West Midlands Mayor: Why young people matter in politics too
All too often young people are left out of the political loop, with issues directly affecting them rarely top of the campaign agenda. On the eve of the West Midlands Mayor election, Nathan Coyle, the founder of youth digital democracy project Civify, explains why it is vital that we get more young people involved in politics.
Tomorrow we go to the polls to elect the very first West Midlands Mayor, but will young people bother to vote, bearing in mind the low turnouts in previous elections and an almost non-existent presence in the local elections?
It is no secret that young people can be hard to mobilise in regards to getting them to the polls, so it's no surprise that youth issues are rarely top of the agenda when it comes to election pledges.
However, the West Midlands is one of the youngest areas in Europe, and Birmingham officially calls itself the continent's youngest city.
So you would expect youth issues to be front and centre of the mayoral campaign, right?
Well, not exactly.
While searching the early campaign pledges we noticed the conversation surrounding youth issues in the area was incredibly light, so a group of volunteers launched into action by creating the #WMelects17 campaign.
The aim was to ask questions compiled by young people for young people.
It is high time young people started to become influencers in the political world and shake the tag of apathy.
But if we want the youth to be more inclined to vote, we need to think of ways to encourage civic participation.
That's where the young person's digital democracy project Civify comes in.
As part of the project, volunteers Hannah Jones and Connor Hill interviewed all of the West Midlands Mayoral candidates bar Andy Street, who unfortunately could not find the time to participate.
Questions were compiled by volunteers on the project and other young people, who sent in their questions via a social media campaign.
We focused on two key issues: jobs and making sure young peoples voices are heard.
For our interviewers, creating high value jobs is not enough, and it is important to keep our talent in the region.
Lib Dem candidate Beverley Nielsen thought research via our universities to link market opportunities towards new innovation was the way forward.
Labour's Sion Simon touched on learning from the successful businesses in the area such as Jaguar Land Rover and Severn Trent to push out that knowledge across the region.
UKIP's Pete Durnell said building on our innovation base was the key, while Communist Graham Stevenson said we should invest in agriculture and public services to create jobs.
The Green Party's James Burn wants to improve the sense of entrepreneurialism in the region and encourage the strength of knowing our local culture to boost pride.
The candidates answers can be viewed here:
Making sure that youth issues are fairly represented in high office is a difficult task unless you are constantly talking to the youth demographic, so we wanted to know what measures candidates would put in place to make sure young people are heard.
Ms Nielsen said youth insight could transform the economy. She said she'd take measures to keep people in the region.
Mr Simon confirmed he'd like to look into the prospect of having a young person representative sitting on the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) board.
Mr Durnell said constant engagement with people would be a high priority, while Mr Stevenson said he would establish a youth parliament in every borough with formal powers.
Mr Burn acknowledged that young voices are not currently heard and said that the WMCA board needs to be more reflective of the people it represents.
View the interviews here:
Whoever is elected this week, it is important that young people are forcing themselves into the political equation by not being afraid to hold our elected officials to account.
We need more youth initiatives that challenge civic participation.
Civify is a volunteer-led project that looks to encourage more young people to get involved in politics by giving them a platform to campaign on issues they care about.
By Nathan Coyle, founder of Civify and director of New Union