UK Politics

General election 2017: Too young to vote, but still campaigning

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Media captionThe 16-year-olds canvassing for their parties

Sixteen-year-olds will not be allowed to vote at next month's general election, but some are so keen to have their voice heard they are taking to the streets to campaign for their party.

One of them is Hani Mustafa, who is of Sudanese and Czech heritage, and moved to the UK when he was two.

Hani is on the streets of Peterborough - a seat held by the Tories since 2001 - delivering the Conservative Party message door-to-door.

He raps his knuckles on the front door of a house in the marginal constituency of Peterborough.

"That was a strong and stable knock," he says with a smile.

Hani is 16 years old and a passionate Tory supporter. Despite being too young to vote in next month's general election, he is still determined to make his mark.

"I think Theresa May relates to people like me and that's why she would be such a good prime minister," he tells the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

Hani chose to join the Conservatives after studying the different parties' manifestos during the 2015 general election.

You can watch Catrin's full report on YouTube

Image caption Hani wants to make his mark on the general election, even though he is too young to vote

"I saw the Conservative mission of working hard, doing the right thing and contributing to society and that really appeals to me," he said.

He describes campaigning for the Tories as the best vehicle to improve his community and, while he has had the odd door slammed in his face, he says the response from householders is generally positive.

"I think when people see a younger person they're more inclined to listen to you," he says.

"[They understand] I could be playing computer games, but I've gone to the effort of knocking on your door.

"You get people making lovely comments. People thanking you for coming."

Asked if he ever envisages becoming a politician he begins shaking his head, before swiftly adding "who knows?", as he breaks into a smile.

'I'm mid-GCSEs'

In the constituency of Sheffield Central - a little more than 100 miles north - Luke Bassett is helping the Labour Party.

He is also 16 and for him, the timing of the election could hardly be worse.

"As soon as she [Theresa May] called the election I was like, 'Why has she done it in the middle of my GCSEs'?

"She has done it because she hates me," he jokes.

The Labour Party won Sheffield Central with a strong majority in 2015 and Luke is trying to convince voters to keep supporting them.

"In government we had a very, very strong record," he says between houses.

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Image caption Luke says many young people are not interested in politics as parties do not try to appeal to them

"We brought social justice on to the agenda, we invested in the NHS, we invested in infrastructure and I think that everyone should have that kick-start in life and the best possible beginning for them."

When he's older, Luke wants to try and forge a career in politics.

But he understands this is an unusual path for someone of his age, which he believes is a product of the way politics is run.

"Politics as a whole is quite exclusionary, because politicians don't need to angle for young people's votes - as we can't vote," he says.

"Even 18 to 25-year-olds don't vote nearly as much as their older compatriots.

"It's not in the education system either, you're not taught about politics."

Persuading mum and dad

In west London, Elizabeth Bernard - also 16 - is pounding the streets of Richmond Park.

The Liberal Democrats snatched the seat from the Conservatives last December, in a by-election triggered by the resignation of ex-MP Zac Goldsmith.

Elizabeth is looking at a list of names and addresses on a clipboard.

"Number four, is a 'yellow Conservative'," one campaigner says.

Image caption Elizabeth is targeting 'yellow Conservatives', who vote Tory but could be persuaded to vote Lib Dem

"A 'yellow Conservative' is a Conservative who might also tend towards the Lib Dems," Elizabeth explains, as she heads towards their front door.

"They're fun to canvass because you obviously have to try to persuade them to vote for you."

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Elizabeth is a committed Liberal Democrat, even though both of her parents will be backing a different party next month.

"I am very proud of Elizabeth that she has her own thing," her mum Mary, says. "But both John [Elizabeth's father] and myself would vote Tory."

"I don't think I will ever be able to persuade dad, who has voted Tory since forever," Elizabeth says. "But mum? Maybe," she adds.

Image caption Elizabeth is a Lib Dem supporter, but her parents vote Conservative

"Obviously I would say this, but I can't ever see myself becoming Conservative in any future ever.

"I think the Lib Dems are the only party to stand up for the freedom of the individual and also the only party mostly to stand up for our place in the European Union."

Sarah Olney, who was elected as the Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park in December, thinks the EU referendum - a "massive" nation-changing decision - may have made more young people think about politics.

"It is great to have anybody who is enthused about politics and people who really want to make a difference," she says.

"But I have noticed there are quite a lot of young people who are getting very enthusiastic about politics."

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.


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