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Time to enfranchise the great ignored. A guest post from Liam Young.

For over a year now I have been stating the case for a campaign that is close to my heart; lowering the voting age to 16. When I was a young boy, at roughly the age of 6, I told my family that one day, I wanted to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Ten years on, I still hold that dream.

In ten years I have attended events ranging from local party meetings to national conferences, I have spoken at events that ranged from local council chambers to conference halls and I have spent hours of every day reviewing the latest political gossip and checking up on the political scene. If they were to mean test me and judge whether I was of a ‘sound mind’ to vote, then I’m pretty sure, and hopeful, that I would pass.

You may think that my story is unique and one that is not often unheard of; but you’re wrong. I think it is possible to accept that not many people want to be the Prime Minister, and I believe you’re probably right in thinking that no one would exclaim it at such a young age; but young people are interested in politics. At the age of 16 many people undergo tutorials in politics at sixth form, and from the age of 12, when compulsory citizenship education comes into effect, we begin to learn about government and our political surroundings. Young people become aware of what they believe in, but they cannot voice their feelings through the ballot.

The bulk of people involved in last years rioting belonged to that ‘youth’ category. Maybe one reason that they voiced their anger against society through brutality and destruction is because they had no other way to do so. Maybe if they were taught that they had the ability to make a difference, then they would have pursued different avenues.

If I can legally sleep with my MP, if I can legally marry my MP, if I can pay tax to my MP and if I can go to a distant land and fight for my MP, why shouldn’t I be able to vote for my MP?

David Cameron spoke about the ‘great ignored’ during his election campaign in 2010, when he promised to ‘engage and represent’ this group of people in society. By disenfranchising young people, he fails to keep this promise. He called this group of people, “the hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding majority.” Maybe he should think about the 1.7 million 16-17 year olds who work hard, often pay some form of tax and abide by the laws of the country, but are denied the vote simply because they are deemed too ‘immature’ to be given the right to vote.

In the local elections just passed, over 70% of adults who were eligible to vote decided against doing so. Let’s give young people the chance to show that they can accept the responsibility of voting and can build on the dismal turn out of the already so called ‘mature’ population. It’s time to enfranchise the great ignored, it’s time for votes at 16.

Thanks go to Harry Barham and the Red Blog for the publication of this post.

Liam is a 16 year old Labour activist and blogger. To follow his campaign or his political trails, follow him on twitter @liamyoung.


David Miliband takes one step closer to returning to Ed Miliband’s Cabinet.

Dr Eoin Clarke is the Founder of the LabourLeft think tank and the editor of the recently published Redbook. We are hugely honoured to have another of his most recent posts; this time in praise of David Miliband. You can see more of Dr Clark’s views in his posts on his blog here.

David Miliband has put in an excellent 8 months as a Labour MP. In my view it is a matter of when and not if whether or not he will return to Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. If the press had had their way in May 2011 the story would be very different.  Remember, the leaking of his conference acceptance speech (had he been declared party leader) as well as the leaks about Ed Balls’s involvement in the plotting (or not) of Tony Blair’s downfall? These coincided with a guest appearance by the former PM Tony Blair at a Progress event in May where the former PM strongly undermined Ed Miliband in several ways. It threatened to rupture the Labour Party.

But credit should go David Miliband that it did not. David has worked hard to discourage Blairites from perpetuating disunity within the Labour Party and his recent words will be music to his younger brother’s ears. The elder Miliband has worked closely with his brother in crafting a speech on the Libya crisis that struck a balanced tone. He also came out strongly in support of Ed Miliband’s decision to change the Labour Party’s position on Palestine. Henceforth, it is Labour Party policy to pursue the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state by the UN. David Miliband also struck a strongly anti-Blairite tone in his caution not to use bluster against Iran but instead to pursue a path of diplomacy. Thus, David Miliband disagrees with Tony Blair strongly on the two major foreign policy questions of the day. On Iraq, David Miliband will probably never accept that the decision to invade was wrong but that is no barrier to him playing a key role in a future Labour government. The Iraq war will be taught and examined on A-Level History curriculum by the time of the next election. This positions him perfectly to return to the Shadow Cabinet as a ethical shadow Foreign Minister in time for the next election.
On domestic policy David Miliband has also praised his brother whom he said has led with ‘courage and conviction’. In addition, David Miliband has said his brother deserves ‘huge praise’ and that we in Labour should work hard to ‘put Ed in No. 10’. Tonight in his most recent comments he urges Blairites not to view David Cameron as stealing Labour’s progressive centre ground values that were pursued under New Labour but instead to view the Tories as ‘pretty hard right’. This will be seen as a blow to the leading Blairites who had been urging Ed Miliband to realign the party closer to the Tories economic policy which David explicitly states would be a mistake. He also urged Labour activists to look to the future in a clear signal that he is willing to accept that New Labour was an outdated model. In perhaps his strongest statement in support for his brother was the advice from David Miliband that Labour should be ‘humble about its mistakes’. This will also be greeted with dismay by opponents of Ed who had strongly criticised Ed’s willingness to accept past failings.
These timely interventions by David Miliband show that he is working hard to support his brother key economic, foreign policy and strategic political goals. In return, it appears Blairites will gain key concession in public service & welfare reform but the stage is set for David Miliband to return to the shadow cabinet before the next election. I expect it will take the same format as William Hague’s time in the wilderness where he was able to build his personal wealth and business interests before returning to play a full role in Cameron’s cabinet.
Polling wise the advantage to Ed Miliband of his brother returning would be significant. It would enhance the extent to which voters view Labour as united & competent and will provide a timely polling boost at a key stage in the electoral cycle when it occurs. In the short term this will come as a welcome boost to Ed Miliband as his brother seeks to rally Blairites behind his young brother.

