Too many times, people assume that teenagers are only interested in sex, social media and drinking. But what can you do if you are a teenager or in your twenties and actually want to make a difference?
1. Read a newspaper.
Whether you go to your nearest WHSmiths or Newsagents to pick up a paper or just read articles online, you can find out so much about politics. I would recommend reading from a variety of sources as all papers are biased in some way, and you want to form your own opinion on politics rather than believe whatever a certain paper tells you. Try The Guardian, The Economist, The Daily Mail, The Independent, and The Times, and see how the same stories are portrayed in different ways.
2. Join a political party.
It can cost less than you may think. Some political parties you can join for as little as £1 per year, and you don’t even need to be a British citizen. There are concessions for younger members and all of the main parties offer concessions to low earners and/or the unemployed; many additionally offer large discounts to members of the armed forces.
14-19 year olds and members of the Armed Forces can join the Labour party where in their first year they only pay £1. From ages 20-26 you pay £12 per year. A standard membership to the Labour party will cost you £46.56 per annum, unless you are retired, unemployed, a member of an affiliated trade union or you work under 16 hours per week, where you pay only £23.52. If you don’t want to do that, you can become a ‘registered supporter’ for a one-off minimum fee of £3 if, say, you wanted to be able to vote on their new leader.
Students and people under 26 can join the Liberal Democrats for £1 in their first year, and £6 in the years following that. Those on state benefits (with the exception of child benefit and state pensions) are also charged £6/annum. The standard fee is £12 a year.
If you are under 23, you can become a member of the Conservative party for only £5, or anyone can become a “supporter” for £1. Their standard membership fee is £25.
If you are under 22, you can get a one year membership to UKIP for £2. If you are a member of the Armed Forces you can join for £5 a year. However, the standard fee if you are over 22 is £30 per year.
Students can join the Green Party for £5 a year and for low income earners, the fee is £10.50 per year. The standard fee is £31 per year.
But what do you get for this money?
- Stand for office in that party
- Vote to select the candidates for your local MP
- Vote in the party’s leadership elections
- Receive newsletters from your political party constituency
- Receive invites to local events and campaign communications from the national party
You may also receive special access to a members website or be offered exclusive discounts. Some parties also allow members to have a say on party policies.
3. Sign/start petitions.
Websites like change.org make it easy for you to start your own petition, or sign ones you agree with. You can also share the links on social media to increase their popularity. All petitions with over 10,000 signatures receive a response from the government, and those with over 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate in Parliament. If you pay a specific amount of money, your petition will be shown to a number of potential supporters, but actually signing and starting petitions is free.
4. Email your local MP.
If there is a particular issue you feel strongly about, email your local MP or even the Prime Minister.
5. Join a pressure group.
Pressure groups are organisations which campaign for changes in the law or new legislation in specific areas. As such, they can have a strong influence on public opinion and voting behaviour.
There are hundreds of pressure groups in the UK, tackling issues from animal welfare to LGBTQ+ rights. Cause or “promotional” pressure groups are open to all and therefore the easiest for you to join.
To join Greenpeace, for example, all you need to do is go on their website, click on “join the movement” and then tell them your name and email address.
Thanks for reading my first blog post, guys! I hope it helped some of you and I plan on writing many different blog posts in the future; not just on politics 🙂