Should 16 Year-Olds Get the Vote?

Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?

The issue of who should be able to vote is as old as democracy itself. As the House of Commons gears up to decide whether 16-year-olds should get the franchise, Dermot Neligan shares his thoughts

Like so many generations before, Britain’s youth face the blanket vilification that suggests a Jeremy Kyle culture really is the norm. Today, MPs will vote to decide a hotly contested issue: whether to include 16 and 17-year-olds as part of the British electorate.

The very idea of giving sixteen year olds the vote is not actually all that controversial, nor very innovative. For, unknown to many, young people of this age can already vote in general elections right here in the UK (albeit only on the Isle Of Man or Isles of Scilly). Too, in the fast approaching referendum for whether Scotland should remain part of the UK, it has already been decided that sixteen and seventeen year olds will be able to vote – and thus possibly decide the fate of a ‘nation’. Surely it follows that they should, too, be trusted with a vote in parliamentary elections? Any pedantic argument that young people are more likely to vote for a particular party are unfounded, for IPSOS Mori data explicitly shows that in the last general election, the vote share of the main parties was almost exactly equal at 30% each in the closest age group (18-24) –  so no party stands to lose votes.

Further, the untainted, and often as yet unaligned political outlooks of young people can only be of benefit to our democracy if they were to get the vote. For, unlike the vast swathes of British citizens who hold lifelong party affiliations, sixteen and seventeen-year- olds are much more likely to have unformed political views, and thus the specific policies of the party’s vying for their vote, will be crucial in deciding who gets it. What will this mean? Party’s adapting their manifestos, so that they may appeal not only to the needs of young people, but also to the greater long term benefit of society – for it is they who’ll be living in our society in fifty years’ time, not the politicians. Gone will be the days, when the major parties can afford to rest on their laurels – instead they’ll be compelled to ‘woo’ a group often defined by their optimism and idealism.

Finally, the often employed arguments that having a social grouping who can: already start a family and/or get married, pay national insurance and join the army etc. but not be able to vote, as being wholly undemocratic – still holds true. Yet more than that, surely our MPs have a moral duty to pioneer progressive politics – through extending the ‘franchise’ (the vote), to a group who are on the cusp of careers, that will see some of them become the leaders of tomorrow? The gift of the vote may yet reverse the tide of youth disengagement, and pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive democracy, where future generations feel more involved in the society they stand to soon inherit.

Dermot was writing for Live Magazine UK – a youth publication based in Brixton

Social Media: The Next Battleground in Democratic Debate?

As a nation, we stand on the cusp of conflict. A conflict mercifully not physical, but a conflict ideological, and the battlelines are decidedly unclear. The enemy is not immediately obvious, yet the stakes could not be higher. For, we have surely now reached a crossroads – where as a nation we must address the role of social media within the framework of our national democracy.

The preponderance of social media within our every –day lives is truly stunning. The technological age we live in is defined by rapid developments in the way we as a society function and interact. Platforms for free speech and dialogue, such as Twitter are only very recent phenomena – (it was only launched in July 2006, but now sees over three hundred and forty million tweets a day.)

Such online forums have also directly facilitated the spread of democracy worldwide – surely a commendable feat, with the Arab Spring being an example of how it can not only aid in the spread of an ideology, but also it can serve to unify and organise the populace against an unjust regime. The combustible nature of a rapid spread of information, has no doubt led, and will lead again, to the corrupt regimes of nations, being torn asunder by a new generation, mobilised online. But then again, it can also serve as a platform to co-ordinate unjustified wanton violence , with ‘BBM’( a mobile based instant messaging service) arguably directly facilitating the infamous London Riots of summer 2011.

Did social media facilitate the destruction wrought on London in the infamous 2011 riots?

Did social media facilitate the destruction wrought on London in the infamous 2011 riots?

