Just What do Young People Want?
72% of 18-24 year olds voted to remain in the EU. Yet 62% of this age bracket voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party who campaigned on a commitment to complete Brexit. Such figures would not cause such consternation had the overall turnout been more in line with the apathetic engagement of young people in 2010 (43%) and 2015 (44%). However Ipsos Mori estimate they’ve gone from drabs to droves. Soaring to around 53% turnout in the EU referendum and 54% in the 2017 General Election. This has left the BBC baffled.
Young people are demanding a voice, and seem to have found a large amount of consensus on both issues all be they, seemingly, contradictory. Contradictory within the right wing narrative that has framed the definitional basis of the questions. It is practically impossible to discern the reasons behind the way people voted. Spaces were not provided for voters’ working outs, only for binary answers. ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union?’
EU membership is an incredibly fractious issue in both of the UK’s largest parties. As demonstrated by Cameron’s calling the referendum and a recent 49 MP Labour rebellion. The Liberal Democrats, the only broadly Europhile party, will be disappointed and surprised by their inability to capitalise on the fertile youth vote. In fact, Tim Farron has recently decried the Labour party. He claimed; “Millions of people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn were hoping for a new approach to Brexit. They will be feeling utterly betrayed tonight that he has yet again failed to oppose this government’s extreme Brexit agenda.” But what can we gleam of what young people, who voted to remain, then voted for a Brexit manifesto, want?
Soft or Hard Brexit?
Surely they want a soft Brexit. No idea what that means? Well, you can find this definition at the BBC, in Kamal Ahmad’s piece. However a survey by BrexitWatch perfectly illustrates the disconnect between the Soft/Hard Brexit dichotomy and young people’s Brexit priorities. 18-24 year olds ranked ‘reducing immigration’ as their lowest concern; out of a selection of 22. Taken with the fact that jobs were their number one priority it would indicate that they wanted a soft Brexit. How is it possible that young people rank immigration, an incredibly important issue, dead last priority?
What was the Question again?
People’s worldview, shapes, and is shaped by, their news resources. The reason the General Election was a surprise because conservative media controls the second face of power in the United Kingdom. Lukes’ three faces of power is a way of understanding how power operates. Put most simply ‘Some issues are organized into politics while others are organized out.’ The leave verdict was reached by economic argument and a national desire to retrieve sovereignty and control of borders. They were at great pains to point out it was not about racism, xenophobia or protectionism. Leave won.
However, this wasn’t the question young people were answering. BBC news agenda is stifling and hiding the progressive agenda. Their voting patterns might seem erratic, but this is because the highest trending article on Facebook doesn’t have an hour long slot every day. This further exacerbates the control that a miniscule number of individuals hold over the political narrative of the entire nation. Murdoch and GDM frame the BBC news schedule and the debate. They then predispose voters to the answer with worryingly xenophobic and increasingly islamophobic content. The BBC’s insistence to cover print media headlines and not online entities, that boast similar readership, is making them increasingly irrelevant. It is also disproportionately silencing the young.
The BBC worsened suppression by silencing political dissent that arose in mass culture. Somehow they decided that a mass movement of people, all individually purchasing Captain Ska’s protest song ‘Liar Liar’ should not result in more negative commentary on the Conservative party. And as such, the usual practice of airing the number one in the charts should not happen. The outlandish criticism of print media was simultaneously given airtime, to ensure impartiality, with headlines like ‘Terrorist Sympathiser.’ Press corp billionaires are being given greater voice than the millions who endorsed Captain Ska’s message. Why? Music Charts include virtual sales, a blueprint for the importance of industries and institutions reflecting the growing virtual world. To turn plebescites into suitable and satisfactory policies, politicians must understand the central narratives voters were responding to. The danger is that the BBC’s becomes an organ of suppression to elements of the national narrative.
Tracing Back to News Source.
It is undeniable that newspaper readership influences, and is influenced by, partisanship. As shown in this YouGov Poll, it is one of the strongest indicators of voting patterns. Over 70% of Telegraph, Express and Mail readers voting conservative, and close to 60% of Sun and Times readers. The Financial Times interestingly sat in the middle at an almost even, 40%/39%, split. And those few left-wing newspapers in circulation The Mirror and the Guardian, and The Independent demonstrate a similar convergence with Labour voting.
It is not surprising given the supremacy of the right wing in print media, as this research by Loughbrough University demonstrates, that they demonstrate a definite aggregate negativity towards the emerging Labour Party. The Labour Party received on average around 50 more negative articles a week than they did positive. Whereas the Conservatives balance out around 10 to the good. But young people aren’t reading broadsheets, they’re scrolling newsfeeds. Mapping research conducted by the Reuters Institute and Oxford University against primary news medium by age group, against Ipsos Mori election breakdowns. The older you are the more likely you are to watch TV news and vote conservative, vote leave. The younger you are the more likely you are to read online, vote labour, vote leave.
