24 April 2015

Emily Savage, aged 15, is a Raynes Park High School student and a member of Music Room, YMCA St Paul’s Group’s music project for young people, at the John Innes Youth Centre.

On Tuesday, Emily went to the general election hustings in Wimbledon, where she got up on the podium to ask the local candidates a question on behalf of YMCA LSW and the young people of Merton, who this time next year, will see several youth centres closed down and others facing severe cuts.

What about the young people?

At the hustings on Tuesday, Emily stood up on behalf of the YMCA to ask the candidates: “This time next year, the Merton Youth Centres will close.  What do you see as the future for local youth provision, and how would you bring it about?”

None of the politicians really answered my question,” Emily says.

They didn’t talk much about how they were going to keep youths off the streets and keep the centres open.  They only really criticised Merton Council for deciding to cut youth centre funding. The Conservative candidate [Stephen Hammond] came across the best,” she says.

He got a round of applause from everyone for saying politicians needed to start by asking us young people what we want.  However, afterwards my youth worker said he might have just said this because he hadn’t really thought about the question and that maybe politicians should have already asked young people what they want – especially with the election coming up”.

Pressure on youths

Emily says she also disagreed with the UKIP Candidate [Peter Bucklitsch] on his assessment that the reason for students not performing well in their GSCEs is because of school classes being too big.  Emily says: “I think it’s actually because there’s so much pressure.  It feels like school is just about passing exams.  We’re told every day that we have to do well in our GCSEs”.

Emily was one of the few young people at Tuesday’s event. She says she thinks not many young people come to the hustings because “they don’t feel that they know enough to be really interested”.

Should teach politics in school

Emily has some great ideas for how to get more young people involved in the election.

I think they should teach more about politics and the election at school and that there should be hustings events just for teenagers so we can ask questions about what matters to us. Then when we are old enough to vote we will already have a good idea of who we want to vote for,” she says.

In the future, who knows, maybe Emily will run for Parliament. “My youth worker asked me if I thought I could be a politician.  We both noticed that only one of the five candidates was a woman.  I hadn’t really considered it before, but yes, maybe I could”.

If nothing else, Tuesday’s hustings event showed Emily that adults are not always better than young people, even if they like to think so.

She says: “The funniest thing about the night was the way people kept talking over each other and shouting out from the audience – especially the rude comments.  You would get told off for that at school!”