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Vice Chancellor’s radio show highlights politics for a new generation

Date 8.07.2021

Young people and their interest – or lack of it – in politics, is discussed in a podcast presented by the University of Northampton’s Vice Chancellor.

Shout To The Top is a monthly radio show and podcast presented by Professor Nick Petford on NLive Radio, with July’s edition focusing on politics.

Listen to the podcast on the NLive Radio website.

Joining Nick this month are two high profile political figures – Former Education Secretary, Justine Greening, and Northamptonshire South MP, Andrea Leadsom – plus leading lights from the local political landscape.

As well as examining younger people’s engagement with politics, interviews also covered Northamptonshire’s creation of two new unitary authorities, election pacts and political journalism.

Former Education Secretary, Justine Greening, spoke about her journey from a state school pupil in South Yorkshire to senior government minister, and how she’s now spearheading a movement to protect opportunities and boost social mobility.

Justine is co-founder of the Social Mobility Pledge – a campaign and coalition of businesses and universities committed to being a force for good by putting social mobility at the heart of their purpose. The University of Northampton signed the pledge in February.

She said: “Young people are really positive about the impact they can have on the wider world. I think they more empowered now, more than ever before. They feel they can make a difference. They are also less accepting of inequality of opportunity. We are used to seeing some kinds of people doing better than others and we’ve got to get out of that mindset and realise talent really is spread evenly, so we should be seeing people from all walks of life getting to the very top. Our pledge is behind the idea of having Britain operating in a more fairer way, than in the past, and young people are right at the centre of making that happen.”

Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, Andrea Leadsom, spoke to Nick about how her previous career in finance equipped her for a role of politician – and where country, constituency and party loyalties rank when she votes in the Commons. She also revealed why she invited the world’s second-richest man to set up business in the county, before praising the University of Northampton’s role in the Arc Universities Group.

The reluctance of younger people to get involved in party politics was discussed by the University’s Daniel Jones. Daniel is chairman of the Kettering & Wellingborough Liberal Democrats and an archivist at the University’s Searchlight Archive – a major collection of material documenting the activities of British and international fascist and racist organisation.

He said: “My experience, from studying and working at the University is that they really do care about politics. They’re really passionate, but are not getting involved in party politics. Party politics isn’t offering the young what they want. But you see them active in social movements, these non-partisan groups and protest movements. They’re passionate and articulate and given space, they can really, really impress.”

Daniel also spoke about the Lib Dem-Green Party pact, in the North Northamptonshire Council elections, which saw the groups agree not to contest particular seats in the hope of boosting both parties’ chances – and getting alternative voices heard.

Political journalist and Senior Lecturer in Multimedia Journalism at the University, Kate Ironside, was also a guest on the show. She talked about how she tumbled down a flight of stairs with a Tory MP in the House of Commons, in the race to break the news Margaret Thatcher’s days at Number 10 were numbered. Kate also spoke about the importance of reporting the big decisions politicians make – and the tittle tattle – and how to remain impartial, or not.

Community activist and West Northamptonshire Council councillor, Danielle Stone, talked to Nick about her fears about the county’s new political structures. Explaining why Labour fought for a unitary council for Northampton, she said: “We did not see how it was going to work, putting Northampton in with two very rural areas, where we would be dominated by rural Conservatives.”

Danielle also talked about the under-representation of female councillors at the two new unitary councils, the barriers that can alienate people from politics – and her chance meeting with two young people who are taking on anti-vaxxers.

Secretary of the Green Party in Northamptonshire, Steve Miller, spoke to Nick about the short-termism of politics, which he feels is damaging the prospects of improving the environment. He said: “The Green Party isn’t really bothered about the short-termism of the electoral cycle. Our policies are based around what we actually need to do to make our society more sustainable. We have long-term plans and appreciate stuff nepodcast on iTuneseds to be joined up.” Steve also explained why the Greens are more successful at local elections, compared to national polls.

Meanwhile, Rob Bridge, the inaugural chief executive of North Northamptonshire Council, provided an overview of his role and how the county’s new political structure operates.

Shout To The Top airs between 7pm and 9pm on the first Wednesday of every month, on NLive Radio. Listen via the website – or if you are in Northampton, on 106.9FM. The show is also available as a podcast on iTunes.

Image by Jennifer Griffin.