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Cheltenham youngsters have mixed feelings about local and European elections

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: May 18, 2014

Young voters and non-voters at All Saints' Academy in Cheltenham

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LOCAL and European elections will be held across the country this week, with voters in Cheltenham able to choose borough councillors and Euro MEPs.

But traditionally turn out in European elections has been very low; the last time, in 2009, only 34.5 per cent of voters bothered to choose a candidate, with that figure rising to 40 per cent in the south west

The Echo visited All Saints’ Academy in Hester’s Way to speak to A-level students, most of whom are eligible to vote for the first time this year.

Of the seven students we spoke to, three will be voting, three won’t and one, Laura Walker, is four days too young to vote, but isn’t ruing the missed opportunity.

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Jake Sheppard, 18, who lives in Gloucester, said: “I’m not informed enough to vote in this election. I don’t think you should just vote because you can if you don’t know anything about it.”

Another non-voter, Jo Oliver, 20, said: “I don’t think I’m even registered to vote. It’s not something that we’ve ever really talked about in my family - I don’t think my mum goes to vote herself.”

But others were keen have their say, such as Liam Taylor, 18, from Arle.

“I’m going to vote and I’m quite looking forward to it,” he said. “It feels good to be able to take a full part in these things now.”

Liam added: “At the moment, we’re all still in school so it perhaps doesn’t feel like it matters.

“When we’re looking for work and paying tax, maybe looking for a house, perhaps it’ll be more relevant to us and more young people will get involved.”

Kerri Skelding, the academy’s PR and marketing manager, said: “One of the things the students need to think about is that the policies that affect them are being made by politicians right now, so those of them who want to go to university will have to pay fees because of government policies.”

A desire to be better informed and for help to cut through the sometimes off-putting pantomime of arguing politicians emerged from the students.

Miss Skelding said: “We’ve had Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood visit us three of four times a year and we took a group up to parliament not long ago, and we do teach about politics in our Learning for Living classes.”

Jo Oliver said: “It’s important for us to know how politics and elections are relevant to us.”

The local and European elections will be held on Thursday.

Vox pop:

Jake Sheppard, 18, Gloucester

I haven’t really done enough to find out what it’s all about to vote this time, I’ve just heard a lot of noise about UKIP.

I’ll probably vote in the general election next year, but I feel I don’t know enough about it to vote responsibly this year, so I’ll sit this one out.

Matt Griffin, 18, Whaddon

I’m not going to vote. I’ve never really been interested in politics. It’s not something that’s important at home. I think I’ll probably take more of an interest as I get older and it becomes more relevant to me.

Jo Oliver, 20, Cheltenham

Sometimes when you’re watching politicians and it’s just men in suits and they’re arguing, it makes you want to turn off. I don’t think some of the politicians care about women or don’t understand - it doesn’t seem to matter to them.

Isaak Falzon, 19, Cheltenham

I’m going to vote. You hear a lot about the more extreme parties and I think it’s important that people with more moderate views actually get out and vote so that the extreme parties don’t get in.

It’s important to make your voice heard.”

Laura Walker, 17, Cheltenham

My birthday is just four days after the election, so I can’t vote. I’m not upset I’m missing it, though - I wouldn’t be voting even if I could.

I don’t really pay much attention to politics, it just goes in one ear and out the other, but I think we could have more in schools to explain to us what it’s all about – what the issues are.”

Keiran Bates, 18, central Cheltenham

I think it’s important to get involved. I’m looking forward to it. I want to study history, so I’ve been interested in politics for some time, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to vote.

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  • TIMONLINE2010  |  May 19 2014, 12:52PM

    I like to think I'm fairly politically aware but I have no idea who the 'local' MEP candidates are or what they stand for/do.

    |   -1
  • Nogman  |  May 19 2014, 10:49AM

    An interesting article. While people may not be interested in politics, they would surely be interested in how tidy or scruffy their neighbourhood is, the level of council tax, number of empty shops, pubs etc., crime and antisocial behaviour. All things their local councillor can influence, and that they themselves can influence by using their vote.