Amongst the questions about education, mental health support and apprenticeships at this morning’s Heenan-Anderson Commission session with Ed Miliband, the Labour leader kept back one question to answer to the end. Youth and political engagement …
If people think politics matters they’ll get engaged in it and vote for it.
Now watching me and David Cameron shout at each other once a week on Prime Minister’s Questions isn’t very enlightening for anyone, let’s be frank about it. And it probably massively puts people off politics if they’re watching it because they think it’s two blokes shouting at each other: what’s that got to do with my life? That’s something I think about quite a lot.
Someone in my office was telling me that I’ve done 120 Prime Minister’s Questions in the last four years and that’s 120 times a long time that I’m not going to get back in terms of my life!
I’m not sure it’s made much difference to the sum of human knowledge.
What I like to do is go out and do events like this and go and talk to people. In the end that is, I think, how politics is going to work best.
I’ve set my party this quite difficult target of having four million conversations with people between now and the election … and I think that is the way we need to do politics again and that’s the way I’m going to run my election campaign is going out and talking to people.
The point I would end on is this. I think people in Northern Ireland know this more keenly than people across the United Kingdom … politics has a massive effect on people’s lives. The reason to get involved in politics is not just because it’s nice for politicians, it is because it has huge consequences for jobs, families, homes, climate change, poverty, inequality, all of the issues we’ve talked about. It is out task to go out and convince people of that and it can make a difference.
While changes to ministerial questions in the NI Assembly have added some spontaneity to the topics covered, they still have a long way to go to become effective sessions where ministers are held to account.
Would any NI MLAs be so honest to admit that their questions don’t make much difference to the sum of human knowledge? If only more would take up the opportunities and sessions on offer through Politics Plus to spend time to develop more effective technique …