Three vtalent volunteers went as young reporters to the high-profile Young Citizens’ Panel Debate on Politics, Economics and Citizenship organised by the Institute for Citizenship held at the Manchester Opera House on the 4th of February. Approximately 1,600 young people attended what was supposed to be the largest deliberative democracy event for young people outside London.
Several young people got the chance to quiz Dawn Butler MP (Minster for young Citizens and Youth Engagement), Baroness Warsi (Shadow Minister Community Cohesion and Social Action), Alvin Hall (TV Financial Guru), Neville Richardson (CEO, Co-operative Financial Services), and Geoff Thompson MBE (Five time karate World Champion and Executive Chairman, Youth Charter) on youth issues.
This was also an opportunity for the Institute of Citizenship to conduct a sub-regional survey of young people in the North West on whether they would like the voting age to be lowered to 16. In the end, approximately 66% of young people in the audience voted that they would vote in the upcoming general election this year. The vtalent young reporters were given exclusive back stage access and they also had the chance to interview a number of the panellists including Dawn Butler MP.
When asked whether votes should be lowered to the age of 16 after the PM Gordon Brown came out in favour for the policy, Butler replied, “I think young people all over the country deserve to have the debate on whether they feel that the voting age should be lowered to 16. I actually agree with the Prime Minster, that we will eventually get to a place, I think, where everyone will agree, but at the moment it is quite ambiguous….We need a really good comprehensive citizenship education in schools. We need to get that right first….When we get that right I think naturally [young] people would say, “Yes, I know enough! I would like to have my right to vote at 16!”
Dawn Butler MP was also at the event to launch a new website on Youth Citizenship called 'Joinin' - http://www.direct.gov.uk/joinin . Although the venue was not entirely conducive for a completely focused atmosphere, the young reporters realised that the event was important as it gave young people the chance to be heard and to engage in politics.