English newspapers disproportionately cover issues that affect the UK, therefore as do the BBC. This has become more and more the case. In 2010 The Media Standard’s Trust drew attention to the dangers of rescinding international coverage. However online news media buck this bias. The way social media operates mean it is those articles, memes, manifestos and Trump gaffs that garner most interest (often outrage) that shape coverage. The imposed divisions of ‘UK News’ and ‘World News,’ feel more permeable on the egalitarian scroll of infinite news. The BBC News channel a repeat a stream of articles carefully weighted for balance is inherently orchestrated. Whereas Snap Chat streamed the Battle of Mosul direct from residents, liberating coverage from the same level of orchestration.
There is a greater equality of voices online, perhaps naturally giving rise to a compassionate, globalist outlook. The only stumbling block to this is the echo chamber nature of pleasure provision algorithms. The BBC must become a unifying cave for these disparate echo chambers.
Young voters weren’t reading ‘Independence Day: The Resurgence of Britain’ on the way to the EU referendum polling booth. The Sun’s deplorably disrespectful headline comparing withdrawal of voluntary membership to an international organisation, to ending colonialism. They were watching Trump on Facebook calling for a ban on Muslims, targeting minorities and building literal and symbolic walls with the world. And as the online outrage accelerated as did English awareness of American politics.
Farage took the Leave vote as an endorsement of the far right. UKIP was decimated in the elections. They like the Liberal Democrats discovered they may had the right answer but the wrong workings. There are many reasons why people wanted to leave. The BBC ensured there were an even number of reasons to leave and remain – when viewed from the UK’s perspective. The vote to remain in the EU was far more an answer to the far right than the leave vote was. The young voted against rising aggression, against closed border policies, against the demonization of immigrants, against islamophobia and racism that featured in certain elements of the Leave campaign. And seem to form a nexus with Trump, Le Pen and the global shift to nationalistic right, seemingly now recessing. They voted for a world where justice does not stop at national borders.
The ‘Global News’ effect may also have impacted the GE2017. Bernie Sanders endorsement of Corbyn was massive. Corbyn’s success was due in no small part to the cross-Atlantic anti-Wall Street, anti-corruption, anti-war, pro-people rhetoric. The two even shared campaigning strategies: modernizing grassroots trade union organisation with social media movements such as Momentum. The #Grime4Corbyn campaign engaged could-be-but-never-had voters just as the work of revolutionary duo, Run the Jewels boosted Bernie Sanders campaign. To the BBC’s chagrin it was in fact this group that Corbyn opened for at Glastonbury. Corbyn and Sanders’ campaigns were characterised by grass roots activism and the coming together of smaller inter-sectional organisations. Placards being provided by the People’s Assembly against Austerity to Unite to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to Stonewall (an LGBTQ+ charity) to CND and Stop The War among hundreds of others. It is clear that many causes have stapled themselves to a single rainbow umbrella, marching against that.
These groups are united under this rainbow banner by a shared adoration of Human rights laws. A natural affinity to many organisations, involved in securing civil rights and liberties. ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls’ adorns signs and fills the lungs of protesters at Westminster and in Washington. ‘Refugees are welcome here’ another cry that cements the young’s welcoming attitude to the world. It also reflects a desire to help those suffering in the world, to promote peace and stop practicing economic and military war. No wonder then that Corbyn’s involvement with, that demon in the Murdoch press, The Stop The War coalition, struck a chord with young voters or that memes of Corbyn being arrested for opposing Apartheid won hearts and minds. Corbyn turned his back on New Labour and the hypocritical promotion of tolerance, justice and peace and promoting anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-homophobia agendas the UK alongside aggressive, self-motivated foreign policy.
Corbyn’s foreign policy, demonstrates interest in the welfare, human and economic rights of other countries and promises a revised military and diplomatic position. He also dispels Blair’s second contradiction economic liberalism without constraint leaving people free to be hugely disadvantaged.
Getting to Grips with the Issues.
Soft, Hard or…Economically Socialist, Socially Liberal, Human Rights & Jobs Orientated Brexit?
‘Human Rights’ were the second Brexit priority for 18-24s, after that securer of economic rights: ‘jobs.’ Satisfying this ideological principle compels a coherent line on EU membership but it doesn’t fit neatly into Soft or Hard. Corbyn and his closest political allies, including Dennis Skinner, voted against joining the single market, and continued to lobby to leave afterwards. Definitional biases have placed Labour movements in the Hard Brexit camp. However it is Chuka Umanna that is ignoring the real message of the youth vote, as viewed through their own cultural lens. Young people aren’t interested in reducing immigration, they grew up in a multicultural country, and their EU vote demonstrates that.
Corbyn’s grounds for advocating a change in the single market and customs unions relations show he had the wrong answer but the right workings. Labour aim to stop predatorial capitalists abusing migrant workers, living in ‘inhabitable’ housing and doing back-breaking labour for terrible pay, in awful conditions whilst undercutting the labour market for Britons. There is nothing in that which contradicts with a global socialist ideology. The freedom to live in other countries is not simply legislative it is economic. Migration should be a choice, not economically forced abuse. Young people are calling for a compassionate and prosperous Brexit. Those policies may be a little of column A and a little of column B as presented on the BBC but Corbyn has not yet lost the right to say ‘I have youth on my side.’