Labour and the Media

Before achieving electoral success at the next general election Labour will have many battles to contend with, one of which is with the media. Over the years the media has become an increasingly influnecial tool in generating supporting, or dislike, for politicians and political parties. It is also apparent that media political bias has become significant in making and braking that support.

It is clear, for example, in America how the right-wing mainstream media attempt to sway the public from anything that is slightly left of centre or that which questions the injustices of Capitalism. For Labour in the UK it is also clear there is a similar bias which will have to be confronted. In relation to Labour this bias against them is evident when comparing the contrast of criticism between the recent Diane Abbott Twitter remark and the Tourette’s remark made by David Cameron. The criticism in the media of the remark made by Abbott far outweighs that of the one made by Cameron yet it is the one made by a Labour MP which saw the greatest media spotlight. Similarly, you can also find evidence of this bias when comparing the differing levels of criticism between the leadership of Ed Miliband and David Cameron. Ed has constantly had his leadership questioned and scrutinised where as Cameron, on the most part, has escaped a lot of criticism for the things he and his Government have done. 

In relation the mainstream media this bias is of course political. The Murdoch press, without need for much explanation, is clearly in support of the Conservative Party and the free-market economy. This is evidenced by the fact Rupert Murdoch had a back door meeting with Cameron at No.10 just days after taking power. It is also shown through the fact that Labour leaders,from Michael Foot to Gordon Brown, have all suffered sustained attacks from this part of the media; all in an attempt to undermine their credibility and to sway support away from them.


Overall it can be seen that the media may pose as a significant barrier to electoral success for Labour as it can make and brake support for politicians and political parties. Ed Miliband’s stance against the Murdoch press in the hacking scandal may stand as a sign that this is a battle he is not scared to take on. Whatever the result at the next general election it is clear that the media will play a significant part in that outcome.



We’ll soon be back… bigger, better and more argumentative

We’re working on a few things to make our blog more of a group effort with more posts…

rest assured we won’t lose our lefty-souls…

He’s a picture of some left-wingers who know how to have a party..



Hi to all our readers (yes both of you), all of us at redplog just want you to know that we will be back soon with more interesting news, comment, views and the odd bit of complete nonsense. For now, here’s a picture of Nye Bevan.



We’re Not Dead.

Neither, you may be overjoyed to hear, is RedPlog!

Now that summer is here, expect fresh injections of content once again from the best bloggers you’ve never heard of! We’re currently living in an interesting season- one that has already seen one large (ish, at least I think, but there again I’m at a loss now as to who to believe regarding specific figures) public sector strike, and surely many more interesting events, revelations, and maybe even u-turns, await us in the near future.

In fact, it’s a humdinger of a thing that no one has mentioned this sunny quarter of the year in conjunction with the noun ‘discontent’! Oh wait, they have.

While it’s a certainty posts will not be quotidian (it’s not like they ever were), hopefully, major occurrences will be covered here from time to time, now that we students are on a temporary hiatus from our cruel, gruelling daily grinds.

So be sure to check back periodically, there’ll be stuff to here to read, soon! Yes, soon.


A view from the other side of the coin. A different opinion on the NUS.

A post by Jamie Neale..

The NUS elections occurred this week, would you know it? The election is an annual event with turnout so low that even your local MEP would be embarrassed by it, but why does it make a difference? Well it is taken to be the be all and end all opinion of the student populace, but does a piss poor job of doing it.

Although I will look at Liam Burns I will refer to one of his competitors who had a decent chance of winning it and encapsulates the whole problem of the NUS, explaining one of the reasons why a growing number of universities (which can get voter turnout) have been leaving it.

