Britain woke up to a shock election result today, with Labour outperforming expectations whilst Theresa May is left to pick up the pieces of a campaign she was supposed to walk. But aside from the result itself, one of the most surprising outcomes of the election is that an estimated 72 per cent of eligible voters aged 18-25 showed up to the polling booths.
That’s an unprecedented increase of 31 percentage points from 2015. But after three quarters of young voters turned out to vote Remain in the EU Referendum, only to be betrayed by their elders, who can blame them for showing up now?
One 18-25 year old I spoke to told me that there has never been a more important time to get her voice heard as a young person. Young people are facing a reality that will make it harder for them to travel and work abroad, harder to buy a house, harder to go to University. The Brexit vote, coupled with Donald Trump’s Presidential win in America, has shown young people that their voice is one of the only tools they have to fight back and not voting doesn’t help. We have a vote and we must use it, now more than ever.
It helps, of course, that Jeremy Corbyn and the political left
have really invested in their social media output. Corbyn, along with Liberal
Democrat leader Tim Farron, is one of few major British politicians on
Snapchat, something he used to his advantage when he posted footage of his
brunch with grime artist Jme to urge young people to vote. Jme, who admitted
that he was a first-time voter himself, explained why so he felt so few young
people vote: ‘I've grown up making the best out of what I've got. Sometimes
I feel like we don't need to vote - like it doesn't matter.’
This interview led to the Grime4Corbyn movement, which likewise aimed to encourage young people to take part in the electoral process, whilst Corbyn was listed as a current artist on Jme’s grime collective BBK’s Wikipedia page, the screenshot of which went viral on Twitter.
Leaflets were distributed in Croydon Central, a Tory marginal won last night by Labour, displaying a picture of Croydon-born rapper Stormzy, reading: ‘The Tories hold Croydon by 165 votes (that’s literally it). Even your dad’s got more Facebook friends. Stormzy says VOTE LABOUR.’
These leaflets were not endorsed by Stormzy (though he had come out for Corbyn in the past) or the Labour Party themselves, and proved that official campaign material is not always the best way of reaching people who, thus far, have been left out of the political system. This was a victory for grassroots campaigning and taught us to never underestimate the power of a good meme.
Furthermore, I can’t recall a single attempt by the Conservatives to engage young voters, bar perhaps a few negative anti-Corbyn adverts which only served to drive young people further away from a political elite they already distrust. The Huffington Post published a quote from an unnamed Tory candidate saying ‘Under-30s love Corbyn but they don’t care enough to get off their lazy arses and vote for him!’
This was tweeted by left-wing commentator Owen Jones and retweeted more than 11,000 times. But as Jones said today, ‘Politicians showed contempt for Britain’s young people. And then young people roared back.’