At 17, I don’t yet have the privilege of voting. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been caught up in the frenzy of the general election.
Over the past month, I have been on a quest to find out more. I began looking at my own constituency, Finchley and Golders Green, and speaking to the major party candidates. First up was Mike Freer.
In our conversation, he told me he would stick to his morals and represent the people. He did, after all, step down from his government role when he voted in Parliament against the recognition of Palestine as a state. In his words: “Because I am not Jewish, I am able to represent my Jewish constituents [objectively].” For two hours, we spoke about the importance of politics, our favourite books (we both like The Picture of Dorian Gray) and the upcoming mock election at my school.
Then we have his main competitor, Sarah Sackman. Youthful, charismatic and Jewish, she is a fresh and exciting candidate. Jewish values such as Tikkun Olam, and Rabbi Hillel the Elder’s teachings form her principle: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?”
According to Zach Bennetts, head of politics at JFS, it is crucial for pupils to get involved. Issues like rising bus fares, supermarket prices and tuition fees, he argued, directly affect us. “It’s a two-way street,” he said.
‘If we want people to listen to us, then we need to listen to them’
A number of students below the voting age agree, and have shown their interest in politics by standing for mock elections at school. Mr Bennetts explained that, at JFS, we replicate the real system. Candidates and their campaign managers are chosen from the five parties performing highest in the polls. They then campaign by putting up posters, giving speeches to each year group and debating in hustings. On May 7, as people up and down the country visit the ballots, our students and teachers will cast their own votes.
The same already took place at Immanuel College. According to Joshua Rocker, Conservative candidate (and eventual winner) in the school’s mock election, “politics has taken centre stage”. He argued: “If we want people to listen to us, then we need to listen to them.”
The politician-in-training described his idea for a “Parliament for Jewish schools throughout the UK, where we could discuss issues that mattered”.
Let’s not forget the importance of the internet – something we soon-to-be voters know all about. While Mr Bennetts told me that “it’s important not to patronise young people” by only talking to them through social media, he understood that “there is clearly a role for digital engagement”.
Whoever you select next month, good luck making your vote. We’ll be watching.