|FACING THE AUDIENCE: The Any Questions? panel in North Solihull|
POLITICIANS won’t dare to ignore young people in future, veteran MP Diane Abbott has told an audience in Chelmsley Wood.
The Shadow Home Secretary, appearing on Radio 4’s Any Questions?, hailed the surge in the number of 18 to 34-year-olds who voted in the General Election.
The long-running political panel show was broadcast from the WMG Academy for Young Engineers exactly 12 months on from the EU referendum.
Apart from Ms Abbott, the panel was made up of the Conservatives’ Andy Street, recently elected West Midlands’ Mayor, the musician and activist Jamie MacColl and Darren Grimes, deputy editor of the website BrexitCentral.
Given the venue, it was fitting that many of the questions related to issues which will have a direct impact on young people.
There was a scattering of teenagers and quite a sizeable number of people under 30 in the audience, although when chairman Jonathan Dimbleby took his seat he joked that he had just nudged up the average age of those gathered.
After discussing the rights and wrongs of tuition fees and what effect Britain’s departure from the EU might have on the nation’s young people, the panel considered why an age group which has tended to be disengaged from politics recently turned out to vote in force.
“Labour got 40 per cent of the vote and nobody expected us to do that and that was largely because of the increased numbers of young people that came out,” said Ms Abbott, who is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest political allies.
“Obviously [I think this was] terrific, I’m glad they voted for Labour – although they might not necessarily do so in the future – but I will say this, the fact that young people came out in such numbers in 2017...means that politicians won’t be able to take them for granted again.”
Mr Street acknowledged that social media had played a big part in the shifting electoral landscape.
“Every industry has been changed by this, why should politics be any different,” said the former John Lewis boss. “Online is going to become the dominant means of communication.”
Mr MacColl, a member of the band Bombay Bicycle Club, suggested that last summer’s referendum result was a “defining” moment for young people and politics and he expected the turn-out to continue to rise.
“Young people are a legitimate constituency and every party is going to have to offer something in their policy platform now [which] is going to be very significant.”