Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Youth and the European Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 30th January, 2014

Yvote 2014Last evening I took part in a panel debate at King’s College London on what political parties are offering young people in May’s European elections. The event was part of KCL’s Europe Society’s European week, and attracted more than 50 students of diverse nationalities. UKIP had failed to nominate a spokesman, but the EPP (from which David Cameron withdrew the British Conservatives) was represented by the Finnish Chair of its youth wing. Labour and the Greens both sent Euro-candidates, but the Conservatives were represented by someone from the Beau Group. My message that the Liberal Democrats are the only party of IN regarding the UK and the EU went down well — and was unchallenged, even by Labour, who frankly don’t seem to have made their minds up about how they will play the European elections. I concentrated on the three key themes of the Liberal Democrat campaign — jobs, the environment and combating crime, but also highlighted the paradox that whereas young voters in Britain are the most supportive of the European project (and Britain’s rightful place in it), their voting participation is lower than older age groups. It is therefore crucial for a successful LibDem Euro-campaign that we motivate young people, first to register to vote and most importantly to go and vote, or agree to have a postal vote. As well over half of the audience were citizens of other EU member states I emphasized the fact that they can vote in the UK if they get on the register and sign a form saying they will not vote in their country of origin as well. I got the impression I was speaking to the converted as far as Britain and the EU was concerned, which is as it should be. But the message needs to be got out that this year’s Euro-elections are going to be rather like a mini-IN/OUT Referendum and the forces of youth, as well as of common sense, need to be mobilised to make their voices heard.


4 Responses to “Youth and the European Elections”

  1. Dear Jonathan,

    Interesting article demonstrating UK’s current IN/OUT debate in the context of upcoming European Elections.
    I would like to invite you to get acquainted with “Y Vote 2014” Project of European Students’ Forum – AEGEE (the logo of which you have used for the blog post): Since your opinion regarding importance of youth participation in the elections to a large extent coincides with ours, there is an opportunity for our co-operation. Namely, if you have a chance, you could spread the word about the “Y Vote 2014” among young people and encourage them to follow and participate in our activities, so that youth, especially in the UK, become informed citizens capable of making well-grounded decisions at the ballot boxes in few months time (or at least to vote at all).

    I will be glad to hear back from you.

    Kind regards,

    Diana Ondža

    Y Vote 2014 – Communications Manager
    AEGEE // European Students’ Forum

  2. jonathanfryer said

    Very happy to do so, Diana.

  3. Alex said

    As far as I’m concerned, we need to be getting the message out that it is WRONG to use Euro-elections like a mini-IN/OUT Referendum, because MEPs do not decide whether any particular country stays in or leaves the EU. The Lib Dems’ undifferentiated pro-EU Euro-election campaign is a mistake, because we are passively accepting the media narrative (promoted by Euro-sceptics) that the only positions it is possible to take on the EU are uncritical support for anything and everything that EU bodies say and do, and withdrawal from the EU. We need to challenge this lie by talking about what we, as Liberals, will do in the European Parliament to shape EU law. The media tend to complain about “The EU wants to do this, Brussels is forcing us to do that” but NEVER explains WHICH EU institution is proposing this or how the proposed EU law can be influenced. Well the European Parliamentary elections are how voters can influence EU law. Even in our own party it seems some people have bought into the media lie that being pro-EU automatically means justifying everything EU institutions do: I remember an LDV forum post along the lines of “I am as pro-EU as anyone, but how can we justify the Brussels proposal to ban refillable olive oil jars?” Well Duh! you don’t have to justify it, any more than you have to justify everything the UK government of the day does because you support the continuing existence of the UK. We need to get the message across that there are political differences in how ordinary EU-wide laws ought to look, in the same way as there are political differences in how UK laws ought to look. We should call for an edition of Question Time with an all-MEP panel (like they did a Mayoral candidates QT before the London Mayoral election) and call the BBC out for not taking European elections seriously if they do not have one. We need to make European elections about the actual laws that are made in the European Parliament, and the political differences between the groups in what these laws ought to be.

  4. KP said

    I am fascinated by all of your comments to John’s anecdotal aritcle. Whilst I am in agreement that the Euro-elections should focus on EU law and policy rather than an outright in or out campaign, I think that we have a more pressing duty prior to the elections – actually getting (young) people to vote! Before we open up any substantive discussion over EU policy, we need to make sure that Britons and eligible EU voters vote for an MEP candidate at all! As a young person in the UK, I am concerned that not enough people, young or old, are going to participate in May. As such, Diana, Jonathan, I would like to show my active support to your campaigns directed at young people. I will be getting in touch with you privately to discuss this further. All I can say is thank you, for raising awareness among young people.

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