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Elected in May 2010, Lisa Nandy is the Labour MP for Wigan and now serves as the Shadow Minister for Civil Society. Nandy’s keynote speech was the first of the conference, and following her Q and A session, SCAN was granted an interview with her.
“I think probably the biggest challenge at the next election is not around the offers of the political parties, I think the offers are very clear and there’s a fairly stark choice,” Nandy told SCAN, conceding that the main challenge is to show, to persuade and convince people that politicians can be trusted again. “I think it’s been a long time coming; the MPs expenses scandal really helped to undermine people’s trust in politics and politicians sticking to their word, but then obviously then you had the thing with Nick Clegg and tuition fees, and broken promises and so on.”
Nandy is however optimistic that public disengagement can be reversed if politicians, and political parties, begin to talk more about “what’s happening in local communities.” The recent announcement by George Osborne of a Mayor for Greater Manchester is perhaps evidence of this shift; however the procedure is concerning for Nandy. “I believe in more powers to the North, but I don’t just believe in taking power from one group of men in Whitehall and handing it to another group of men in a town hall, without real accountability to local communities, and at the moment we’ve got a system that is proposed that is a mayoral system, for no obvious reason, and that mayor will be accountable to those same handful of men that signed up to this deal without consulting the public, and I don’t think it’s good enough.”
For Nandy, the prospect of devolution to Greater Manchester offers new opportunities, particularly of benefit to young people; however her optimism is limited. “If we had control over our transport system in Greater Manchester I would expect that we would bring in, if not free travel, at least subsidised travel for young people in that situation, and it would make the world of difference to young people from across our region; but we don’t have it, and why don’t we have it? Because the system we’ve got at the moment is for a small group of people making decisions about millions and millions of lives in areas that have very big differences between them.”
For young people, students in particular, there is sense of disenfranchisement, particularly when a large proportion of the student population chose not to vote. Nandy is aware of the lack of political participation amongst young people, especially in the run-up to an election, yet remains optimistic for the future. “I think there could be a problem this time round particularly because of what happened last time when a lot of students came out and voted on tuition fees, and then found that the Lib Dems had changed their stance,” Nandy told SCAN. “So I do think there is a feeling about being betrayed, but I also think that this goes back a lot further than 2010. I think students haven’t been that political, like party political certainly since I was at university.
“But I think things might be changing, I think this generation is becoming politicised by what’s happening, by the closing off of opportunities for a lot of young people. I think a lot of young people will come to Labour and a lot will go elsewhere. But wherever they end up going that’s got to be a good thing, hasn’t it? So I think things will change, but only if we get a government next time round that stands on a clear agenda and then actually delivers it.”