Get up, stand up: National Youth Debate aims to engage young Manchester voters

Young people are being urged to quiz Manchester’s election candidates during a series of political debates at the People’s History Museum tomorrow.

Youth leadership charity UpRising, whose patrons include all three party leaders, are hosting a National Youth Debate across the country exactly six weeks before the General Election with the aim of encouraging 16-25 year-olds to vote.

Voter registration among young people has fallen significantly since new electoral rules were introduced last year and with three million young people undecided who they will vote for, their voice has the power to dramatically influence who are the winners and losers come May.

Alice Memminger, CEO of UpRising, explained that the debate would help engage young people in politics and encourage them to vote.

“Knowing all the statistics around young people and ethnic minorities being disproportionately less likely to vote we took it upon ourselves to organise this,” she said.  

“As an innovative youth charity we felt as though it was our duty to create this opportunity for young people across the UK to get engaged with politics, to have their questions answered and to be empowered to go out and have their vote counted come the general election.”

MANCHESTER POLITICAL HEAVYWEIGHTS: Among those taking part in tomorrow’s debate are Pirate Party Leader Loz Kaye, Labour MP Lucy Powell and UKIP candidate Myles Power (© Pirate Party/BBC/Myles Power, with thanks)

Local election candidates involved in the debate will include Labour MP Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Conservative candidate Robert Manning (Withington) and Green candidate Laura Bannister (Gorton).

It will be chaired by Andrew Russell, Manchester University’s Head of Politics, and will include other Mancunian political figures such as Liberal Democrats Cllr Jane Brophy (Trafford), UKIP candidate Myles Power (Manchester Central) and Pirate Party leader Loz Kaye (Manchester Central candidate).

The event will feature an interactive app to gather ‘live’ voting statistics on what party the young audience are likely to vote for, following on from what they hear from the politicians during the debate.

Debate participant MP Powell was keen to stress the importance of getting young voters involved in what she thinks will be a very close election.

She told MM: “This is a very important election and it will be a very close one too. Young people have been very badly affected by this government’s cuts whether that’s the trebling of tuition fees, the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance or the difficulty in finding a job or a decent apprenticeship.

“I’m pleased to get the chance to take part in the debate to explain Labour’s better plan for the future for young people.

“Making sure the next generation can do better than the last is one of our key election pledges. We will reduce tuition fees to £6000 and guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades.

“Young people have traditionally had lower levels of engagement and turnout at elections so I’m really pleased that Uprising have arranged this debate and I look forward to listening to and speaking with the young people.”

‘BE EMPOWERED’: ‘Innovative youth charity’ UpRising regularly hold high profile events, such as this ‘Democracy Cafe’ in the Commons last year (©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor, with thanks)

Discussions will occur simultaneously in 11 towns and cities across the UK as part of The National Youth Debate, with young people pitching the questions based around four key themes: economy, employment, education and health.

UpRising says that this demonstrates that the youth vote cannot be underestimated.

A spokesman said: “Every day we deal with young people hugely passionate about changing society for the better, and these young people understand that politics plays a big part in that.”

The event is part of the UpRising ‘My Voice My Vote’ programme which gets young people eligible to vote for the first time in May engaged in the democratic process.

‘My Voice My Vote’ has been running across the UK over the last year and teaches young people how to effectively campaign about the issues they care about most. In Greater Manchester 120 young people have graduated from the programme.

The National Youth Debate will take place between 6-8pm at the People’s History Museum. More information can be found here.

Image courtesy of UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor, with thanks

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