CAS @ Battlefront Debate – Getting You To Hear Us

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on February 18 2011

Are young people apathetic or bored with politicians? Would they rather get their voices heard through voting, protests or Facebook? These were some of the questions flying around at Tuesday (February 15) night’s Battlefront Debate – Getting You To Hear Us. Ctrl.Alt.Shift headed over to Channel 4 HQ in Westminster, London, to see what people had to say…..

Battlefront is a Channel 4 project that gives young campaigners a TV and digital platform to make some noise about an issue they’re passionate about. At the debate, an audience of young activists, journalists and students tackled a panel on issues around youth empowerment and successful campaigning.

Those in line for questioning were Tory Tim Loughton MP (Minister for Children and Families), Aaron Porter (NUS President), brand wielder John Stopp (Head of Production at The Viral Factory), Miquita Oliver (T4 and Battlefront host) and road safety campaigner Manpreet Darroch (displaying the fruits of Battlefront 2008).

Questioning went straight onto the topic of Anastasia Kyriacou’s campaign calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16. Manpreet Darroch pointed out how 16 year olds can start families, join the army and work full time; so why shouldn’t they vote? And most of the panel agreed – Aaron Porter, despite assuring everyone he had “no plans!” to become a politician himself, thought young people needed more ways to get into politics in general.

Thoughts swung left, right and centre regarding how that can be done, with some claiming it was also the responsibility of those in Parliament to get off their backsides and do more to engage the next generation… a spot of tension ensued as Tim Loughton was challenged by an audience participant for not responding to her emails (though he did demand to have a chat with her following the debate to exchange details… once again).

Questioning moved on to how to turn engagement with politics and society into real change and youth influence. Manpreet Darroch said a good campaign was all about authenticity and passion. John Stopp agreed and Aaron Porter said a variety of methods was important, including direct action “within the law”. The compare then pointed out historical figures such as Nelson Mandela (who is now seen as a hero to many), have broken the law through direct action to gain a shift in the status quo.

So what new innovative techniques can young people use in campaigning? While John Stopp thought media attention was key, others thought it was more to do with authenticity, grassroots campaigning, and going straight to the source of power.

And what about Battlefront itself? Is it an example of grassroots campaigning; with campaigners supported by Channel 4 and mentored by experts? Miquita Oliver stood firm stating how Battlefront is merely an opportunity, only a platform for people who had already been campaigning for years, with passion for the good cause engrained with and without the project. This was on show during the debate as many of the Battlefront campaigners (past and present) sat in the audience, hands held high throughout to grill the panel and relay their opinions.

One of the final questions of the night regarding voting and political engagement was “how young is too young?” My stand up highlight of the event was the response by Youth Engagement Worker Nikki Brocher, who said we should be talking about an age cap on voting (not a minimum age); as some people over 25 had already closed their minds, and that more young people should have a say as it will be the next generation who will have to pay for the past generation’s mistakes…

But note – whether or not you agree with Nikki or any of the members on the panel, whether or not you’re supported by the media and politicians, whether you take action through Battlefront or Ctrl.Alt.Shift – keep on campaigning, and follow in the footsteps of those all over the world who have kept going until they got what they wanted for their futures.

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