Most people who choose to get involved in active politics, do so when they are in their 30s or 40s or later.
Some of us do it younger: we come into parties at university.
And since 1996 or so, we have the added burden that much of our political interaction has been mediated not, in the old days, at Young Farmers or Debating Club or Union Branch meetings, but rather on the Internet.
This poses significant issues, and so if you are a young person and considering getting involved in politics in any serious way, my advice is: don't!
OK, so I am mostly being tongue in cheek. But there is a serious point.
I consider my own case. I joined the Labour Party in 1997, and was active in debating things on newsgroups and email lists from that time.
Like many young newcomers to progressive politics, I was a firestarter - I always ended up taking extreme positions, debating extremely vigorously, in black and white tones. I could not have imagined anything more ridiculous than ever being interested in politics, I thought that Tony Blair was the latter day equivalent of Atilla the Hun, and was outraged and angry at how right wing our country was, and pleased to be pushing hard in a more progressive direction.
Fine, of course, except that as mentioned a lot of that was mediated electronically. Which means that now, as an older, wiser, much more moderate and middle of the road kind of guy, I am for the rest of my life going to have my words from the past thrown back at me (and sometimes, some additional words I never uttered made up for me and chucked into the mix on the side!).
So I'll have said all the caricatureable things someone on the fringe of Labour/Alliance political views (as I then was) in forums where people will be able to copy-paste them, and insinuate that they're my current views or seriously held.
WHAT is the way around that for younger people? The first point is, if you're taking the piss or into exaggeration to make a point or attack an opponent, don't do it electronically. Save it for a political debate or the pub.
The second point is, be really clear about your right to express your views and be open about the fact that they are, inevitably, going to change over time.
I don't know anyone really who has the same political views at 30 as they did at 20, or the same ways of expressing them. Nobody should have to apologise for silly things they said five or ten years ago and I hope nobody would expect them to -- it would be obvious what sorts of remarks are those of an angry young activist, and the more obviously relevant views of someone taking politics seriously.
Of course, those points are only really relevant if you are interested in electoral politics. If not it doesn't tend to matter as people are unlikely to dredge up the past. In my case, I've seen some already and no doubt there'll be more.
That's fine. It doesn't phase me in the slightest. I know that quotes out of context can be used in all sorts of nefarious ways, I've done it myself. It's part of the political game. Given that practically everyone from my generation on is going to have to deal with the same problem, it's hardly a big deal.
So, to all those (multitudes of) young readers of the blog: if you want to let fly, try not to do it with your keyboard. And never back away from your right to be up front about your views changing over time. That's healthy and doing it openly is no bad thing. If you really wanted to play it safe, after all, you wouldn't be interested in politics at all. Or, you'd never say anything at all, and that wouldn't exactly lead to success!