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The problem of voter apathy in young people

Last week was National Voter Registration Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness about the importance of registering to vote. The same day last year resulted in some 50,000 people registering to vote, this year the same campaign hopes to aim to register a further 250,000 voters.

Although the day was aimed at everyone who isn’t yet registered, some shocking figures relating specifically to young people aged between 18-21 revealed that as many as 800,000 of people in this age group won’t be able to vote in the upcoming general election because they haven’t registered.

The poll, conducted by the Electoral Reform Society, found that in addition to those who aren’t registered to vote, a further 9% said they had no clue of whether they were registered to vote at all.

In the course of my work I speak to students and young people on a regular basis from an array of backgrounds who are political engaged and interested in politics, many are hungry to learn more and some even have political ambitions of their own. However, there is also a large number, as illustrated by this poll who are disengaged, who are apathetic, who have given up their right to choose who or what shape our next government will be and that’s really sad.

Making a decision about who represents you is empowering, you become part of a group of people who have a voice and who help to shape the government.

The BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, said in a blog last week that the new system of individual registration is making the problem worse. He said: “You used to be able to rely on your college or student union – or Mum or Dad – to do it but now you have to register yourself. Having said that it’s easy to do – taking around three minutes online.”

It is true, this new system of registering to vote does not help the already dwindling numbers of young voters. There are some more stats which show a worrying low trend: In Lancaster only 22 out of a possible 7,500 students registered to vote in one ward. And in East Sussex there was an almost 90% drop in voters, plunging from 3,500 registered students in 2014 to just 377 this year.

You can register to vote here it only takes a few minutes, and I urge everyone to do so- as I say without it you do not have a voice and you are not able to participate in shaping future governments.

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My Profile on the Sunday Politics

This weekend I was featured on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, who are doing a series of profiles on MEPs in the run up to the election. I discuss the great work Labour has done for British citizens at the European level. You can watch the profile using the media player above.

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From the Archive: Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

This blog comes from February of this year at a time when Marta Andreasen MEP was thinking about quitting UKIP.  Well for any of you who don’t know, she did quit in the end and is now a member of the Conservative party and is part of the European Conservative and Reformist group.  Seemingly the bullying, sexism and general chauvanism that characterises the UKIP delegation in the European Parliament became too much for her.  I think I probably disagree with Marta on a good many things, but on this I can feel nothing but sympathy for her; having to work with the likes of Farage, Bloom, and Batten can’t have been easy.

Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

Political aficionadas, not to mention geeks, may remember when UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom told the world way back in 2004 that a woman’s place was cleaning behind the fridge.

Incredibly, UKIP misogyny has just got much worse. Marta Andreasen, their only woman MEP, has launched a searing attack on Nigel Farage. “He (Farage) doesn’t try to involve intelligent professional women in positions of responsibility in the party. He thinks women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom.” she told the BBC.

Marta Andreasen, who represents South East England in the European Parliament, has said she is unlikely to stand as a UKIP candidate next year. Andreasen, who worked for the European Commission before joining UKIP and being elected in 2009, told the BBC that “if things don’t change” within the party “she can’t imagine a way to continue”.

Andreasen continued by telling the BBC that she had been openly criticised by her party leader and other MEPs, suggesting that this amounted to bullying. “I’ve been bullied, in private situations, for decisions I have made by Nigel. I have been accused of being disloyal, breaching confidence and breaching my contract with the party. There’s an attitude that either you keep silent about everything that’s been going on in the party or suffer the consequences.” Ms Andreasen said she believed Mr Farage – who was re-elected as leader in 2010 after standing down a year earlier to contest a Westminster seat – “did not like women”.

Farage’s views on women are not, apparently, the only problem. Ms Andreasen told LondonlovesBusiness.com: “Under his (Farage’s) leadership – and I have questioned his leadership obviously a number of times – the party (UKIP) has become a dictatorship. This is a Stalinist way of operating and he doesn’t care about the membership or the grassroots.”

Andeasen says she plans to stay in the European Parliament as a UKIP representative until the end of the current Parliament in 2014, to see out her mandate and “look for ways I can continue to represent the membership”. She may consider standing as an independent next year.

It’s worth remembering former UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire, a lesbian, who won a sex discrimination case against her former colleagues on a default judgement at Exeter Employment Tribunal after UKIP failed to lodge a defence. Sinclaire claimed UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom had called her “queer”.

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Shocking figures reveal lack of women aged 50+ on TV

Just one in five presenters at major broadcasters over the age of 50 are women

Although a shocking figure in one sense, it really should not be a complete surprise. I’d probably struggle to count on one hand the number of women presenters over the age of 50 who regularly appear on TV or who have their own shows. Yes there are some well-known faces, but they are an exception.

As soon as you hit 50 your days are numbered, as Miriam O’Reilly knows only too well. It was her brave decision to fight her employer, the BBC, over this discrimination which forced  the industry to recognise it has a problem.  O’Reilly was interviewed in the Guardian just last week and reveals how she has spoken to other women who were as badly bullied and/or side-lined in the same way she was. Veteran presenter Anna Ford who is sadly no longer on our screens lamented the lack of older women television presenters again in the Guardian last Saturday.

Harriet Harman’s figures, published recently show ‘just one in five presenters at major broadcasters over the age of 50 are women’, is terrible. It shows that women have to fight harder than men to achieve the same roles and do so throughout their careers.