Here in the UK, the almost complete lack of censorship or government control over such platforms and the content put onto it, is for many, reassuring. Our nation has a proud history of political freedom, and in times of adversity we never fail to remind ourselves of our ‘superiority’ over other countries, by virtue of our tradition of a free press, and civil liberties. Surely then, social media is a tool for the freedom of speech that so underpins a democracy such as ours, giving the common man or woman a platform to profess their views? Equally, moving into the 21st century, can it not provide a model of what freedom of speech and democracy might look like in a technological, modern world? Well, not necessarily.

In July 2011, Lord Leveson was charged with ‘looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the Press, but after over a year of grilling leading figures, from celebrities to politicians, one can’t help but feel he overlooked something really important in social media. Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s empire took a timely bashing down to size, and yes the victims of his corporations’ malpractices were justly given a platform to speak out. Lord Leveson even issued proposed new press law that one hopes can go some way toward cleaning up the corruption inherent at the top of this country’s media…

However, the rise of the Twitterati might yet pose a threat to the success and longevity of any reform that does eventually get through, for every single day individuals continue to be able to utilize social media, ungagged by government, and thus essentially ‘above the law’. Could it be then, that while big media businesses (like News International) are now compelled to uphold basic ethics, i.e. restraining from impeding on people’s right to privacy through not hacking or harassing them -individuals relatively untraceable might continue to be guilty of abhorrent ‘journalism’? Will legal support be given to those defamed on the net?

Granted, there are already indications of progress, for in recent months there have been signs that the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003 might be re-assessed by lawmakers, so as to provide a clear framework from which courts can proceed. However, the point still remains that in an age where big media corporations are joined by a plethora of other small time bloggers, the standards of journalism expected by big corporations may be logistically difficult to uphold across the board.

The failure then, of the coalition government to adequately discuss the issue at hand, only serves to illustrate how ‘out of touch’ it really is. Instead of discussing the role of social media, the Tories have pursued an aggressive, totalitarian ‘Communications Data Bill’, that would see internet providers keep records of all their customers’ online activity for 12 months. One hopes the Tories will finally see where their priorities should lie – for all our sakes.

A young generation of tech-savvy Tweeters now rely on their elders to establish a basic code of conduct, that’ll strike a fine balance between protecting freedom of speech and the individuals’ privacy – not a blanket infringement of our civil liberties. Society has to therefore have a real discussion about the role of social media, for otherwise the malpractices will go on, and Twitter will continue to be regularly hijacked as a means for evils such as racial abuse and slander.

US Election: Review of the Past 7 Days – Bedtime Stories Grab the Lamplight

Genuinely not bothered about the American election at the moment? Well, in Samuel L Jackson’s words, ‘Wake the fu*k up!’

The past week has been perhaps one of the most humorous weeks that you’ll manage in politics -period. In between Mitt Romney bemoaning the lack of open-able windows on a plane, and Iran state media re-publishing a hoax US poll which had their eccentric President Ahmadinejad as being streets ahead of Obama in popularity amongst white rural farmers, team Obama was ratcheting up the pressure in the battle of the campaign videos.

In perhaps one of the most bizarre political videos  of our time, Samuel L Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Die Hard, Ironman etc.) tells an f-bomb littered bedtime story, with Shakespearean  precision in both rhyme and verse, telling an American family of the importance of resisting Romney. Yes, the acting may be a little naff, and the criticisms of Romney hardly unsubtle, but on a serious note, the video is successful in highlighting what matters: the pluses of Obama to different demographics (e.g. the parents, the student, the elderly).

Romney camp response? A pretty crude mocking of the famous Obama ‘Yes we can’ speech, with a host of young American’s retorting ‘No, I can’t’, in light of their continued unemployment four years after Obama’s election, despite the early fanfare and optimism. Verdict: unimaginative – much like some of their manifesto.

That aside- despite Obama’s ad-vantage, he’s still got one hell of a battle ahead of him… On Wednesday he was speaking at the United Nations, where he gave a passionate speech on a number of issues, with his typical fine oratory and wealth of clichés, that so define a US president. Regarding the current greatest threat to world peace – the hot potato that is Iran – his words were stinging, yet Mr Obama’s apparent distancing of himself of late, from the Israeli premiership, is significant.

Finally, closer to home (sort of), a certain David Cameron made his US chat show sofa debut, the very same day. Following in the footsteps of his US counterpart who had charmed his way through the Letterman show just a week earlier, our PM battled in vain to replicate such panache, and to be fair he was more Boris Johnson (charismatic and funny) than Ken Livingstone (relatively dull). His undoing? Not being able to answer the host David Letterman’s questions on British history. Admittedly though, it wasn’t all that embarrassing given that no other Briton knew the answers either, without  first googling it.

Latest Polls? Obama 48%, Romney 45%

Your One Stop For Keeping Updated On The US Elections!

Oops. Forgot to post the link a few days ago when it was published, but here’s my take on the recent goings on in the ‘Race for the White House’….

http://www.live-magazine.co.uk/2012/09/us-elections-why-romney-got-it-wrong-on-innocence-of-muslims/

 

Politcslondon Goes Global: Race to the White House Part 1

With the American Elections ever closer, I will be chronicling the race for the presidency over at the Live Magazine website. First installment? My take on last weeks Republican Convention down in Tampa.

Coming soon: all you need to know on the goings on at the Democratic Party equivalent!

http://www.live-magazine.co.uk/2012/09/race-for-the-white-house-part-one/

The Problem With Social Media

 

Prince Harry on hearing his gran had seen the Vegas pics…

 

 

In an age characterised by the preponderance of social media, our generation is perhaps the guinea pig of the social craze that consists of universal disclosure of our every move. To our parents, this public displaying of often sensitive information, is often unnerving, bringing in to play issues such as those of safety, but also fundamental moral principles such as that of civil liberties and right to privacy, which are commonly perceived as being directly undermined by social networking sites.

Facebook and Twitter encourage us to constantly update our latest thoughts, feelings, actions, and locations.  Facebook’s new and compulsory ‘Timeline’ setting literally charts our lives on a webpage, for all to see. Inevitably, peer pressures compel many of us to try in vain to make our lives often appear somehow more interesting. Did Mark Zuckerberg really comprehend just how far self-conscious teens would go, and the extent of the time they would spend (latest figures suggest the average teenager spends upwards of 25 hours a week on the site), trying to somehow enhance their public image?

But what is the point of it all? Why are we spending so much of our teenage years trying to ‘improve’ how we as individuals appear to our peers? Surely it’s unfair how we should feel the constant urge to try and boost our profile, and make ourselves ‘more interesting’?  What characterises a popular persons Facebook profile anyway, and why?

Moral consternation aside, there is a more literal, and just as harmful side to this social media- centric society we grow up in: its ability to graphically portray our every misdemeanour, particularly if you’re rich…  Just ask Prince Harry.

Over the past week, the ‘story’ of this certain Prince’s fecklessness, and more precisely, the (literal) laying bare of his such misdemeanours, have featured prominently in our nations media.  Hapless Harry’s Vegas exploits were of course only made available in the public domain by virtue of the web, where the incriminating pictures were originally circulated.

Yes, it must be admitted, that in this particular case it was not social media sites that explicitly ensured an awkward hangover for our heir to the throne. It was instead one of his own party who took, and then sold the image in order to make a quick buck.

Nonetheless, it was social networking sites such as Twitter, which foster our obsession with celebrity, that facilitated the story in spreading so swiftly across the Atlantic, via all things Prince Harry trending. Similarly, sites such as Twitter and Facebook may also be sited as directly responsible for the equally unpleasant spreading of X Factor judge’s Tulisa’s sex tape hell.

So, with our every overindulgence or past demons threatened to be exposed at the click of a mouse, one may be forgiven for often resenting the power of both the internet and social media. Yes, the average young man’s drunken hotel room antics would not usually make headlines, but the precedent of unwelcome publication of personal embarrassments, often outside of our control, is one that many of us must prepare to face. Social media it would seem, whilst being a tool that can serve to bring us together, can also be used as a callous weapon to shame.

Indeed, they can often threaten to challenge democratic values such as that of a right to personal privacy. Any move however, to limit its dominance and one’s right to free press and freedom of expression, may threaten to be just as damaging to our core democratic values. The choice faced may be simplistically broken down: should we employ some degree of censorship, or if not, surely we risk the laying bare of your every move and mistake?

Well Done London!

What a show….London, take a bow!

For, cynicism aside – the last two weeks have been pretty amazing. London, and indeed the wider United Kingdom, has reminded the world, and more importantly itself, that it can still host a party like the best of them. No it wasn’t cheap, but then with our nation in the doldrums of economic uncertainty for the past few years, and the media dominated with dreary negative economic updates for  a seeming eternity, perhaps the British public were due a two week ‘blow out’.

The amount of enthusiasm, from first-hand experience, was truly awe-inspiring. The feel good factor was high. And, after a sluggish start, once the medals started flowing freely, (day 5?!), the optimism was infectious. Indeed, with Team GB’s medal records not merely smashed, but pulverised, the rallying support which saw a bedraggled public unite in raucous support for the cause of their fellow countrymen and women, was truly rewarded.

I’ll admit it: I was a sceptic. Tens of billions for what is effectively a two week sporting competition seemed a bit of waste of money, not least with our national debt at new dizzying heights. But then again, placed into the perspective of our taxpayer bailouts of those wretched banking institutions – which adds up to many times more than the cost of the Games – perhaps it wasn’t that much of a waste of public funds. Save a bank or have a spectacular party with the whole world invited? We picked both, and I’m a damn sight glad we did!

Like Usain Bolt in the 100 (and 200) metre sprints, the Olympics stormed to glory in seconds, truly capturing the hearts and sentiments of both a national and global audience. The question now is whether it can secure a legacy for the longer term, so that like Mo Farah, its’ success can last the distance, continuing to capture the sentiments of the people, to be rewarded with the ultimate victory.

My one regret? I never got a ticket… and I was only in London for two days of the sixteen day bonanza. For, despite being a proud Londoner, I must admit that the lure of a family holiday, booked months before my development of Olympic fever, was too much to resist. Surely it’s a sign of a great Games, if even when many hundreds of miles away, your thoughts are dominated by the festivities you left behind?

It wasn’t all bad though – I was fortunate enough to capture my own once in a lifetime experience of the Games when I joined the throngs of people at Hyde Park to take in the spectacle of the (non- ticketed) men’s triathlon. The mood of friendliness and positivity throughout the tens of thousands strong crowd was truly striking – for me capturing the essence of what the Olympics should and can be: a medium through which to unite people from all backgrounds with an optimism and mutual respect, where all other troubles (economic, political, social), can be briefly set to one side.

The sport- the true focal point of the festival- in some ways forms too the focus and excuse for which to  simply forget all other troubles – thereby it becomes the focal point through which all other issues are briefly overlooked.

Well, philosophical musings on hold for a moment…

Thanks you London and thank you Team GB! 

PoliticsLondon Goes Live – ‘Poor Us: Young People And The Economy’

Apologies for the recent inactivity over the past weeks whilst I’ve been away!

I’ve not been completely lazy though…

A few weeks ago I made my Live Magzine debut, writing about how and why young people feel so aggrieved, growing up amidst such economic uncertainty. Live Magazine is a great publication (both print and online), which serves to offer a platform for young journalists such as myself to evoke debate and conversation, across a number of different fields. Live really is ‘The Voice Of Youth’, and I hope I’ve just made that voice a little louder!

Don’t worry though, PoliticsLondon will continue to be the full time home for the latest ramblings of a certain politically vocal young Londoner.

Get reading!

http://www.live-magazine.co.uk/2012/07/poor-us-young-people-and-the-economy

…And following : @politicslondon

 

Wimbledon: The Last Bastion of Old Middle Britain?

Over the past week, we have seen the annual pilgrimage of the union jack donning middle class to the hallowed lawn tennis association of SW19, following on the tradition of generations of the well to do, who flock to the Wimbledon Lawn Championships year after year. Many see this particular ‘Grand Slam’ as one of the few last examples of great sporting heritage anywhere in the world, for what with the lush green lawns and suit clad staff amidst the environment of the leafy green south west London suburb, the two weeklong event is ‘a cut above’ the partisan dominated Euro Championships, and the surroundings are surely more aesthetic than the often cold, modern football stadia of Europe. Reflective perhaps of the quintessentially British and indeed superior and more elite, privileged character of the tournament, the crowds it attracts year after year are decidedly privileged too – as far as their finances and background are concerned.

The distinct absence of ethnic minorities, bizarrely overlooked by the otherwise often vehement politically correct shoving press, is strange. The world of Wimbledon tennis it would seem, based upon ethnic, social and economic make-up, is decidedly fixed in its ways- the crowds are largely white and middle class, with Wimbledon merely an opportunity to show off one’s status as a tennis loving individual, who has both the time and money to spend working hours spectating the elitist sport that is tennis whilst scoffing over-priced strawberry’s in a silly looking sunhat.

With less than a month to go before the Olympics, it surely must be highlighted the true contrasting ethea of the two sporting events – the taxpayer funded and east end based Olympic Games are (rightfully) inclusive and representative of modern Britain, with social inclusion and promotion of a truly united British society at the very heart of the (expensive and publically funded) extravaganza. Perhaps disappointingly however, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, for right or for wrong, appears stuck back in Victorian times in terms of its inclusion (or lack of it), of supporters from further afield than merely the snooty microcosm’s that are prevalent in this thoroughly overpriced corner of London.

Many people may resent this perhaps damning affronting to the holy grail of the summer schedule of middle England – “Why should we be ashamed of the exclusive and heritage heavy nature of this annual spectacle? Why should we apologise for the lack of social diversity within the crowd?”

A further mechanism utilised by this class of people to try and exaggerate the importance of the tournament to the greater British public, is that of a concerted media effort, as blatantly obvious in wretched publications such as the Evening Standard, whilst the constipation of the BBCs TV schedule with exhaustive coverage and commentary of it is truly exasperating. The reality is that there exists a stark apathy for this tournament in the wider public…something that not even the isolated yet vocal outbreaks of Murray mania within this enclave of south east England, can hide.

‘Morally Wrong’ – What A Tory Thing To Say…

Mr Carr On Being Informed Why The British Public Had Yet Another Reason To Hate Him

As the furore over celebrities questionable tax arrangements is bought back to the fore of public attention, one cannot help but despair. It would seem too, that the Tory government shamefully seeks to gain a boost in the polls, through talking a lot of hot air to try and look big. Dave dear, you just look like a bit of a prat- ‘morally wrong’, -Dave really pulls no punches with that line!

Quaking in his boots no doubt, Jimmy Carr has thus far maintained relatively muted – for which I can only thank our Prime Minister- as for a while at least Britain will be free from this arrogant imbecile, (and no I don’t mean Nick Clegg).  How long then till the story snowballs? Which celebrity is next to be revealed as a self-serving, penny pinching old sod? My money’s on Cliff Richard- it always is the one you least expect…

The left leaning type of guy that I am, and the left leaning slant of previous posts may lead you quite understandably, to be confused at why I am appearing to mock our PM, I mean after all he is at least trying to speak out against effective tax-evasion and thus the deprivation of funds from the state, which keep things such as the NHS going…

Well. This is why. Our valiant, tax evasion battling PM and his incompetent cronies have had prime control of our economy, and thus the malpractices within it, for over two years, and therefore they have had ample time to root out this injustice, which sees those whom we should look up too, as shamelessly protecting their own financial interests. What will be telling too, is how many Tory donors fall foul of this latest expose. The awkward phone calls to Tory Head Office as they try to desperately play down this latest scandal and clean up the party donations records before the tabloids come sniffing, would have been good listening, but it’s a shame the News Of The World isn’t around anymore I guess…

Lol.