Yesterday, speaking to a sixth form in a school in my constituency, I tried a new approach to combat negative feelings about politics.
I reminded my audience that they were all volunteers. Whilst it was true that at 9 am on a wet Monday morning they were told they had to be in an hour long class with their local MP, they were all of an age where they could decide to leave school and do something else. In the light of their choice to stay and accept the discipline of their courses, surely I argued it was sensible to get something out of the hour with me – and the hours that would follow with representatives of the other main political parties. The challenge was more theirs to use my time productively for their purposes, than for me to lecture them that politics is important.
I put to them my thoughts on compulsion for 16-18 year olds from yesterday’s blog, and invited discussion. I am pleased to say there was a good flow of questions and points, on a wide range of subjects. I told them that as they apply to leading universities they are in competition with people from the leading independent schools, where there are strong traditions of taking an interest in public affairs and in grilling external speakers. I want to help in a small way to balance the competition at the university gates and urge other adults in the community to offer their encouragement to do the same.