Ah, 2024. Already a year that has given us non-stop political drama in the UK.
It’s almost like there’s an election coming and a number of the established party characters, from both governing parties in Westminster and Holyrood, are worried about their seats
The winds of change are on their way, and many of the voting public, as well as media outlets, are asking who might take the place of those who leave Westminster.
“Get out for a while. Politics will always be here, and you’ll be much better at it once you’ve lived some more life. Politics begins at 40,” wrote Herald columnist and former head of communications for the Scottish Conservatives, Andy Maciver, last month.
On the contrary, I would argue, given the track record of our recent governments – the scandals, the failures, the breaking of manifestos… the list goes on – that now is exactly the time for young people to become more involved in politics.
We need more people from different backgrounds and with unique experiences in our politics. And, for any parliament to be representative of wider society, it needs to include young people.
We need new ideas around how to take our country forward, and that goes right across the political spectrum, no matter the colour of your rosette.
New generation, new priorities. Whilst I respect all of the candidates putting themselves forward for government in my area of Moray West, Nairn and Strathspey, I know I’m doing things differently.
So far. from what I’ve seen, I’m the only one who is campaigning to bring back mental health support services in Moray. I’m the only one talking about the fact that we have no sewage monitoring at all on major rivers such as the River Spey – even though paddleboarders fell ill after swimming there only last year.
As leader of my local party, I was the first person to raise the issue of lack of housing support for victims of domestic abuse in Moray – an issue which is now being acted on by Conservative local councillor Amber Dunbar (who is younger than me!) in her role as chair of council housing.
Being called ‘too young’ in your 30s is bizarre
Would anyone, Andy Maciver included, tell me these issues aren’t important to the community I want to serve? And would these issues even be talked about if I chose to follow his advice and wait until I’m “older” to get involved in politics?
I was recently asked about being the youngest person in my local area to announce that I am seeking my party nomination for the general election. I’m about to enter my 30s.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled to still be thought of as young. But to be approaching middle age and still be considered “too young” to enter into any career is bizarre.
Not many MPs of any age can boast that they had universal backing for fundamental change to our country’s laws
At 32, Green MSP Gillian Mackay is only a few years ahead of me in age. Yet, she was streets ahead by far when it came to looking at legislation for disposable vapes, which are now being banned by the UK Government, months after Gillian first proposed it.
She has led from the front on the introduction of safe access zones (or buffer zones) at medical facilities such as abortion clinics – a motion with cross-party support. Not many MPs of any age can boast that they had universal backing for fundamental change to our country’s laws.
Change is coming and young people can lead the way
The past few years have brought so much upheaval in politics. We have neither a first minister nor a prime minister who has faced the electorate, whether in the Scottish parliament or at Westminster.
And look at the outcome. If this is the best our established MPs in the governing parties can do, then we badly need a revolution.
A change of direction is coming, and I know I want to do the best I can to deliver for my community. Young people across many different political parties can lead the way.
My age is not a detriment to me: it’s my badge of honour. I am proud to be the youngest candidate in my area (so far).
I’ve seen the results of leaving politics to the established, older figureheads in our governments, and I think it’s time for something and somebody different. And, if not me or you, then who?
Neil Alexander is a game designer from Elgin, and leader of Moray Liberal Democrats