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From issues like Brexit and the environment, to policy priorities and voting intentions, the UK now feels like a country split in two. People’s standing on countless political issues is now determined by their age. These days in the UK she is under 40 and is not being listened to.
It doesn’t help that the House of Commons remains a haven for the middle-aged. The prime minister may be a millennial, but the average age of the Greenbench is his 51, hasn’t changed significantly since 1979. The most populous age group he is 50-59 years old. These people didn’t grow up with the internet, are unlikely to still rent a home, and probably don’t need to rely on exorbitant childcare.
Still, there are some young MPs who are making waves in Congress and trying to bring the priorities of their generation to the forefront of politics, even if it isn’t always easy.
“Honestly, I wish we had waited longer,” says Louise Haigh. “I didn’t want to go in so early anyway, just because the opportunity presented itself.”
In 2015, she became one of the youngest members of the House of Commons, representing Labor’s Sheffield Healy at just 27 years old. Her union told her to do it, so she did. It’s been eight years since she’s gone, and she’s now head of the 2023 Shadow Her Transport Secretary.
“My advice on how young women can get into politics is that when the opportunity presents itself, you must seize it, because you never know when the opportunity will come again. It wasn’t ideal or perfect, but I had the chance and I took it,” she explains.
Clearly she was right to do so. The 35-year-old is now part of a very exclusive club. Members of parliament under the age of 40 serve in either the cabinet or shadow cabinet, or chair prominent selection committees. On the labor side, she is joined by Bridget Phillipson, 39, who is in charge of the party’s education brief, and Darren Jones, 36, who runs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.
On the government bench, Michelle Donnellan, 38, was recently appointed as secretary of state for science, innovation and technology in the restructuring of Rishi Sunak, and Alicia Kearns, 35, of the Foreigners Selection Committee, is now Millennial 2. Only people. There may be dozens of young MPs in Congress, but few have made it to the top.
It doesn’t help that they were viewed with suspicion by the elderly security guard when they walked in. [2019 intake] Young people who were seen as wanting to come in, mess things up, and do things their own way.
Again, the difference in priorities created tension on both sides. “When I first arrived, people weren’t really discussing climate change on the floor of the House of Representatives, so I was immediately pretty annoyed,” says Darren Jones.
“At the moment, we have not fully achieved our goals. It’s inside.”
Similarly, as some debates about online safety bills have made clear, lawmakers are not always aligned with today’s internet realities. “The discussions we have in Parliament are sometimes a little behind the times. Still, it’s getting better.
“In 2017, very few politicians were really addressing these topics.
Another problem that almost everyone encountered was parenting, as people under 40 are more likely to be parents of young children or be surrounded by people who are parents of children.
“I’m very lucky because I have a well-paying job, but when I talk to my friends, their number one plea is ‘God sort out the parenting system,’ says Bridget Phillipson.” “I speak to so many women, especially those who have given up their jobs and reduced their hours because their jobs are not going well. They are denied a true choice.”
This was common throughout the interview. If your generation is fed up and you’re just a politician in social group form, you’ll hear about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s something you’ve been trying to knock off for a long time, as Haigh discovered, nothing changes and people suddenly start to care .
“I’ve noticed a lot of my friends are becoming more and more politicized. It’s very frustrating because none of them were politicized because of me,” she says with a sharp laugh. For the last 20 years. ”
“They are so radicalized, either at work or for financial reasons, that they can’t climb the housing ladder and can’t afford to raise children.”
“As you know, we dropped out of school at 18 and went straight to college. We graduated in 2008 during the financial crisis. It wasn’t a story.”
Alicia Kearns finished her studies at the same time, and a lack of opportunities eventually led her to Congress. The only two job offers were one in Hull for 30k a year and one in London for £50 a week,” she explained. “I got a £50 job because my boyfriend was in London.”
After starting out in PR, she moved into public service, deciding to run for Congress in 2017 and was elected MP for Melton Mowbray in 2019. Her time did not set her apart.
Instead, it became a problem last year when she found herself up against party heavyweights Yin Duncan Smith and Liam Fox. It didn’t matter at all until then the opposition was weaponizing it.”
It was a frustrating experience, she says, but being a relatively young woman in politics made her aware of issues she might otherwise have missed. One example was a campaign she ran to prevent women from giving birth without a partner and attending her pregnancy appointments during the pandemic.
As a young mother, she found out it was happening through a “parenting-related” Instagram account she followed. At the time, if she hadn’t had young children with her, she probably wouldn’t have known about it at all.
This is why it is important to have a diverse parliament. Of course, being representative is important, but personal experiences can and often do influence a politician’s interests and priorities.
As for what to do next, well, that’s where the fun begins, at least for the labor lot. When asked about their future plans, all three lawmakers jumped at the chance to say they wanted to serve as minister or secretary of state.
Still, that doesn’t mean they plan to stay forever. I don’t think so,” said Philippson.
Jones felt the same way, saying, “I’d like to return to the real world someday.”
“The downside of Westminster is that it’s slow. Sometimes I wonder if this is really the best place to achieve the change I want to see, or if I can’t achieve it more effectively elsewhere. Is it worth the safety risks and loss of family and traveling every week? And I still pretty much believe the answer is yes.”