IF David Cameron thinks the youth vote is going to come to his rescue over the EU referendum, he had better thank again following his tête-à-tête with university students. Even though pollsters believe the younger generation are more international in their outlook, and therefore more likely to endorse the EU because they have grown up in a fully integrated Europe, they clearly don’t trust the Prime Minister.
They still resent the coalition Government’s decision to impose tuition fees; they are angry that Ministers have not done more to protect the steel industry and they’re surprised that Mr Cameron can find £9m to spend on a pro-EU publicity drive when key public services are being cut to such an extent. And there’s another problem – will students actually bother to vote? Even this cannot be guaranteed judging by the one student who was rather irked that the referendum date, June 23, clashed with the Glastonbury music festival and that the latter would take precedence in their own diary.
That said, this historic vote is a chance for young people to become active participants in the political process. As the 2014 independence vote in Scotland demonstrated, 16-year-olds were more than capable of coming to a considered decision after careful deliberation – their level of engagement was such that the quality of their debates, and questions, actually put many politicians to shame.
The same opportunity exists with the EU poll provided leaders like Mr Cameron, and his rivals in the Leave campaign, treat the electorate with courtesy and start answering points made by those struggling to reach a decision on a momentous issue that will have far-reaching repercussions for present and future generations. It will not happen if the respective campaigns continue to trade scare stories because they’re afraid of having a grown-up debate.
Moving forward. Time to work with Lancashire
WHEN two senior West Yorkshire councillors proposed the extension of the M65 from Pendle to Keighley to improve links between Yorkshire and Lancashire, Keith Wakefield and Simon Cooke were not seeking universal support. Quite the opposite. They wanted their local, regional and national colleagues not to become fixated with George Osborne’s £6bn plan to build the longest road tunnel in Europe under the Pennines.
Yet the small-minded response of their counterparts in Pendle, a gateway town that straddles the Yorkshire and Lancashire border, demonstrates why it is so difficult to make any progress on transport schemes in this region, and why the only way forward is for council leaders to work collaboratively and ignore those artificial local authority boundaries which have been allowed to become the political equivalent of a stop sign.
According to Pendle councillor Tony Greaves, who is also a Lib Dem peer, the M65 idea is “pure froth” while Labour’s Azhar Ali appeared to miss the point when he accused Mr Osborne of being obsessed with large cities rather than the interests of outlying areas in East Lancashire as well as North and West Yorkshire.
Why couldn’t either councillor welcome the debate and promise to work with their counterparts in Yorkshire to come up with the most cost-effective way of improving road and rail connections across the Pennines? After all, the parochialism of both explains why the North remains in the slow lane when it comes to transport policy – and the situation won’t change by revisting the “War of the Roses”.
Role of celebrities. Why is Eddie The Eagle flying high?
IT’S not surprising that Harry Potter author JK Rowling and British astronaut Tim Peake top the latest list of positive role models in Britain – their success continues to transcend generations and the humility of both is another endearing feature.
What is more perturbing is that “Eddie the Eagle” features so prominently in fourth place. Not only did this one-time ski jumper come last at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, his popularity appears to stem from a new movie about the life and times of Eddie Edwards.
It points to a certain shallowness in society – and the inability of some to differentiate between those who are a force for good and those who simply love the limelight.
However it must also be hoped that role models are not determined because of their celebrity status. Just because teachers, doctors and nurses, for example, are not household names does not lessen their importance. That should never be forgotten or overlooked.