Student Series Part 1: Teaching Tomorrow’s Citizens to Campaign for Change

Ahead of the General Election in June, young Labour members and supporters from Romford, Hornchurch, Upminster, Dagenham and Rainham give their views on campaign activities and why they think young people should be more active in politics. Here’s what they had to share…


Princess Elizabeth Bright, 21, Young Leader of Havering (2013-16), Young Labour Member Dagenham and Rainham CLP.

Why did you decide to get involved in student politics?

I joined the labour party at the age of 15, over 6 years ago but I would say my initial involvement began at the age of 11 when I was given the role of Official Consort and my mum elected as Civic Mayor of Hackney. Prior to that at the tender age of 8 when my mum became a councillor in 2002, I helped her and her colleagues’ campaigns during the local election in Haggerston Ward. I used to enjoy this and I remember Mayor Jules Pipe calling me ‘Our young Councillor’ as I was very active in helping to distribute leaflets. This led me to study Government and Politics at A Level, I took this interest in politics further by running for Young Leader of Havering Borough to which I sat in the office for over 3 years. In this role, I was responsible for putting the wants and needs of young people to the politicians and decision-makers. It is a privilege to represent all the young people in the borough ensuring that the decision-makers listened to the views of the younger generation. The role also involved advising Havering councillors on the issues affecting young people, attending ceremonial events, Charing the youth council meetings, developing Policies and Ideas and working with organisations to improve the lives of young people living, working and studying in Havering.

What do you think of young people’s lack of interest in politics?

Young people are disinterested in politics because they see it as boring, old-fashioned and of no relevance to their lives. However, young people only have this mindset because they aren’t being taught about the importance of voting or the electoral process. There needs to be increased conferences and formations of political youth groups raising awareness of political issues and how it affects the youth. Moreover, it should be compulsory for schools to teach pupils about the political system. If these things are put into place successfully, there will be an increase in voter’s turnout and decrease in voter’s apathy and voters fatigue.

Why do you think young people should be at the forefront of campaigning?

I believe young people should be at the forefront of political campaigns because we are the generation of future leaders. Policies regarding education will hit us the most – we must stand for our cause and get our voices heard in Parliament. Additionally, young people getting involved in politics can tackle social problems such as antisocial behaviour and gang-related crimes as we will be hearing straight from the horse’s mouth. Therefore, political participation is beneficial in moulding us into better law abiding citizens.

Why Labour?

I am a strong member of the Labour Party because they have implemented policies on education and the NHS such as reducing tuition fees and ensuring health care doesn’t become privatised. They are a party for the many, not the few. They also propose building more affordable homes and introducing tax cuts for those earning less. Furthermore, the notable party has strong community values and stands for social justice and a meritocratic society. Infect I believe so strongly about Labour that since Theresa May has called the snap election, I have been campaigning tirelessly (whilst encouraging others to do the same) in Dagenham and Rainham for people to vote for the Labour Party.

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Christianah Babajide, 20, a student from London, studying the LLB at The City Law School. She has a passion for writing with a keen interest in Politics and Current Affairs.

Why did you decide to get involved in student politics?

CB: Politics is built on shifting sands and, for me, this is part of the appeal. My journey towards becoming someone who is politically involved and interested in current affairs started in year 12 at sixth form when I picked Government and Politics and History for A-Levels. These two core subjects educated me on democracy, participation and the hardship African-American and women endured to achieve equal voting rights and the right to vote. Citizenship education was a catalyst for my interest in Politics; it suddenly dawned on me I couldn’t afford to waste my vote, especially knowing citizens living in third-world countries didn’t have the privilege to vote. From then on, I started reading The Economist, The Times and blogging on different platforms about domestic and international politics with coverage and analysis on elections, policy changes and governances with the aim to inform students of the political climate. Writing soon became my unique way of voicing and sharing my opinions on contemporary issues. In addition to blogging, I also joined Labour’s political party in 2012, got involved in local campaigning, participated in debating competitions discussing controversial topics and threw myself into the deep end. I had fun and made some new friends, politics teaches you so much.

What do you think of young people’s lack of interest in politics?

CB: It is statistically true that young people are less likely to vote in electoral elections. However, they aren’t necessarily apathetic about politics, they just need a helping hand from society. I am a big believer in higher education institutions, schools, colleges and academies preparing the citizens of the future through citizenship education. This form of education is part of the answer to equip young people of today with the ability to debate, deliberate, to question, critique and understand the differences in their communities. Some young people suffer from voter’s apathy and have adopted a laissez-faire approach to politics engagement. Moreover, one way to renovate how we approach young people is by moving away from the idea that voting in elections is the only way that warrants political participation; students should be given practical forums, platforms and opportunities to not only voice their views in society but to also to listen to people with something to say about British politics. This can be done by offering young people a whole variety of democratic and participated experience such as youth campaigning, blogging about current affairs, electing Student Councillors, holding debating sessions at colleges/university or an invite on a day trip to Westminster to meet MPS and talk to them about pressing issues such as rising tuition fees; these kinds of opportunities will inevitably appeal to young people and increase political awareness. It’s important to build a multitude of participation and opportunities and present a variety of ways for young people to become politically engaged.

Why do you think young people should be at the forefront of campaigning?

CB: Over the past few weeks, ahead of the snap election, I’ve been involved in door-to-door and leaflet handling campaigning for MP Jon Cruddas, in my local area Dagenham and Rainham. Most of the volunteers are in their mid-30s or elderly, it would be inspiring to have people of my age get involved and take a vital role in political campaigns, create a collective voice and fight for a cause they are passionate about. Engaging in British politics not only teaches you things you didn’t know about your beliefs before but it also educates you on the effects of direct democracy on citizens. By being at the forefront of campaigning, young people can be able to understand public policy, the structure of the political sphere which subsequently aids them to make a well-informed decision on the 8th of June. Additionally, for those interested in working with policy, law, government, foreign service, or any government-related field, volunteering for a political party is an excellent way to get hands-on experience and introduce yourself to the undercurrents of the politics that run the country.

HYL: Why Labour?

CB: As a strong advocate of equality and social justice, it didn’t take me long to find out which political party resonates with my equalitarian beliefs. Like I said I joined the Labour political party in 2012 because of its authentic British values; the party stands for everybody, not just the privileged few. It also helps that they care about creating opportunities for all young people and aiming to cut the tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 by restricting tax relief on pension contributions for the highest earners.  Labour’s education policy wants to ensure the education budget is protected and introduce better qualifications standards for technical professions with employer support. Their long-term goal is to ensure more young people are equipped with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) attributes to prepare them for the future economy.

Thanks to Princess and Christianah for organising the series and for their contributions!