We are familiar with the difficulties women face when going back to work following a period of maternity leave, and we know how hard it is for women to reach the board and executive level in many companies because we have the stats to prove it from recent research studies.  And now women are faced with their working lives being cut short because they are not considered ‘the right fit’? Whatever the reason executives must stop discriminating against capable and experienced women who are 50+. This is a period which should be one of the highlights of women’s careers. After all women in their 50s are experienced, knowledgeable, and should, therefore, be sought after not (as unfortunately they are) side-lined.

Harriet Harman rightly said: “It really is a black hole … Broadcasters behave as though the viewing public have to be protected from the sight of an older woman and that’s just rude. There is nothing wrong with being an older woman….We’ve got to fight back against this sense that older women are less valuable, whereas men accumulate wisdom, authority and experience as they age.”

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Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

Political aficionadas, not to mention geeks, may remember when UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom told the world way back in 2004 that a woman’s place was cleaning behind the fridge.

Incredibly, UKIP misogyny has just got much worse. Marta Andreasen, their only woman MEP, has launched a searing attack on Nigel “too much air time” Farage. “He (Farage) doesn’t try to involve intelligent professional women in positions of responsibility in the party. He thinks women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom.” she told the BBC.

Marta Andreasen, who represents South East England in the European Parliament, has said she is unlikely to stand as a UKIP candidate next year. Andreasen, who worked for the European Commission before joining UKIP and being elected in 2009, told the BBC that “if things don’t change” within the party “she can’t imagine a way to continue”.

Andreasen continued by telling the BBC that she had been openly criticised by her party leader and other MEPs, suggesting that this amounted to bullying. “I’ve been bullied, in private situations, for decisions I have made by Nigel. I have been accused of being disloyal, breaching confidence and breaching my contract with the party. There’s an attitude that either you keep silent about everything that’s been going on in the party or suffer the consequences.” Ms Andreasen said she believed Mr Farage – who was re-elected as leader in 2010 after standing down a year earlier to contest a Westminster seat – “did not like women”.

Farage’s views on women are not, apparently, the only problem. Ms Andreasen told LondonlovesBusiness.com: “Under his (Farage’s) leadership – and I have questioned his leadership obviously a number of times – the party (UKIP) has become a dictatorship. This is a Stalinist way of operating and he doesn’t care about the membership or the grassroots.”

Andeasen says she plans to stay in the European Parliament as a UKIP representative until the end of the current Parliament in 2014, to see out her mandate and “look for ways I can continue to represent the membership”. She may consider standing as an independent next year.

It’s worth remembering former UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire, a lesbian, who won a sex discrimination case against her former colleagues on a default judgement at Exeter Employment Tribunal after UKIP failed to lodge a defence. Sinclaire claimed UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom had called her “queer”.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Two interviews struck me in the papers last week. The first came in the form of an interview with Caroline Thomson who left the BBC after she failed to get the ‘top job’. She was interviewed by the former channel 5 boss Dawn Airey. The pair discussed whether a woman will ever get the top job, and has the BBC missed a golden opportunity?

Thomson agreed it was a fair process and the BBC picked the right person and she also said it marked a transition in that for the first time there were two senior women who were candidates “that’s something to celebrate” she said.

She also said “In my early career, because it was unusual to be a woman when I started, I spent a lot of time arguing that women were exactly the same as men. But now I think women bring something different in their approach. And I think teams with a good balance of men and women are more effective.”

This is a really important point, and people are beginning to realise that a healthy mix in a company makes good business sense. Women and men bring different things to the table.

This was a really interesting interview, two senior women who have worked hard, certainly as hard as their male counterparts, and some might say they’ve overcome even more hurdles to reach the positions they have- speaking frankly about the position of women in top positions both now and in the future . You can read the full interview here.

The other interview was with Dale Murray, an entrepenuer who said in an interview last week with the financial website This is Money, that “female entrepreneurs often find it harder than their male counterparts to attract investment, whether through a lack of confidence or the attitudes of investors.”

Entrepreneur Dale Murray is an interesting character; she’s an angel investor who has backed several female-led businesses, including three this summer. Recognising the potential women have is not something everybody has yet noticed, or if they have they certainly haven’t acted upon it. But Murray says she looks for specific qualities, which include absolute determination and self-belief. Yet she agrees it can be harder for women to find funding. You can read more of her interview here.

 

 

 

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London’s air is the worst in Europe while the Government delays action

London has the worst air of any European capital. Despite this, the Conservative-led Coalition doesn’t plan to comply with air quality standards in legislation since 1999, set to be met by 2010, until a staggering 2025, according to the BBC.

Something needs to be done urgently in London. Air pollution cuts life expectancy in Britain by a massive eight months. The main culprit is the pollutant N02 which comes mainly from vehicles.

The Government’s refusal to act is quite simply not acceptable. Ministers know that air pollution is the second biggest public health threat after smoking. It costs the UK an estimated £20 billion a year, more than twice the amount for obesity.

N02 affects long-term health. According to the BBC, experts giving evidence to the Environment Committee, EFRA, said the health of Olympic athletes visiting over the summer should not be harmed as long as the UK avoids a heat-induced smog episode.

I find it extraordinary that there is such a huge unwillingness to tackle pollution in London. The situation is obviously very bad indeed. There is even a chance that the showcase Olympics may suffer. Those of us who live in the capital are at serious risk.

What is more, the financial cost of pollution is huge. Cleaning up are act would not only save lives, it would also save money. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and London Mayor Boris Johnson will, I hope, take note, though the previous track record of both these Conservatives does not give us much cause for hope.

By coming down heavily on the UK Government’s inaction, the European Commission is doing us all a massive favour. Londoner’s should be thankful that there is at least one institution which is concerned about their health.

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