Russell Brand has clearly captured the imagination of many young people, my own children included. And I have to say there is quite a lot of what he says that I agree with, but in my view the danger is that by effectively encouraging even more young people to disenfranchise themselves, the law of unintended consequences plays out.
As a student (many, many moons ago!) I became president of my Student Union at a time when virtually the whole executive were members of the Socialist Workers Student Organisation (SWSO). Their belief that revolution was imminent led to them positively willing Margaret Thatcher into power. In their view things would get so bad the people would rise up. I vividly remember the telegram (yes that long ago!) we received while occupying the admin block over overseas student fees: “Today the admin, tomorrow the barricades!” Well, that particular revolution has been a long time in coming.
So, inadvertently, far from rocking the system, Brand’s anti-establishment rhetoric could contribute to a government being elected that is even further removed from his Utopia.
At a time when only 40 per cent of the cuts have been implemented, when among other things, food banks are the only insurance against starvation for some families, when people are being forced away from family and friends because of the bedroom tax – and – as someone said yesterday, the youth service hasn’t been decimated it’s been annihilated; it’s more important than ever to hold our political masters and mistresses to account.
That is why I believe we must encourage the young people we work with to vote. Throughout my career, even though everyone has known my politics, I have always encouraged young people to explore which party best reflects their values and vote for them. There are some excellent online tools now that help young people to do this, for example Bite the Ballot has developed Verto, The League of Young Voters has Vote Match. I am really impressed with the work of both organisations, particularly Bite the Ballot, which has been instrumental in getting half a million young people to register to vote.
So, with less than a week to go, I’d encourage all of you to seize the opportunity not only to get young people to think about who to vote for but also to think about how they will hold whoever gets elected to account in the future.
Linda Jack, Liberal Democrat activist, prospective parliamentary candidate for Mid Bedfordshire