Make sure you are registered to vote. You can do this from the age of 16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 14 in Scotland, even if you won’t be able to vote in most elections until you are 18. It only takes a few minutes.
Once you are registered, you will be given notice of forthcoming elections. Find out as much as you can about the issues and the candidates so that you can make an informed decision.
Your polling station will be near you and will be open for voting in person between 7 am and 10pm. Officials at the polling station will tell you what you need to do.
If you don’t want to vote in person on the election day, or can’t, apply for a postal vote. You can do this generally or for a specific election, and don’t need to give a reason, unless you live in Northern Ireland, but you do need to allow enough time before the election – your application must reach your local registration office at least 11 working days before the relevant election.
You can also vote by proxy – getting someone else to vote on your behalf. You need to apply for this at least 6 working days before the relevant election, and will need to explain why you can’t vote in person.
Join a political party
If you have decided that you really want to support a particular political party, you could become a member. How much you become involved is up to you. You could help to campaign (locally or nationally), you could speak at meetings, you could organise events – or you could just give the benefit of your subscription money.
You will find below links to the membership pages of all the UK political parties which are currently represented by MPs in the House of Commons (in alphabetical order!):
Conservative – annual membership for under 23s is currently £5.00
Green Party – annual membership for students currently £5.00
Labour – annual membership for 14-19 year olds is currently “from” £1.00
Liberal Democrats – annual membership is currently £6.00 for those under 26
Work for your MP
Doing some work experience for your local MP will give you a real insight into the day-to-day reality of political life. Contact their constituency office to see what might be available; you can find out names and contact details of your local MP through the Parliament website here.
You will not normally be paid, and it will make life easier if you are sympathetic to your MP’s political views; but this may not be necessary if you are polite and generally keep your views to yourself. Remember, your MP represents everyone in their constituency.
Work in the House of Commons
For a different perspective, try the House of Commons summer work experience scheme for 14-18 year olds.
Get involved in the Youth Parliament
The Youth Parliament was established in 2000 as a means of getting young people’s voices heard; whether you think this has succeeded or not, check out their website and see how you can debate issues that matter to you on the floor of the House of Commons.
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