Opinion: Real politics is about people

Former youth councillor Abubakar Finiin encourages the young to get involved in politics.

Former youth councillor Abubakar Finiin encourages the young to get involved in politics. - Credit: Archant

Politically-alienated, disenfranchised, and in a country where the average age of an MP is 50, it would be no surprise if young people were not engaged in politics however, as organisations such as the Islington Youth Council show, the opposite is true.

The Youth Council is a paragon of democracy - over 5,000 young people voted in the recent elections which aim to give local youngsters a voice in politics.

I have just completed my two-year term as a youth councillor. As an elected official, I served as both deputy young mayor and member of Youth Parliament, which provided me with a revolving door of opportunities.

As a kid I saw bombastic politicians on my screen, caricature-like in their conviction. I soon learnt through the Youth Council that politics wasn't necessarily to do with personalities, but more to do with people - a nuanced, but important distinction. I realised that it was volunteers, charities and communities that were the driving force behind politics within the borough.

Among the conveyor belt of opportunities were some personal favourites. An invitation to Downing Street as part of a multi-agency approach to tackling youth violence and debating in the House of Commons were experiences that I will never forget.

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The fact that the invitation to Downing Street stemmed from the Youth Council's close relationship with the Ben Kinsella Trust (a knife crime charity based in Islington) reinforced my ideas that politics was grounded in grassroots projects. It was this transition from local work to national recognition that encapsulates the essence of the Youth Council.

Posing in front of the glossy black door of Number 10 and sitting on the famous green benches were ceremonial occasions, but it was more intimate meetings that made me value conversation and community.

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The Islington Youth Council proves that youth engagement in politics doesn't just manifest in thousands of young people taking to the streets of Westminster demanding change, but also in a small office on Upper Street on a rainy Tuesday evening with a dozen dedicated young people determined to improve the lives of their peers living in Islington.

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