It turns out that, contrary to popular media opinion, politics is alive and well with our great capital's young. Last night we squeezed into the State of London Debate, an event at Central Hall Westminster hosted by Boris Johnson and his team. A ticket did not guarantee entry and luckily we got there in plenty of time because the event was full to the brim with Londoners, young and old, anxiously waiting to ask questions and hear what the Blond had to say about London. On this evidence, it looks like Boris has done what other politicians fail to do, managing to appeal and relate to the young. Look at the queue!
This is an annual affair and an opportunity for Londoners to ask questions and air grievances. Yesterday's event was focused on 'New opportunities for young Londoners', and as you'd imagine, the passion of the audience was immense, with gang culture, gun and knife crime taking centre stage.
The panel was as follows:
Boris Johnson - Our Mayor. Previously a journalist as well as MP for Henley on Thames. His hair was surprisingly well groomed.
Ray Lewis - Deputy Mayor for Young People and Opportunities. He is also Executive Director of Eastside Young Leaders' Academy. His role at the GLA is to lead on policy and strategy to meet the Mayor's manifesto commitments for children and young people. Ray was hugely impressive and has some great ideas on how to sort London out. Worth keeping tabs on.
Munira Mirza - Director of Policy, Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries. Her role at the GLA is to lead on policy and strategy to meet the Mayor's manifesto commitments for arts and culture. Munira would like to see more investment in youth cultural facilities.
Jennette Arnold AM – Chair for the evening and of the London Assembly. A lady not to get on the wrong side of.
Ross Kemp – Mitchell Brother, actor and 'BAFTA award winning' gang expert. He is down with the kids and their lingo e.g. 'slipping' is going from one neighbourhood to another without permission of the native gang.
Headlines emerging from the discussion were that every generation has been prone to panic about younger generations (Boris suggested that Plato among others had observed this), but issues affecting the young in today's society are a major challenge which must be addressed. Money needs to be spent wisely for maximum output. The media need to be more forgiving to the youth. Opportunities for young people to prosper and to get involved in the political process need to be widely created. A radical rethink is needed.
The most important question of the evening was asked by Boris himself… how do we make the carrying of knifes and guns seem uncool? We'd like to open this debate to the floor.
By Jonny Rosemont