Opinion: Filling the political vacuum

Young people’s attitude towards political and public affairs has recently been less than promising, to say the least. The majority of six-form students do not know how the political system in this country works, and seem to have no willingness to engage and vote for their future. Luckily, not all hope has been lost. A new initiative has been launched which aims to narrow the gap between young people and their involvement in politics.

Bite the Ballot is a grassroots campaign created by and for young people with the aim to inspire and encourage others to engage and be part of the political system that directly affects them. The campaign is primarily led by a number of young researchers, producers and campaigners, many as young as 16 years old.

Taking into account the current political climate, the lack of social interest in public affairs, as well as the widespread feeling of disappointment and frustration, it is hardly surprising that the young and bright leaders of tomorrow find it difficult to find interest in the politics of today. Nonetheless, young leaders of this campaign like to quote Winston Churchill saying that a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. As such, the enthusiasm and belief in change has led the movement from a classroom in Wilmington Academy, Kent, into a national campaign with hundreds of supporters promoting engagement of young people in politics and local brunches emerging in many cities in UK including Newcastle and Wrexam in North Wales. The campaign provides a great starting point for those who always felt they wanted to get involved, but did not know how, as well as for those who want to gain broader interest in politics.

The latest referendum organized by the Bite the Ballot in one of the schools in Dartford, which saw almost 100% turnout, and has allowed over 500 young people to get familiar with the physical process of voting. The next major event organized by the Bite the Ballot with cooperation with Great London Authority and great help of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Welsh athlete and TV presenter with 11 Paralympics Gold Medals, will be a mini-marathon around the Houses of Parliament called “Run, Walk or Roll” and will see thousands of young people participating alongside celebrities and registering to vote.

Bite the Ballot has already gained a number of patrons from both houses of parliament, including Deputy PM Nick Clegg, who said that “Bite the Ballot is a fantastic campaign! Even though we might not always agree, we have to have the debate and that debate is better, richer with you in it than with you standing on the sidelines”. Other supporters include Gareth Johnson M.P., Catherine Bearder M.E.P., Mark Williams M.P., Jo Swinson M.P., Duncan Hames M.P., Baroness Gray-Thompson, Lord Shipley, Lord Roberts of Llandudno and many more. It has also gained the support of celebrities like Alastair Stewart, who is chairing Westminster debates between young people and parliamentarians organized by the Bite the Ballot in Westminster.

This campaign is challenging the common perception of politics as boring, useless, and broken and, instead, makes it simple, personal, and fun. Bite the Ballot is an appeal to young people to understand the value of their votes.

Bite the Ballot – Be the Difference!

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3 Comments

  • Very glad to hear about this initiative – great news and I hope it’s very successful.

  • Tbh I’m not too sure it’s in our interest to encourage young people to vote…. How about we wait a generation when young people have forgotten about tuition fees?

    It’s a positive campaign though. I would add that being political is about more than voting in elections, especially in a representative democracy where we devolve decision making responsibilities to parliamentarians. We need to emphasise that one of the most important aspects of being political is getting involved in local issues. Is there a high level of homelessness or crime or is the hospital really bad in your area? We need to give young people (all people infact) the tools to change and improve things in their local area.

  • All “Bite the Ballot” needs now are active contacts throughout the UK willing to give all the support they can to this movement to involve young folk, especially, in the democratic processes. Let’s remember the massive influence in the US of “Rock the Vote” in securing Obama’s success.

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