Friday, November 26, 2010

Young people and politics

Emmanuel Akpan-Inwang is, I believe, missing the point in his three-step programme to ensure that young people are engaged in politics more effectively.

In summary, he wants....
  1. Votes at 16
  2. A better standard of education on political issues
  3. More effort from politicians to consult young people
I'd suggest that these suggestions will, in part, compound the problem and not solve it. Personally, I don't give a toss if most young people never get involved in politics - why would anyone want that? There seem to be far too many people doing that already. On the other hand, it would be very good if more people of all ages were engaged in democracy.

Democracy and politics are not the same things.

Here's my three-step programme:
  1. Politicians shift their focus from 'tell us what you want us to do' to 'describe the problem' - finding solutions is, after all, their job. And at the moment, they can't do it very well because they've only got a handful of academics, think-tanks, pressure groups and civil servants to fall back on for evidence. A good democracy involves millions of people in the provision of evidence.
  2. That we recognise that it is a very important public policy goal to research and find good practice in the facilitation of inclusive public conversations - ones that can be mined for evidence. Ones that allow us access to mild preferences as well as the barking of special interests. This will help politicians be effective at engaging with the public who are describing the problem
  3. There needs to be a political movement that understands how a good democracy works. This is a surprisingly uncontentious issue once you can step out of populist distractions. It has to be one that is politically cross-cutting. One that understands the threat from demagogic media-owners, pressure groups, 'active citizens,' the dangers of communalism, and political strategies based upon triangulation.
This is a political movement aimed at keeping political parties honest.

'That's a big ask' I hear you say? Well, last year, we had a very effective political movement that was aimed at the much bigger task of demanding that 600+ MPs do little else apart from present their receipts to the public.

What Emmanuel should be calling for is a national debate about the quality of democracy that we want.

I suppose that could included a beefed-up section of the citizenship curriculum to include this question?

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