On the 18th April, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap general election in just less than a year since the last vote. The decision came as a shock to many and meant that on the 8th June, the general public will be called upon yet again to cast their votes to elect. The news of May’s decision flooded social media within minutes and posts popped up all over online blogs and outlets. While many posted opinions and predictions on likely outcomes, one of my first thoughts was – will people vote? And more importantly, will young people vote? In what many consider to be a “make or break” moment for UK politics, there has never been such a crucial time for our younger generation to stand up and be counted on Election Day.
The previous statistics and information regarding young people voting is shocking – in the 2015 general election, only 43% of people aged between 18-24 took to the ballot box to cast their vote. More recently, that figure dropped, with between 36-38% of the same age bracket taking part in the 2016 Brexit vote. What makes this low percentage even harder to swallow is that 73% of young people stated they would vote remain when polled before the vote. This dip in actual turnout is a reflection of how disenfranchised young people feel when it comes to politics. Many believe that their vote is simply unrecognised and that politicians do nothing for them. While that may be true – politicians have done nothing for them, this is not because they’re young but because they didn’t vote.
Many young people that I have spoken to have said that when it comes to voting, they simply aren’t aware of when to register or where to vote. Previously voters were automatically placed on the electoral register but recent changes have meant that voters must now register themselves. Communicating the need to register (to an extent) was attempted before the European Referendum vote with money pumped into youth-focused advertising, YouTube adverts and celebrities like Idris Elba, Lily Allen and Emma Watson encouraging people to vote. But as shown before, this didn’t lead to masses of millennials on voting day and it is this link that needs to be rectified. In a scene that celebrates diversity and standing up for what we believe in – we owe it to ourselves to be represented to the fullest on June 8th.
At the back end of last year, I spoke about our culture and scene being seen to influence change on Nation of Billions and since May’s announcement, I have been thoroughly impressed and humbled by the coverage it has picked up. Election news and coverage has also been featured by the likes of platforms like SBTV, GRM Daily and Link Up TV and shared amongst thousands of young people. Key figures have appeared in support of the youth vote, with Channel 4 News airing a segment last week interviewing Tinie Tempah who spoke about the relationship between grime music, politics and what he felt needed to be done;
“My thing is that we need to think how we can get these people to spread the message and then if you have a backbone of it being engrained in our education…I think that politics will be second nature for us to understand and for us to care about”.
This trend in coverage has sparked many people online who are actively talking about politics and key figures are visibly speaking up on why they are voting and why they believe others should too. One of the first to grab my attention was Akala who spoke very openly via Twitter about his relationship with voting and why he has made the decision to cast a vote next month. Using social media as a platform meant that this was seen by tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people and his honesty truly spoke volumes. Novelist also took to Twitter to throw his support behind Jeremy Corbyn, praising his motives and encouraging others to do the same. Others including JME, AJ Tracey and Toddla T also joined the conversation, speaking on why they would be voting and pushing people to sign up online.
This is something that can’t slow down, in the coming weeks we will need more and more people to discuss why politics matter to young people and urge people to act. Platforms will need to maintain the coverage as the mainstream media goes into overdrive. Key figures need to keep speaking out and we need to be responsible about mobilising young people to the ballot box. Being an activist on Twitter is fantastic but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t use your vote. With just over 40 days until voting days, this is not about who you vote for and where that X will ultimately be drawn. This is about the journey to that moment and encouraging ALL young people to stand up, be counted and most importantly, be represented.
Let our generation be known for something.
Register to vote now – deadline is 22nd May.