The Brand Effect: are young people reacting to the call to vote?
With Russell Brand calling on young people not to vote, here is a look into some of the ways social and mainstream media has tried to prevent this call from being an election 2015 disaster, and see if Brand really has influenced the British public
Russell Brand may be the world’s fourth most influential thinker, but there are some voters in the UK who are trying to challenge this. In an interview with Jeremy Paxman which has nearly 11 million views on YouTube, Brand explains that he has never voted, and he never will, as the UK’s political system has created a “disenfranchised, disillusioned underclass” that it fails to serve. Reverberations were consistent throughout Twitter on Monday, the last day to register to vote in the UK, against this call for people not to vote, with hundreds of angry voters giving reasons why you should.
For some, Brand’s call to not vote due to the treachery and deceit of the political class had an effect. Most specifically the rather amusing Brand enthusiast who tweeted a picture of him ripping up his poll card might want to re-think his tweet; those familiar with polling cards will know that they are not actually necessary for someone to vote (they just provide you with the basic details).
Brand’s comments were even heard and slightly defended by Ed Miliband who said “People criticize Russell Brand, and I don’t agree with his message, but what he’s saying, a number of people are thinking, which is that politics doesn’t feel like it speaks to them”.
Aside from the poll card rippers and the leaders of mainstream parties, the response against Brand was felt very strongly across social media. A simple search on Twitter inputting “Russell Brand vote” throws up an endless list of people asking young’uns not to fall for Brand’s propaganda, and to make him look stupid by actually registering to vote. “Don’t listen it only encourages him” and “don’t make Brand any smugger” are just some of the pleas from tweeters.
A more serious approach
A less solemn approach
And these pleas were heard, because Brand truly failed to, err, galvanise apathy. A record breaking 485,000 people registered to vote on Monday alone, almost quadrupling the previous record which was 166,000 on 5th February; National Voter Registration Day. The Electoral Commission said there have been 2.3m online applications to register to vote since its campaign began on 16th March, with over 700,000 of them aged 16-24. These numbers are staggeringly good, proving that the use of social media has managed to connect, influence and inspire millions into having a say over how they are governed.
Not only did social media and the general public help to push against those like Brand who say “don’t vote”, but media channels such as Channel 4 have joined in the bid to get young people to vote by pledging to shut down E4 on the 7th May between 7am-7pm. This is part of a general shift in culture towards the importance of youth involvement in society.
Other examples such as Scotland allowing 16-18yr olds to vote during the referendum, and Facebook joining forces with the Electoral Commission to promote a reminder to register at the top of every adult’s newsfeed on National Voter Registration Day, all emphasise the importance of “youth” getting involved in the way our society is run.
The Mirror ran quite a few articles on the #novotenovoice campaign (a # which has emphasised what it means not to vote), one of which included one minute videos faced by a number of X-Factor/TOWIE stars (make of that what you will).
Rick Edwards, famous for his Made in Chelsea presenting skills did a TedX Talk which has nearly 40,000 views on how to get young people to vote. And “Operation Black Vote” encouraged ethnic minorities to participate in the upcoming elections with the tagline “you’re taking the colour out of Britain”, which included celebrities such as Tinie Tempah, Sol Campbell and Ade Adepitan.
With records being broken, social media full of enthusiastic registered voters, we can only wait and see what happens on May 7th. