Remember when Jeremy Corbyn won Glastonbury 2017? He turned up, gave the speech of a lifetime to a gargantuanPyramid Stage crowd and handed over to Run The Jewels. A growing number of the electorate were galvanised by a politician who had momentum, who seemed to be an agent of positive change in the mire of Brexit and Tory hegemony.
We know how that one ended. The Tories lost their majority in the General Election and were forced into a working majority with the Northern Irish Democratic Union Party, a political entity so backwards and evil they may as well be led by Freddy Krueger. Labour took a bigger slice of the pie than may have been expected but went on to spend the next few years dithering.
The change came partly thanks to insurgent number of young Britons stepping up and taking ownership of what is still considered to be a particularly dour future. The “youthquake” was realised on results day, when initial data showed that the youngest voters – those 18-24 – overwhelmingly fancied a Labour government and wanted their mate Jez to tackle the Big Bad Brexit Problem.
The British Election Study, however, contests that the youthquake was a bit of a myth. The actual turnout of young voters, it says, wasn’t necessarily much higher than previous elections, and that older voters are still more likely to turn out and vote. In 2015 and 2017, it was estimated that only 40 percent – 50 percent of the registered voters of that 18-24 bracket actually got their arse into gear to go and tick the box. Around the time of the Local Elections last May, we asked if the whole movement was actually a “damp squib”.
That data has been argued about and disputed ever since. But actually, it’s missing the point entirely. The youthquake was more than just a statistical trend – it marked the first time in decades that a generation of felt that they could actually make a difference.
Just look at the Climate Strike in September, when kids from schools, colleges and universities across the globe protested their respective governments’ complicity in the destruction of our planet. Meanwhile, youth-fuelled protests against inequality in Hong Kong and Santiago, Chile have forced change in their nations in a matter of weeks. Even Reading & Leeds Festival got a much-needed juvenile kick up the arse earlier this summer. If the youthquake was all hyperbole and myth, as they say, then how come we’ve been feeling the same tremors rip through society ever since?
So what now? If Labour play their cards-right, they could have a similar movement on their hands. Young people from across the nation certainly feel disenfranchised and underrepresented – they’re being ignored on climate change, Brexit, education, employment, housing, renting, debt and arts funding. The key for Corbyn now is to tap into the same disruptive Gen Z spirit that has seen a new wave of musicians, activists and creatives take control over the last year. And with a new crop of first time voters – who are overwhelmingly in favour for voting for literally anyone who isn’t the Tories – this may well be a unique election.
But, ultimately, you’ve got to be in it to win it. This is the vote of a generation – but being registered is the first step to even think about recreating the same impact of the movement. Thankfully, you’ve got a few weeks to sort it out. The deadline for qualifying voters – over the age of 18 by December 12 and living here in the UK – is November 26. You can check out the full details on how to do that here.
If you’re at University, you’ve got the choice to be registered at two different addresses – your home address and your university residence. You can only vote once obviously, but being able to play the game and know where your vote can count the most is a luxury the old fogies don’t have. Remember though, December 12 is likely after the end of term at most universities, so make sure you’re registered for where you’ll actually be on that date.
Finally, there’s the postal vote and proxy vote. To have a proxy, you’ll need to make sure that’s sorted at least six working days before the election (December 5, to be safe) and everyone is eligible for a postal vote, but again, there’s no harm in making sure you register for that in plenty of time.
So if you want the “youthquake” to be taken outside of inverted commas in the mainstream press – and disprove the numbers that suggest we’re all too lazy, disinterested or ill-informed about what’s best for the country we all live in, please, please, register to vote. It may be the most important one we get for a long time.
And it’ll make everyone’s Christmas fucking mega, so there’s that to think about, too.