During the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election night, my Facebook feed was littered with pro-Obama sentiments from British teenagers my age. I thought it was brilliant that within a culture of memes, selfies and other online fads that gained popularity in late 2012, young people were actually using the cyber-space to show support for a political figure. As election night dragged on, the pro-Obama statuses continued. Soon I felt lots of my online peers had just jumped on the social media ‘bandwagon of change’, as opposed to supporting and understanding Democratic policies or the importance of Obama’s next presidential term.
I posted a frustrated status exclaiming: “I wish people my age would care as much about getting to know their local MP as they do about the U.S. elections.” Obviously Obama had a legion of famous supporters who connect with a global youth audience, and I can’t really expect Beyoncé and Jay-Z to come visit my little town of Rickmansworth to give David Gauke MP a popularity boost amongst the youth.
Also there is a wider debate on why young people feel disengaged with local politics. I’m especially apathetic, indifferent and relatively confused about most areas of British politics. Despite this, I can’t help thinking that young people could have greater influence in sparking change, if we searched who our local MP is and began to contact (pester) them about the issues we care about.
For example, Save BBC Three is an online campaign headed by Jono Read to save one of few mainstream television channels creating programmes for a youth demographic. The petition has amassed 208,000 signatures as of March 18th, with Read describing the online petition as “designed to give young people a voice about cut backs.” With the campaign garnering a vast amount of public support, the House of Commons have taken note.
On March 10th, Parliament opened an Early Day Motion on the future of BBC Three (EDM 1160). As of March 21st, only 25 MPs have given their signature to support the motion. Early Day Motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, even the Parliament website states: “very few are actually debated.”
Strangely, one of the first MP’s to have given their support to debating the issue of saving BBC Three is Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford. This is a man who strongly opposed same-sex marriage last year and was quoted as saying during the parliamentary debate: “With all my heart and with all my soul, I oppose the redefinition of marriage. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This has not changed for thousands of years.”
How can we expect an MP stuck in a medieval mind-set to represent the wider views of young people, and debate the future of an incredibly open-minded channel tailored for modern Britain? We need more MPs to get involved to enable a broader debate, and the only way to do that is to actively engage and put pressure on politicians.
BBC Three has produced award-winning programmes such as Scott Mills’ powerful 2011 documentary on homophobia in Uganda, and also Free Speech, a youth orientated version of ‘Question Time’ designed to give youth opinions a televised platform.
This is one reason why more people my age need to pressure their MP. Whether or not it’s for Save BBC Three or campaigning to tackle ‘macho’ culture within schools. I’d urge anyone reading this to visit writetothem.com, email your local MP and get them listening.