“Young people do have political power “, says National Youth Agency head

Don Stewart, the new Chair of the National Youth Agency, says George Galloway’s by-election victory shows young people do have political power and will not be afraid to use it in Birmingham on 3 May, so what are politicians offering young people?

Don Stewart, the new Chair of the National Youth Agency

Don Stewart, the new Chair of the National Youth Agency

I woke up the other day to find that the world has changed.

As a constituent of Bradford West, I am now represented in Parliament by George Galloway MP. What was supposed to be a safe Labour seat had fallen to an old political warrior. Time will tell what it really all means but some things are immediately obvious.

A lot of young people many of them women, voted for the first time, and chose to do so for someone who said things that resonated with them. They chose not to vote for national parties, but there was an international dimension as a large chunk of the candidate’s attraction had to do with events far way from Bradford West.

Could this by-election result be the result of an emerging youth power, angered by the reality of compromise and coalition after the last general election? We will know more in a week’s time when we see the results of the May local elections when a third of the Council seats are up for re-election.

What is certain is that there is no certainty now. Safe wards no longer exist, and what happens in Bradford could be replicated in Birmingham, Leicester and around the North of Manchester where similarly unstable demographic chemistry exists.

The voice of youth can be heard and can have real power when organised and focussed. Young people are starting to vote early, and if they like what they can achieve then they will vote often. Expect them to vote again on 3 May.

One Bradford spring does not make a summer but it might signal a cold winter ahead for stable conventional politics in our cities.

With a Coalition Government in power in Westminster, there is a vacuum for those wishing to register a protest in the local elections. That vacuum is now being filled by a range of alternatives, and the youth vote, in particular, is not bound by convention or precedent when deciding where to lodge its protest.

Smart politicians would do well to consider what they are offering to young people right now.