Ignore Russell Brand and vote, teenagers urged

The comedian is wrong and young people can be engaged in democracy, says Bite the Ballot

Michael Sani, actor, campaigner and self-proclaimed "political revolutionary" has a bone to pick with Russell Brand.

Last year, when the comedian told us he doesn't vote, and doesn't think that we should either, his comments divided the country – largely along generational lines. Disenchantment with the political process is nothing new, but Brand's appeal chimed with thousands of young people, many of whom now look less likely to take to ballot box than ever before.

That, says Michael Sani, the man behind a new campaign group which aims to reverse the tide of youthful disillusion, would be a tragedy.

Bite the Ballot, which has rallied other celebrity role models including Tinie Tempah and Eliza Doolittle to support its cause under an anti-Brand banner of empowering young voters, has set an ambitious goal of registering 250,000 young voters in just one day next week – and aims to double that number in time for the 2015 general election.

Eliza Doolittle has put her weight behind urging young people to vote Eliza Doolittle has put her weight behind urging young people to vote The group is recruiting schools, youth groups, community centres and student unions to the cause. It has already visited 25 schools and signed up 5,000 new voters at its workshops, where young people are encouraged to think and talk about political issues, and understand the role that their vote can play. On 5 February, National Voter Registration Day, organisations already signed up will host events to encourage thousands more potential young voters to sign forms and send them on to their local councils.

In the 2010 election, only 56 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds were registered to vote, and only 44 per cent went to the polling stations. This is compared to the 96 per cent of over-65s who are registered and the 76 per cent who voted. They are statistics, Sani says, that the comedian should pay close attention to.

"Russell Brand said in his interview that 'we've tried voting and that doesn't work'," Sani told The Independent on Sunday. "Well, we haven't. In the last election, only 44 per cent of this age group voted, so we haven't tried voting. If these guys voted in the same numbers as other demographics, would it be easy to close youth clubs, cut the educational maintenance allowance, and increase tuition fees? I think it would be a totally different debate."

Sani has even invited Brand to come and see one of Bite the Ballot's school workshops for himself.

"These sessions are important so that young people can feel as though they've got a stake in society," he said. "It helps them actively access the channels of communication, challenge the decision-making process and have their voices heard.

"Many of these kids are passionate about their different views and opinions, with no clear slant on the left or right wing. We should be encouraging participation from an early age so they can begin to see it as their civic duty [to vote] and start shaping the society they live in."

Tinie Tempah is among the stars urging young people to vote Tinie Tempah is among the stars urging young people to vote Sani was at Lilian Baylis Technology School in Vauxhall last Wednesday, conducting "The Basics" session: two organised games aimed at getting the participants to talk about political issues. Eighteen pupils, aged from 16 to 19, attended the session – none of whom had registered to vote.

The workshop saw them debating the success of the 2012 Olympics and capital punishment, and even forming a simplified Budget. Sharon, 16, found the experience eye-opening.

"When we played the budgeting game, we were all debating and some of us had to argue to put the 'money' where we wanted, with many of us disagreeing," she said.

"So it helped us to see that the Government do go through hard decisions on a much larger scale."

Gary Phillips, the head of Lilian Baylis, said part of the problem was that the national curriculum was not providing children with enough engaging information about political participation.

"There is no substitute for finding something you care about and campaigning about it, and that's what really motivates young people," he said.

Sani agrees. "I'm not surprised by the lack of political knowledge at all really," he said. "You can't call anyone apathetic unless you've told them everything there is to know."

The singer Eliza Doolittle, one of the campaign's celebrity supporters said she wished she had more political engagement at school.

"I feel like no one ever taught me anything about politics in school," she said. "It's important to teach kids to register to vote, as it gives you the voice to express those issues … just voicing your opinion is what matters."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on