orders that I want to be involved in starts “can we stop dicking about with standing orders and get on to the something important”.) I know that the you may feel that you don’t have the experience to be standing for office, but the only way to get experience is by doing, and this is why playing at some Mickey Mouse version of politics, that’s safe and doesn’t really make much of a difference, and isn’t really in any way reflective of what politics (especially local government) is really about.
Now I have to ask why the under 30’s of today are scared to seek out office? Mari Black became a member of parliament at 19, William Pitt became Prime Minister at 24, I became a councillor at 27 and I’m not the youngest member of Cwmbran Council, my wife became a borough councillor at 23 (and became Mayor at 28). So as you can see age isn’t a bar to office, and in a nutshell I feel this is my real problem with youth councils et al, its that they almost convince otherwise very clever and capable young people that, just by their existence, they are too young to stand for the “real” political posts out there.