Jacob F. Farr
Naked Politics Blogger
The Council Election results are in and one thing that is abundantly clear is that the United Kingdom has lurched well and truly to the right. If you are a leftie then it could be worse, at least most of UKIP’s support have seen sense and stepped back ever so slightly from the cliff-edge of full blown xenophobia. The Tories appear to have capitalised on Labour’s inability to form an electable party and UKIP’s irrelevance in the aftermath of Brexit. If the Council Election is anything to go by then we are in for a sombre morning on the 9th of June. Of course turnout has always been painfully low when you look at the history of local elections. Nonetheless, most Labour supporters who are sceptical of Corbyn have stated that they would back them at local level but not at national. That bodes for disaster come the General Election, as Labour must sway voters, not turn them blue.
It is worth exploring what this lurch to right means: why is UKIP support depleting and the Labour party tumbling? If the reasoning for the shift at first appears complex then it need not be, for the answer lies in the demographic that bothers to get up and vote: the 35+. After every recent election you can draw a similar pattern between the election result and the ages that were behind such a decision. From the Tory majority of 2015 to the Brexit result and Scottish Independence, the 35+ decided the election because they got up and voted. When polled, the 18-35 year olds more often than not sided against the eventual result. The reason they were defeated was that they did not register to vote. There is a lack of enthusiasm among millennials when it comes to politics because they feel it is pointless. When they engage, they are more often than not betrayed and to a lot of millennials they feel they are powerless as policies rarely ever appeal to them in a direct way.
In 2010, things appeared to be evolving, many young voters were buoyed by a wave of excitement that swept across Britain; this is something that I connect to the Obama election two years prior which made millennials believe they could evoke change. Youth involvement in movements like Occupy Wall Street encouraged those new to the political scene to feel like they could really do something in a communal age. The Liberal Democrats’ promise of not raising tuition fees was seen as an olive branch to the young electorate and the youth responded by backing the Liberal Democrats heavily in the 2010 election. Backing the Liberal Democrats was significant, as it showed that the youth now had a voice to battle against both Labour and the Conservatives. Both parties leaned to seeking out the 35+ vote, by focusing on policies that supported home ownership and protections on pensions.
After reading an article mid-week, I was introduced to a new way of viewing the way certain generations vote compared to others through the lens of culture. The author expertly navigates through the multiple demographics, showing why older generations lean more right and why the youth generation is more left. His diagnosis is that as millennials we have grown up during a period of open borders, whether that be with trade, immigration or in our social lives, where you see a culture of social media envelop all aspect of modern life. We are more community focused than our Reagan/Thatcher era forefathers. That is all fine and well, cultures change, different generations cherish different principles due to the environments that they grow up in, however, what makes this diagnosis extremely dangerous is that the young do not vote. We are left with an imbalance in society.
Millennials can be forgiven for feeling disenfranchised; when you look at British and American politics, you can see an ever present current of disappointment for the 18-35s. After backing the Lib Dems emphatically, the youth electorate were severely disappointed when Nick Clegg joined a coalition with the Conservatives and backed trebling tuition fees. Put that alongside the way Bernie Sanders was treated in the Democrat leadership election and you see why so many have been left disappointed recently. Bernie supporters were betrayed by super delegates, the most undemocratic arm of the Democrats; they had failed to listen to all voters. When you look at votes with super delegates taken out, the race was a lot closer. The DNC handing Clinton questions before debates and favouring her as a candidate meant that youth voters in America were finished. Obama had given them 8 years of neo-liberalism, he didn’t tackle issues with race as some had hoped, nor did he alter the direction of establishment politics. It is no wonder why youth voters in western countries feel so abandoned – what is the point in voting when you are either betrayed or cheated when election time comes?
We are in a predicament at the moment; the youth must be rallied into politics or risk losing their futures for the comfort of their elders. They must focus on building political movements that excite all demographics. We must seek out new tools to reach the young electorate and encourage them to have their voices heard. One method that could assist us is satire. Satire in America has had a resurgence, but here in the UK it is lost. We have no political commentators like John Oliver or Samantha Bee. Or maybe the answer is to make the left sexy again. Although the majority of Trumps supporters were older, he has still managed to inject energy into an Alt-right movement that is aimed primarily at millennials. Trump managed this by riding the wave of support from young, attractive Republicans like Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren. That is what the left youth lacks, a sex appeal beyond PC culture. We need to rise and organise or else we risk being thrown aside as an insignificance in the near future.