The first time I voted in Baghdad 2002 Saddam won the elections by 99 per cent. Then I voted in 2005 and Iraq fell into chaos. So I bought me an Anarchist t-shirt and stopped voting.
I’m not the only cynic. 56 per cent of Britain’s population between 17 and 24 years old did not vote in their last elections according to the Electoral Commission.
But there is still a group of political activists in their twenties who have resorted to social media, comedy and live entertainment to tell young people why it is absolutely pivotal to vote in the upcoming government elections.
Jamie Green is a student who chaired the General Election Hustings for Lewisham Deptford which took place at Goldsmiths campus, March 25th. The panel included candidates for the Green Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party. About 60 people showed up, most of them Goldsmiths students, to quiz the candidates with questions on tuition fees, NHS, housing, trade unions and benefit cuts for the disabled. Some let out the occasional boo.
Green recognises students’ disenchantment with politics but he stressed that they must vote: “After years of policies that have negatively affected young people you can see why many don’t see the value in voting. However, one of the few recourses young people have IS to vote and I’d definitely encourage all young people to do so.”
Among the audience at the hustings debate was Uzma Rasool studying Social and Political Sciences at Goldsmiths. She is 19 years old, East London born and bread to immigrant working class parents.
“I think its important especially for students and especially for someone who grew up in East London like me to give my voice in a kind of spectrum that is dominated by educated, middle class, white, grammar-school people. People, you know, who all come from a similar background and have lots of privileges. So it really is important that I came here and actually give my opinion along with many others who are usually ignored,” Rasool stressed.
But not everyone has Rasool and Green’s enthusiasm. So Queen Mary’s Student Union improvised a more colourful plan. They pitted five of its Politics Department lecturers in a battle of the titans. Each lecturer represented one of the national political party leaders in a mock debate. More than 500 students showed up at the Mason Lecture Theatre 10 March and hammered panelists on issues that mattered to them. The Student Union pleaded on their Facebook page for attendees to have mercy on the lecturers who have ‘bravely agreed to represent these political parties’ platforms’ reminding students that it was a simulation.
MLT packed out for QM general election debate! pic.twitter.com/wQH9b3Nx0x
— Charlotte (@charlotterotten) March 10, 2015
VInspired, an independent non-profit youth organisation, resorted to comedy in its Swing the Vote campaign. Every week VInspired runs a new video where a vlogger talks about a different cause that interests young people up until registration deadline 20 April. Of those vloggers is comedian Mawaan Rizwan who is flat out funny. ‘Housing crisis, benefit cuts, tuition fees’ Rizwan rants ‘young people are fucked.’
[Mawaan Rizwa’s: Save the Old People]
VInspired campaign manager Rachel Stroud explains why they joke about a not so funny topic as voter registration: “Humour’s really important to making content engaging – most of our vloggers use it in one way or another, though not all are professional comedians like Mawaan. It’s pretty easy to see that entertaining videos and posts get far more viewers, understandably, because humour is great way to make a topic seem human. Because politics can often seem serious and hard to talk about, we chose all our vloggers because we felt they’d bring humour and personality to the campaign, and help bring politics to life.”
Bite the Ballot, another non-profit youth organisation, takes on a more formal high profile tone. They partnered with ITV News and Twitter to put together televised debates with Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, Labour Party’s Ed Miliband, Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg and UKIP’s Nigel Farage.
You can follow all those Q&As on their YouTube channel Bite Back including one jaw dropping debate where Clegg mulls over why its better to have German neighbours than Polish.
[Nigel Farage talks immigration]
Jazza John, digital manager at Bite the Ballot hopes that these debates break the barriers between young voters and Westminster. John believes that youth’s disengagement with politics is a fallacy: “They care about lots of different issues such as the NHS, tuition fees and immigration, but often politics seems like a closed game,” John says.
“The youth vote makes up over five million people. If all of these people went out to vote it could make for a real change.”
If you’re inspired try not to miss the voter registration deadline on 20 April. You can register online
Otherwise anarchist t-shirts are £5.99 on Amazon.