After Cardiff, Manchester and Edinburgh, i is in Leeds today to host our next iDebate.
“Young people shouldn’t bother voting in May because politicians have given up on them” – that’s the motion. A capacity crowd of 300 will get the chance to question our panel: Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Education Minister Sam Gyimah, Shadow Communities Secretary Hilary Benn, local Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West Greg Mulholland, and the Editor of The Independent on Sunday, Lisa Markwell. Our venue is Opera North’s Howard Assembly Room. i’s Whitehall Editor Oliver Wright will chair festivities and I’ll hand out the vol-au-vents afterwards.
Sixty-five per cent of us voted at the last election, but that dropped to 44 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds. And even this masks a big gender discrepancy: only 39 per cent of women aged 18 to 24 voted. The gender slant at Westminster is undoubtedly a problem: 148 of our 650 MPs are women. Are politicians really waking up to this? – see over the page on 4.
Compare youth voting to Britain’s over-55s: three in every four over-55s cast a ballot in May 2010, which is why their voices are heard in Westminster.
Three million young voters still haven’t decided which party to back, according to a recent poll. Their main concerns? Jobs, affordable housing, the cost of higher education, raising the minimum wage ...rather than immigration, the environment or the EU. Cheeringly, the vast majority (77 per cent) intend to vote. Any party serious about being in power in 10 or 15 years’ time needs to start talking to them. Perhaps tonight’s iDebate will give us a taste of where those 3 million votes will go.
Reader Paul Hooper, of Narrowboat Jasper on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, writes: “My Dear Mother, Madge Hooper, of Herefordshire, will reach her 100 birthday on 11 February.
I wonder whether you may will it that she has a birthday mention in your edition on that day?” Delighted to oblige. Happy birthday Madge.