I’ve just read Dave’s rant over at Though Cowards Flinch on this piece of utter bollocks on the Comment is Free site. I feel obliged to post something, given that many will no doubt read the piece and assume that Sian Anderson is speaking for a generation.
Personally, the thought of walking into a polling station, tattooed up to my neck, piercings all over my face and wearing my comfortable-yet-dreaded-by-the-government “hoody” to be judged and looked down upon is cringeworthy. Well, I assume that’s what happens – I’ve never voted before.
Oh yes, because that’s what us 18-24 year olds do, isn’t it? We go and get those fancy piercings and get tattooed up to the doo-dahs. I suppose we’re also all ‘hip’ and ‘with it’, and we all listen to that rap music they have nowadays. Christ. Did you order that description from Idiotic Stereotypes Ltd or did you get it free with a copy of the Mail on Sunday?
I’d guess it’s the same for a majority of young people today who are also unaware of where to turn in order to actually comprehend what voting means and what the parties are promising…
I know plenty of young people who know exactly what the main parties stand for – not manifesto details, but their general standpoint – the issues many I speak to refer to is that the parties never keep their promises, or that none of them represent a real choice, both of which are valid criticisms of contemporary British politics. This avoids completely how pointless it is for many people (not just youngsters) to vote, given our first-past-the-post system and its countless safe seats.
…a political correspondent on a news channel beginning their report with “41% of local authorities’ electoral registration officers …” means losing your average teenager in seconds.
What exactly should we be starting news reports with, if not the kind of language you expect to hear on the news? If I turn on the 10 o’clock news tonight to see Huw Edwards dressed like Ali G, opening the news with, “Aight blud, it’s 10pm on Friday night, why isn’t you out clubbing? But if you’s keepin’ it on the D/L tonight, get wiv some facts yeah – over to our main politics geezer Nicky R, outside the PM’s crib on Downing Street” then I will actually vomit. If people want rubbishy soft-news they can tune in to the spectacularly awful One Show every night.
Take down your billboards, give up the fancy speeches and get to the core of what young people are engaged with these days. Whether it’s music, EastEnders or sport – use it. If you’ve got the balls (Ed), brief rapper 50 Cent to talk to young people about the importance of voting in a way they can understand.
I really don’t think this gives young people enough credit – they have no problem getting involved with stuff they actually give a shit about, no matter who they have telling them to do it. The campaign underway at the moment to save BBC 6music and the Asian Network, which has attracted a great deal of support from young people, has its star faces, but they’re not necessarily the driving force behind it.
In addition, the situation has allowed me opportunities to talk to people about what will probably happen to the BBC under a Tory government. It’s events like this that allow young people to talk to their peers about politics in terms that are easy to understand, on issues close to them. The trick is not 50 Cent or Lily Allen standing on a stage saying, “Vote”, but showing young people that the government affects them on a daily basis. Celebrities playing at politics, and the sheer hypocrisy it so often promotes, makes me sick.
What you should be doing is ensuring the education system is equipped to the fullest and that this generation are having politics slapped into the back of their heads from primary school days.
This suggestion makes far more sense, and since 2002 schools have been obligated to teach “citizenship” in the curriculum. In my secondary school, this took the form of a lesson once a fortnight, but at no point were politics or political parties discussed. Most of the lessons focused on issues such as domestic abuse, drugs or employment. In later years, the focus shifted towards university application or exam techniques. The truth seems to be that schools are reluctant to teach politics for fear of angering parents. However, not all schools are terrified of political issues. A recent visit by the local MP to the sixth form at my old secondary school led to a barrage of questions, from both students and teachers, on Afghanistan and the decision to invade Iraq, which he was completely unprepared for. My younger sister (who still attends the school) called him “useless”. Apparently, most of his answers consisted of telling people they were “just wrong” and of saying that we were “defending democracy” even when the question directly queried this very assertion.
However embarrassing for the MP in question (who shall remain nameless for now), this has piqued my sister’s interest in politics, as she “can’t vote for him” after that performance. She’s started paying more attention to the news and, of course, I’ve been gently nudging her towards the right kind of reading, but even if she decides to vote Conservative I’ll be happy that she’s come to an informed decision.
This kind of engagement between schools and the political establishment can be the foundation of young voter interest and participation in politics, even when the reasons for it are negative rather than positive. When the devil is often in the detail of what parties stand for (especially when confronted with the kind of marginal choice between two or three centrist parties), a concert which says little more than “end poverty”, while commendable and of obvious benefit in the short-term to those affected, has very limited political potential, not to mention how offensively patronising the message usually is.