Leeds’ Howard Assembly Rooms played host to the Independent’s iDebate posing the question: “Young people should not bother voting in May because politicians have given up on them”.
The panellists for the event included Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party; Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West; Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central; Sam Gyimah, education minister and parliamentary secretary at the cabinet office; Lisa Markwell, editor of The Independent on Sunday; and the chair of the debate was i Whitehall editor, Oliver Wright.
The panellists were tasked with getting to grips with the problem of why so many young people are not exercising their right to vote with only 44% of 18-24 year olds turning out at the 2010 general election.
The debate began with each panellist introducing themselves and addressing the overall topic of the debate. Most notably, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, introduced herself whilst delivering an apology for “the state her age group has left the world in”.
Lisa Markwell made the the point that voting is not the same as being politically engaged, sparking a debate as to whether schools and colleges are currently doing enough to educate young people on politics and voting. Other topics touched on included EU membership and the presence of minorities and women in politics, whilst further pushing Russell Brand into the limelight by discussing his radical view on why people should not bother voting in elections.
After the debate, LeedsHacks reporter Elliot Ryder spoke to Labour MP Hilary Benn, who encouraged young people to get involved. “On polling day, any young person has the same power as David Cameron,” he said. Pressed on the low turnout in his own constituency at the last election, Mr Benn urged people to turn out to vote in order to get the so-called bedroom tax scrapped. “Now that’s a direct connection between your vote and change for them for the better,” he said.