Youth voter turnout: time to respect our youngers and support them to lead Can you feel the rumbling of a society reassessing its beliefs about the power and value of its young people…? Thursday’s election saw an incredible surge in the number of 18-24s turning up to vote – 74% according to the latest figures. It makes for a powerful awakening. But is it a surprise? Anyone who’s spent real time with young people in the last year (so not most politicians or media pundits then…) will know that the ingredients were here all along. We are the most connected generation in history, and we care deeply about the world we are inheriting: according to Deloitte 84% of millennials consider it their duty to make the world a better place. Give us respect, resources, and something hopeful – not just to believe in, but be part of – and the game is on. No matter what you think of Corbyn’s policies, it’s clear that the message of the Labour campaign – focusing on social equality and diversity – has struck a chord with a demographic that is tired of division and hungry for something hopeful. Combined with mass organising strategies focused on nurturing activists instead of passive supporters, diverse young people across the country have found a vehicle to play a pivotal role in the political process. It’s a role they should have been playing all along, and not just in a party political context. It would be great to see this as a starting point for all parties wishing to reach out directly to young people - as the huge diversity of ideas and issues they care about can’t be neatly reduced to any one party manifesto. At RECLAIM I have the privilege of working with young(er) people from working class communities around Manchester on their Team Future campaign to make politics work for young people. Though many are not even old enough to vote, they already have the lived experiences, ideas and perspectives that should enrich decisions about how our country is run. How many of today’s frontbenchers came from classrooms where up to 7 of 30 children are growing up under the poverty line? The young people I work with know they are among a minority of young people who feel that they can speak their mind. When the group surveyed 4000 young people on what they wanted from politicians, “I don’t know about that” was a common initial reaction... often quickly followed by something astute on representation, integrity and approachability. (Check out the manifesto they made off the back of their survey here.) An article in today’s Times voiced the dangerous, unspoken, and pervasive attitude that young people, in all their youthful idealism, are too naïve to contribute responsibly to democracy. But let’s be real: if political naivety is the enemy, then we have bigger fish to fry in older age groups. Would the author also condone stripping the vote away from the swathes of older voters in this country who build their political views on prejudice, a rose-tinted view of 'our glorious past' and tabloid headlines? The dark heart of the matter is that, deep down, the powers that be don’t WANT young people speaking their mind, to prop up the status quo. Young people, with few spaces to discuss politics and the world around them, feel cut out of power and have in the past responded in kind - by dismissing those who dismiss them. Democracy only works when everyone has the information, the motivation and the means to take part. The longer our schools, media, and political system fails to provide the foundations, through real critical education and meaningful inclusion in decision making, the frailer the system will grow. The amazing youth turnout on Thursday has brought us huge hope. But 74% is just the start. Team Future are out to take on the structures that stop too many young people country wide from discovering their true power as disruptive leaders and political agents. And we all stand to win from their mission.