'Yoof' spurns the ballot box

In A sunny squat in north London a gaggle of twenty-somethings are making the final preparations for a mass demonstration. Seen through a haze of cannabis smoke against a backdrop of bundled placards and soaking lentils, their tufty beards and slogan T-shirts could belong a different era of anti-Vietnam protesters. In a general election which has, as a core theme, an apathetic youth who just don't care as much as their parents did in the Sixties, these young people and the thousands who yesterday turned out to march alongside them are testimony to a generation which still dreams of a brighter future.

Alarm bells first rang when MORI research revealed that many young people were not intending to use their vote in the 1997 election at all. Only one in three believed voting could make a difference. The result has been bitter tirades against young people's innate laziness. One columnist recently summed up the impasse as: "Yoof is back, yoof are bored, and yoof is telling anyone who wants to know that yoof is uninterested in this election campaign."

Yet "yoof" is also fighting back from outside the constraints of formal politics. Yesterday's demonstration was called by young people to support the Liverpool dockers and to register disapproval of "the increasingly meaningless ritual" of the general election. The Runway Two protesters at Manchester Airport are mainly comprised of young people, as were those at the Newbury bypass. "Yoof" is also getting organised, networking together and working in tandem with other protest groups including Liverpool dockers and London transport workers.

In Hayes and Harlington, Dan Farrow, a 23-year-old writer on the music magazine Mixmag, is standing as the All Night Party candidate. "Young people have got nothing to vote for," he says. "I'm just trying to highlight the problem." His manifesto plans include the liberalisation of anti-drugs legislation, 50 per cent tax on pay over pounds 60,000 and an equal age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals.

"Young people are still political, many of them just aren't party political - and who can blame them? Nobody's listening to them," says Matthew Collin, author of a new book on the history and effects of dance culture, Altered State. He laughs at the mention of Rock The Vote, an initiative aimed at getting young people to the ballot box. "I think the use of 'rock' is in itself an indication of how out of synch older people are," he says.

"Just because young people don't want to turn up to put a pointless cross on a ballot paper, doesn't mean they aren't fighting their battle in their own way," says 24-year-old Theba, of the direct action group Reclaim The Streets, whose methods include turning high streets into beaches. Last year, without warning, they poured tons of sand all over the centre of Islington, then filled the streets with jugglers, food stalls, buckets and spades and the sounds of a thumping, cycle-powered sound system.

A primary focus of the different groups on the march from Kennington Park to Trafalgar Square yesterday was the 1996 Criminal Justice Act which, in criminalising a range of fringe activities from the "repetitive beats" of techno music to the protests of the anti-roads lobby and hunt saboteurs, has ironically brought together many different action groups on the fringes of politics.

"Michael Howard did us a massive favour by introducing the Criminal Justice Act," says one activist.

"Without it we would all be fighting our own separate battles, but now it's given us a focus so we can fight injustice together. In a way, it's probably the best thing the Tories could have done for young people."

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
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
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

Marketing Manager - Central London - £45,000-£55,000 + bonus

£45000 - £55000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: The focus of this is to deve...

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape