A group of young Labour councillors from across Greater Manchester are determined to make their voices heard in the EU referendum debate.
The British public will be faced with perhaps the biggest political choice of their lives on June 23, when an Out vote could change the landscape of Europe irrevocably.
And nine councillors from across the county have started a campaign group in favour of voting In, while stating that the opinions of younger generations are not being heeded.
Rochdale Councillor John Blundell told MM that the ‘older men’ directing the debate do not reflect the opinions of all, and insisted that his generation must make their voices heard.
“There are a few young people who are intensely involved, but the majority of younger people are switched off by this campaign,” he said
“That is mainly because of who is central to the debate.
— Cllr John Blundell (@johnblundell993) 5 March 2016
“The debate so far is totally dominated by older men who are not representative of the country as a whole.
“Young people should have a say on their country’s future and their voice must be heard. It is up to people in my generation to encourage people of my generation, I strongly believe this.
“We can’t leave this up to the politicians today, we have to be involved ourselves.”
The challenge of involving young people in politics has long been a pressing issue, although engagement with university students aided the Green Party’s relative success in the 2015 General Election.
And Cllr Blundell said that it was up to him and his colleagues, who are already engaged in the political system, to lead the way and rouse interest among his peers.
“If young people are not involved in politics on a general level how can we expect them to get involved in a campaign such as this?” he said.
“Many people involved in the EU don’t understand its inner workings – how can we expect them to make an informed decision whether to stay in or out.
“That is why we need fresh new policies in every day politics, but it is for us who are involved to invigorate the argument, to help involve young people and find out.”
The campaign group is sure to hold significant influence, with Cllr Blundell joined by fellow Rochdale councillors Liam O’Rourke and Danny Meredith, Bury’s Tamoor Tariq, Jamie Walker and Eamonn O’Brien, Bury, Manchester’s Rebecca Moore and Tameside’s Leigh Drennan and Oliver Ryan.
And Cllr Blundell – who described himself as a ‘proud Englishman and a proud European’ – explained why they were determined to keep Britain in the EU.
“Think of the positive influences the EU has had on our culture, society and economy,” he said.
“All of this could be lost for the rest of my life.
“Young people when entering the jobs market don’t have the same bargaining chips as somebody with experience, that is why we are paid less.
Great day with the Greater Manchester Young Cllr’s Network. Good to finish off with a Curry in Heywood! pic.twitter.com/yy85O3h1mG
— Cllr Tamoor Tariq (@TamoorT) 23 January 2016
“Despite this we still enjoy 4 weeks holiday, paternity and maternity pay all ensured by the European Union.
“It ensures a minimum across the board.
“Taking that minimum away will have a greater impact on the young than it will on people with greater say in the work place.
“Also, the Out campaign want to restrict the culture and the movement of young people around the EU, but I enjoy meeting new people, new cultures and my cheap package holidays to Ibiza.”
Early polls have the Vote In campaign leading, but the margin is not as big as had been predicted when a referendum was first announced, and political heavyweights such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have shown support for an exit.
Cllr Blundell explained how younger people can influence the outcome of the referendum.
“The other day I was talking to the Vicar at my local church where I hold my surgery,” he said.
“He was undecided but he said ‘I will be voting for what is best for my grand children and children’.
“If we can encourage people of our age to encourage their parents to vote with them on the basis that staying in the EU is what is best for us, it may tip the balance in our favour.
“Your child’s future is a powerful argument.”