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Sexist jibes will be irrelevant to next-generation politicians.

Byline: ABBIE WIGHTWICK COLUMNIST abbie.wightwick@walesonline.co.uk

The week in which two senior Welsh AMs were dubbed 'political concubines' is a good moment to rekindle efforts to jack up political education in our schools.

The Senedd's new Ukip leader Neil Hamilton was jeered during plenary when he turned on Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams exclaiming "These two ladies have made themselves political concubines in Carwyn's harem. What a gruesome concept that will be."

If Leanne and Kirsty were men, would Neil dared to have dubbed them rent boys? Even with his track record, I think not.

But, apparently, it's fair game to call a woman a concubine, even during plenary when Carwyn Jones was renominated as First Minister.

While men make political deals, women doing the same are selling themselves.

You know how it is with women and success. It's always down to some man they cosy up to, not because they're capable.

Making deliberately inflammatory and offensive comments are one way of getting young people engaged in politics, even if that isn't quite what Neil intended.

Perhaps the next generation will be inspired to bring a better level of political debate into Wales and the wider UK if they see words like these doing the rounds on social media? Dissent, disagreement and dislike are essential ingredients for healthy political debate, and an important engine for change, but resorting to sexism is better left to the dinosaurs who cut their political teeth in the 20th century.

As our society becomes increasingly divided by haves and havenots, with poverty and inequality walking hand-in-hand with an economic system which has largely failed all but a few lucky winners, there can be no better time to energise the next generation to bring about change.

Following the Welsh elections, the campaign group Bite The Ballot and the Electoral Reform Society Cymru are calling on all our newly elected AMs to work to improve political awareness and engagement among young people.

I bet they're pleased Neil caused a bit of banter.

Before the election they gained cross-party support for their joint initiative to promote political education, #ThePledge.

Now they are calling on those newly elected to the Senedd to ensure they work to maximise numbers of young people on the electoral register and to implement the recommendations of the Donaldson Review to improve how citizenship is taught in Wales. When the last Welsh Government commissioned Professor Graham Donaldson to review the school curriculum in Wales, he recommended a range of changes to how young people are taught and assessed in school.

On citizenship education, he said far more needs to be done, recommending: "Our children and young people need to be rooted in their own cultures and to have a strong sense of identity as citizens of Wales, the United Kingdom, Europe and the wider world."

Only one in six 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the 2007 Welsh Assembly elections and, although figures for this year's elections aren't in, all the signs are that young people are becoming less, not more, engaged in politics.

Oliver Sidorczuk, from Bite the Ballot, is right when he says: "Everyone should leave school empowered to take a stake in society, and begin to engage with - and evolve - the relationships between individuals, communities and decisionmaking.

Candidates who made the #The-Pledge now have seats in Cardiff and he is calling on them to push the new Welsh Government on the need for "inspiring political education as part of every young Welsh child's education."

As Steve Brooks, Director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru, says, well-informed young citizens are essential to help Wales confront the challenges of the future.

That can only really come about with better political and citizenship education as part of the school curriculum.

As support for #ThePledge came from elected AMs from the Welsh Conservative Party, Welsh Labour Party, Welsh Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru before the election, they will presumably now follow that through with workable suggestions for change, helped along, or not, by Ukip.

As Kirsty Williams is now Education Minister, she is certainly well placed to push for a curriculum that better informs young people.

Before the election, the former Welsh Lib Dem leader said: "I support Bite The Ballot and Election Reform Society Cymru's #ThePledge campaign.

"We need a greater focus on democracy in our schools if we are going to develop citizens who are engaged from the very start of their adult lives."

What Neil will say, or not say, on the matter, remains to be seen.

But if he mentions concubines and harems to young people, he may find vocabulary and attitudes have moved on.

CAPTION(S):

<BUkip leader Neil Hamilton, pictured with wife Christine, called Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams 'political concubines in Carwyn's harem' in the Senedd last week
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 23, 2016
Words:813
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