“Fuck the government and fuck Boris”; if you love Stormzy you’ve probably heard those words before (and maybe even shouted them whilst drunk off your face at Glastonbury this year).
These now infamous words are the inspiration for FCK Boris a largely youth-led campaign holding events across the country to engage young people in progressive politics.
We sat down with one of their party organisers Shamime to chat about politics, young people and how you guys can make all the difference in this election.
Tell us a bit about FCK boris; what’s it all about?
It’s an amazing campaign powered by people- a lot of them are young and female and when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister there was a huge street parade in Westminster to demonstrate this this new PM is racist, sexist, homophobic. He often refuses to apologise for many of the things he says and does that are offensive. And we’re just not here for that type of politics.
Since then it’s evolved from huge street parades to a mass movement to get people to register to vote and help people understand politics in a way which is palatable to them. It’s great because it puts people at the heart of community organising- when you do a street parade you’re on a double decker bus, with music blaring out and it’s just a feel-good vibe. It’s a different way to create a gateway into politics.
If you check out our instagram, it’s hella informative and is opening a door to those who are completely disenfranchised; to be enticed by politics and see it as important and part of them.
Sure. We’ve found the lack of accessibility in politics to be a huge issue for young people. What do you think about this?
Yeah it’s a huge issue- I’ve actually said before half jokingly that if they turned the despatch boxes in the chamber into a deck with turntables and had politicians rapping over a beat that would resonate more with young people. It’s a bit of a mad example, but we do need to put politics into a context that’s meaningful for young people. But I’d fully watch that!
To tie in culture and music and superimpose politics into that opens people’s eyes and people realise it’s no longer this detachable thing but something tangible and real.
During the election you’ve morphed a movement into urging young people to register and vote. In the longer term, post-election, what’s the plan for FCK Boris. How will it evolve?
It depends on how the election pans out- we have a good chance of ousting a PM from their seat which could be absolutely huge. In terms of the future, FCK Boris could continue to be a force for providing information, community organisation and mobilisation of people.
Are politicians interested in and supporting what you’re doing?
Some, yeah! We’ve tried to have a dialogue with them- we had John McDonell MP speak at our first parade in Westminster as well. So we’ve got some political backing; some top-down influence as well as bottom-up- so people and politicians can meet halfway.
You guys got your name from Stormzy’s lyric “fuck the government and fuck Boris”. Do you feel like there’s a place for influencers in politics, particularly to sway young people?
Of course- if you look at the block parades and DIY parties it’s hitting the cultural side (musicians, artists). There is this sense that influencers can be a part of this and help get our message across. At the North Kensington event we were able to get Asha Sarkar from Novara Media to come down and chat.
We do need to tap into those authentic channels, none of that #AD stuff but influencers who are genuinely interested. You’re bringing a lot of new people into the conversation- people who previously thought the conversation didn’t involve them- and that’s big.
Tell us a bit more about how you got involved in FCK Boris
I’m 21 years old and a full-time student. I saw the original protest in Westminster and I felt like I was part of a movement; hearing great music and political dialogue and it felt like a community. I was brought up in a very political household and I study politics too. I have also done a lot of community things like Youth Parliament, youth forums and have generally been an advocate for giving young people a voice.
One of the organisers got in contact with me to set up a FCK Boris party and I was like “yep!” even though I had like two uni essays to do ha! Between myself and others we did an event in a community space in under a week. There’s no way I can just sit around and know that I could be doing something to change the direction of this election.
Young people are more likely to be involved in activism, but less likely to convert that into voting. Do you see this campaign as being able overtun that? Especially given there’s such a huge lack of trust in politicians.
I think FCK Boris could really bridge that gap. We’re posting informative pieces on our social media all the time. A lot of young people are getting involved. To turn this into actually voting is tough. But the registration levels for under 25 year olds are now really high; as of 20th November 47.1K registered to vote already. I feel like there is a fire being lit.
FCK Boris is a part of this journey, by opening the gateway to politics. Now you don’t have to watch ITV or whatever to be engaged- politics is done in a way that is palatable to young people. We are bridging that gap.
If we segment out young people, the groups of young people who are least likely to feel they have an influence are those who are less educated and young black and minority ethnic people. Are you targeting specific groups of young people who feel even more marginalised?
In North Kensington we have a really diverse group of people. We have been thinking we might produce posters in different languages as we have a high proportion of migrants. We are also planning to start going to places like local cafes and youth centres to engage with young people. This is hopefully to make these conversations become so much more inclusive and make you feel like you’re really being heard.
What’s your hopeful message for the future for young people?
Go vote! You’ve got till 26th and this is the biggest general election of our lifetime- you’ve got two drastically different offerings from the main parties. Young people, you’ve got this. Have your voices heard.
To register to vote in this election by the 26/11/19 click here