Oi, You, Are You Gonna Vote?

by Vanessa Martins 2 years ago in voting

Are memes and grime music the future of youth mobilisation in British politics?

Oi, You, Are You Gonna Vote?
Loretto street art in Liverpool Street, featuring me. 

The result of the 2017 UK General Election was really one of those wig-snatching moments. After David Cameron resigned, Theresa May took over as Prime Minister and a snap election was declared. Seeking a mandate of her own, the Prime Minister came out of the election not only losing seats, but losing her own edges, cheekily snatched by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. May's less "strong and stable" party (and scalp) had to then partner up with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a government.

It was an interesting election, seeing the winners take the L and the losers take the W, but it was even more interesting to see what became labelled as the "youth-quake." This was the reported increase in the general youth turnout, which was traditionally low in past elections compared to older age groups.

According to Ipsos MORI, when comparing the turnouts of the 2015 and 2017 elections among the 18-24 demographic, there was a 16 point rise. Though new studies have argued against the reported surge in youth mobilisation, there was nonetheless an evident attempt to get young people stimulated in the first place, and there is a lot to take away for the future when devising a strategy to involve as many young people in the political process as possible. The use of memes and the support of grime MCs are two examples of how parties and people have attempted to enthuse young voters.

The Dank Memes, Yo

Though we cannot definitively conclude that memes = votes, the proliferation of election memes throughout the Internet helped to make the realm of British politics a tad less intimidating and a tad more accessible. Sure memes can't replace manifestos (or we can make a memeifesto maybe!?!?!), and it won't necessarily help voters make well informed decisions when it comes to the ballot, but the dankest of memes can sometimes be enough to get us young people talking about Trident, ya know?

Politics, With the Red Adidas Tracksuit

Besides the memes, grime had a unique role in bridging the gap between young people and British politics. The #grime4corbyn movement aimed to mobilise young voters while notable grime MCs such as JME and Stormzy publicly displayed their engagement in the election and support for Jeremy Corbyn. Again, like memes, there is no definitive way to prove that this directly contributes to a strong youth turnout in elections, but we can't pretend that it doesn't mean anything when Stormzy tweets "Just go and do it, I used to think nah fuck it it’s long what’s my one lil vote gonna do." Representation is important, not just in cinema, sports, and music, but in campaigning too. The movement helped to represent those who are not typically represented in British politics, and showed that politics is our business too. Politics with a suit can only reach so far, but with a red Adidas tracksuit, you can reach new heights.

So What's the Tea?

Young people are politicised for a multitude of reasons, beyond memes and grime. However, both are noteworthy when looking into the future of campaigning, especially when more of Generation Z are fast approaching the voting age.

Like memes, parties will need to present their messages visually, concisely, and quickly for it to be effective. Parties will also need a spectrum of people, like grime MCs, to spread and support their message to people they can't necessarily reach themselves. Young people can get Westminster SHOOK, but for parties and organisations to engage them, they need to use strategies which complement their unique characteristics as Millennials and Generation Z.

Basically, more memes pls.

Wanna get Westminster shooketh? - @seizethevote

Vanessa Martins
Vanessa Martins
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Vanessa Martins

Vanessa is the CEO and Founder of Seize the Vote, an organisation aiming to increase the youth turnout in British elections.

@seizethevote - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

@imovanessa - Twitter

See all posts by Vanessa Martins