The NYA Blog
Don Stewart - Reflections on George and the Power of Youth
06 June 2012
George Galloway MP now represents me in Parliament. In March, as a constituent of Bradford West, I woke up to find the world had changed. Changes continued with the election of five Respect party Councillors in Bradford during May’s local elections.
Supposedly safe Labour seats had not followed the establishment script.
George Galloway, an old political warrior, used a heady mixture of old techniques and new technology, stealing a march on the main political parties. Time will tell what it really means, but some things are immediately obvious.
It’s no coincidence that a lot of young people, many of them women, voted for the first time for themselves and for someone who said things that resonated with them in an area of high unemployment.
Activated by text message, especially in and around the student quarter at the constituency heartland, they were further motivated through a clear visual marketing message – put a tick, not a cross, next to the number 2 on the ballot paper, which is a psychological positive, rather than a negative.
So is this just a one off? Is it a celebrity election, a midterm protest vote, where a clever campaign has tripped up convention? Or is it a longer term symptom of an emerging youth power that became angered by the reality of compromise and coalition after the last general election, reinforced by the betrayal of tuition fees and EMA? So this time, on home turf, was the option of something truly different, just too good to miss – poking the community gatekeepers with the same stick as the establishment in a double whammy of rebellion that became the Bradford Spring?
The local elections in May showed safe wards no longer exist – a third of Council seats were up for re-election and significant losses felt across the coalition.
We know youth voices have real power when organised, galvanised and focussed. They are rightfully empowered to vote early and if they like what they can achieve then they will vote often. One Bradford Spring does not make a Summer, but it might signal the Autumn of conventional politics in our provincial inner cities.
Don Stewart, National Youth Agency Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org