As parliament week took place, schools around the country held mock elections to help educate students on the importance of the political system.

 

Annually, schools and institutions are encouraged to partake in Parliament week which is run and was set up by the UK Parliament in order to encourage people to engage with politics, and educate younger generations on why they should engage and get involved too. However within these mock elections, as the electorate consists of students from ages 11-18, it begs the question whether realistically students vote on policies in the manifesto, or who they like the most? Is parliament week successful in educating or does it encourage a skewed view of politics from a young age?

 

Our political system in the UK is overwhelmingly dominated by two parties: the Conservatives and Labour. From a young age many of us grow up hearing these parties, and famous names within them which for me included the likes of David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. Nowadays, the younger students hear of Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer but with increasing levels of sleaze, are politicians increasingly becoming bad examples for young people, and are they representing what UK politics should be? Many recent examples of breaking parliamentary rules has resulted in the faith in the government being doubted and therefore the trickle down effect into institutions such as schools may hinder the legitimacy of our education system, following on from those in our political system. During parliamentary week, teachers try their hardest to teach students how politics in the UK works and why we should get involved, but this is becoming increasingly difficult to convince the youth that it is worth engaging with. 

 

During the mock election within my school, I asked some of the candidates for the parties whether they had faith in our political system and if they feel today's politicians in general can be seen as role models. The candidate for the Conservative Party, Harrison Carter told me that he found that “the people at the top at the moment …  are quite incompetent” and that “the current system has opened the way to a lot of corruption”. In agreement, the candidate for the Liberal Democrats, Naleli Nonyane told me that the current politicians "don’t really associate with [the youth]" and that many "are only doing it for themselves". 

 

Therefore it can be argued that the children are not to blame for making mock elections a popularity vote rather than a serious educational experience as many feel that current politicians make a mockery of the system in itself. It is not surprising that misleading information within the Brexit referendum from both sides in 2016, and the broken manifesto promises has led to more innocent manifestations of this in mock elections in schools.

 

However, of course, it is in the nature of children to be incentivised by promises of food, and the comedic value of elections videos, and at the end of the day should we just be thankful that students are engaging any way they can in politics and are being made aware of how their vote matters. Without realising, children are being made aware of the parties and what they stand for through this annual tradition of parliament week and so maybe this education is the key to creating a generation which will once improve our national political system and help fight for key issues they truly care about.

 

In many ways, the youth of today have had to be more vocal with what they want to achieve as the climate crisis worsens and becomes evermore relevant to their everyday lives. When looking at it objectively, the younger generations will have to live with the consequences of these pressing issues not being dealt with and so our current politicians need to step up and take greater action - particularly in light of the somewhat disappointing end to COP26.

 

So although in many ways these mock elections are somewhat popularity contests, Parliament week can be seen as a success in the fact that it does open up the youth’s eyes to our system and encourage them to want to get involved as they come to an age where they are able to make a difference with their vote.