Mark Bergfeld (above), a member of the hard-left Socialist Workers Party came a close third in the election. “400 students can block a road, 400 train drivers can bring a country to a halt” although this is a sentiment largely held by this blog, you need to pick your battles and his view that the country is some authoritarian capitalist ‘regime’ under Cameron does not flow. It is also counterproductive, education is and should be open to all, but the fees in my view are not the main issue. When discussing with friends whom largely hold no strong political affiliation, pragmatically they will accept fees and that education has increased in price. Our parents had small classes, a blackboard, chalk and a lecturer. We do not. We have libraries open 24/7 (something you’d be hard pressed to find on the continent), counselling services, Nightline, subscriptions to expensive journals specialising in our field. For law I receive access to Westlaw and Lexis Nexis two databases which you will not find at the same law firm due to the sheer cost of membership. These things and more have changed the way higher education is done, and with it comes an increase cost, that can be begrudgingly accepted by most. For those from poorer backgrounds like the original fee’s introduced by labour there is an overhaul of aid which means once again education is not priced out(though publicising this to the poor is another thing).

The problem is not with the fee’s the problem is with the cuts to education, something which has been overshadowed by the fee’s argument. With the attacks on Millibank, rioting at Abbey and Fortnum and mason shopping, what do these things achieve? (Other than Edward Wooley being gaoled for two years for getting caught in the moment) we lose more traction and a voice against the cuts. Michael Arthur head of the Russell group warned:

It has taken more than 800 years to create one of the world’s greatest education systems and it looks like it will take just six months to bring it to its knees.”

And for those reading with glee; more ammunition against the Con-Dems, this was to a letter to Alistair Darling, the cuts and fight should have started then. Why I also find it ironic Ed Milliband joined the protests in London, when he oversaw the beginning of the end. A decent opposition should prepare alternatives not just criticise; the honeymoon period is over get a policy platform already! But Rant over, how are the UK’s universities meant to keep up to international standard when their funding is being slashed and this fee’s not even bringing them back to it? This is the question not being asked enough, but more importantly not being answered.

Now onto my second part a look at Liam Burns and why he will help lead a further decline in education by being the useless “representative” of students? He has a warped view on social mobility and doesn’t understand the primary reason for university is to learn, from the Herald Scotland

For Liam Burns, NUS Scotland’s president, this is not good enough. Social engineering via positive discrimination should be considered.

I think we should be honest about our priorities,” he said. “At the end of the day, the point of the university has changed. If you look at when only 5% of the population went, that was about knowledge, discovery, pushing boundaries, people talked about the crème de la crème. That’s not the purpose of universities now – it is about social mobility and people changing their lives. The reality is you need that bit of paper to get into better jobs with greater earning potential and influence. So we want as many people to get one as possible, at the expense of quality if necessary.”

He added: “It is not good enough to say that the University of the West of Scotland does access, while Glasgow gets to go off and be a centre of excellence. There is a capital that comes with a degree from Glasgow that leads to the best jobs.”

That capital comes from the research quality of the university. There has been recent furore in the press about David Cameron’s remark, that only one black student went to Oxford last year. It turned into an argument of semantics; 1 Afro Caribbean or 41 black undergrads, rather than the fundamental issue. Too few students from minorities (though it should be poverty not minority status which count) and poor backgrounds are gaining access to higher education. By a young age students from poor backgrounds start to fall behind there wealthier counterparts. This is s system which needs to be changed and the unpopular Michael Gove is working on reforms to reverse the decimation done by Labour of pushing students into GNVQ’s and other qualifications which just don’t match up. Underprivileged children can achieve academic results and they need to believe it to achieve it. They don’t need to be told you can’t do it but its ok you can do this instead, or face academic syllabuses which don’t challenge. A friend of mine works in the infamous Haringey council, his bosses struggle to speak English properly and poor quality writing having high level GNVQ in social care. Is it any wonder that we get cases like baby P when the upper management haven’t even got basic level English and Mathematics?

I believe in Social mobility but it should never be at the expense of quality of education. How would you feel having doctors, pilots, nuclear physicists or any other number fields being given low grade education for the goal to be inclusive?

From his victory speech I have another problem

The NUS has retrenched back into the old narrative that there is a hard-left and moderates, and that we have to do everything we can to marginalise them. When we said we condemned everything that happened at Millbank – that was 30 or 40 people who were smashing windows. But there are far more people that have an affinity with direct action and we have to reach out to them.”

Should militancy be rewarded with acceptance and a voice? I have already expressed why militant activities can deter from the real problem at hand. And when those militants like Mark Bergfield regularly compare themselves to those in Libya, Egypt and the rest of the Middle East genuinely fighting for freedom can an organisation be taken seriously. Hopefully they can be subdued but I highly doubt it. They will either have to be marginalised again or will make NUS more militant once again detracting on the real protests which they should be fighting.

Jamie Neale

(ED) this is an opinion of a different sort than usual on our blog. If you disagree with him please do post a comment as a response. I am sure Jamie will be pleased to discuss this issue further

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