Michael Bull is training to become a lawyer. He is the Young Professionals Officer for London Conservative Future, running London CF Young Professionals, and is Deputy Chairman of Islington Conservative Federation.
The next few weeks will see perhaps the biggest strain on the Coalition, caused of course by the AV referendum. Whether the British public vote Yes or No (and I sincerely hope they vote No!), the weeks after May 5th are bound to be full of headlines of backbench Lib Dems and/or Tories calling for heads to roll, and of potential or real ministerial resignations.
Amidst all of this then, we (and the Lib Dems) might do well to remember the primary purpose of the Coalition (that is, balancing the nation's books) and, as a member of Conservative Future, the importance of this purpose for younger generations. Very few have failed to notice that this recession has, as per usual in economically difficult times, hit those entering the job market the hardest.
In London it has been key therefore that Boris Johnson has continued to support initiatives such as The Mayor's Fund for London and Young London Working. The recent debate at the very top of British politics over social mobility also highlights the need for disadvantaged youths to get skilled up and be given the best opportunities to find meaningful careers. Part of the solution to the problem, if not most, lies in achieving greater levels of economic growth. Student riots over tuition fees serve as an ominous warning of the repercussions of failure in this area.
But whilst the Coalition must strive to get young people into work, there is also a lesser discussed need for young people to engage with politics. At London CF Young Professionals we were privileged at our launch to be spoken to by the Rt Hon David Willetts, author of The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers took their children's future – and why they should give it back. No book demonstrates more clearly why young British people should be engaging with politics.
Decisions made by the so-called “Baby Boomers” now, will shape the lives of those in their twenties and thirties dramatically, whether that be in terms of the housing that they will be able to afford, the kind of education that their children will receive, or the way in which their parents will be cared for as they age. Such are the goals of the Coalition (or at least the Conservative Party) that even the probability or possibility of getting divorced is (on average of course) set to change in the years ahead. Through sheer force of number the Baby Boomers have been the traditional deciders in these matters for some time. Surely it's now imperative for the younger generations to make the most of their say?
The chances of that happening, however, seem slim. Voting figures are dropping, and they're lowest for the young. Maybe young people have got it too good to care? Maybe young people aren't educated enough to be interested in politics? Even if student riots might occasionally suggest the latter cause, they certainly seem to dismiss the former. But can a calmer way not be found for young people to engage in politics? A social (and working) culture where people say “don't talk about politics and religion” might also be to blame. Whilst it may be true that constant banging on about politics often equates to the pub or office bore, not discussing the issues of the day to avoid causing offence does nothing to help democracy in this country. The natural upshot of this culture amongst a great number of young people is a general ignorance or disinterest in the issues of the day.
Interestingly, the recent case of Grainger plc and others v Nicholson may indicate a future end to this culture, at least in the workplace, by widening the interpretation of “belief”, for the purpose of workplace discrimination laws. In Grainger it was found that an employee had the right not to be discriminated against for being a climate change activist. Perhaps protection from discrimination in the workplace will allow people, should they want too, to talk more freely about the issues of the day at the place where they spend the most time: at work.
In the meantime, unless people in their twenties and thirties are political junkies then they seem to have very few amenable ways of getting involved in politics. This is where London CF Young Professionals seeks to step into the breach by giving young people in, or looking forward to, the world of work an occasional social atmosphere in which to talk politics or just network with people who have some kind of political interest. Whilst those at the top of politics of course bear responsibility to engage young people in the political process (and, as mentioned, London CF Young Professionals has been very well supported by those at the top of British politics), we realise that those at the bottom must do their bit as well. So at our next event, on 11th May, hopefully we'll be raising a glass not just to keeping a traditional voting system, but to more young voters as well.
London CF Young Professionals are hosting a post-AV Referendum Drinks Party at the RAC Club on Wednesday 11th May with guest speaker the Rt Hon Nick Herbert, Minister for Police and Criminal Justice. For further information and tickets, click here.