‘You don’t listen to us’: Leeds students ask #whyvote?

Young voters have claimed they feel let down or ignored by the political system in a TV debate in Leeds last night.

Students grilled politicians from five political parties in a programme broadcast live by Channel 4 from the Corn Exchange.

Audience members argued that young people feel disillusioned with politics and some asked why they should bother voting on May 7th.

One student asked, ‘Why am I voting if, in a couple of years’ time, the stuff I voted for doesn’t actually happen? You said you weren’t going to raise tuition fees but suddenly, they’re up again’.

Presenter Jon Snow referred to Russell Brand, who is famously known for refusing to vote.


A University survey found that 71% of students in Leeds intend to vote in the General Election, but 55% haven’t decided who to vote for yet.

Conservative education minister Sam Gyimah argued, ‘If you don’t vote, don’t blame anyone for the policies that governments end up with. It’s up to you to shape your future’.

Liberal Democrat Lord Brian Paddick said politicians tend to put older people’s interests first because they make up a larger proportion of the electorate than 18-24 year olds.

Housing, low pay and the cost of living were other key issues.

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn pledged to make three-year tenancies the norm, create a ceiling on rent increases and scrap letting agency’s fees.


On graduate unemployment, Conservative Sam Gyimah said, ‘When the economy ends up in a mess, it hits young people the hardest. There are 200,000 people on zero-hours contracts who want permanent jobs and haven’t got them. We need to do more about that.’

The Green Party’s Amelia Womack argued that unpaid internships are ‘a complete exploitation’. She said that internships should be limited to four weeks.

LUU’s Community Officer George Bradley said, ‘A lot of the (housing) policies that are being presented in this election aren’t good enough. We need more houses.’

He said that 8,572 households in Leeds Central are living in fuel poverty.

Amid talk of a ‘housing crisis’, the panel heard from a 24-year-old still living with her parents and a homeless woman.


An estimated one in five young people under 25 has sofa-surfed in the past year.

Liberal Democrat Lord Brian Paddock promised a loan of up to £1,500 outside of London to help with rent. UKIP’s Nathan Garbutt blamed a shortage of housing on immigration.

Speaking on political reform, Hilary Benn claimed that he supports the Alternative Vote and that Labour has all-women shortlists.

Audience members, who were selected in collaboration with Twitter, were asked to tweet whether they agreed or disagreed to the arguments put forward, by using the hashtag #whyvote throughout the show.

Alexander Peel

Images courtesy of Erika Sykes

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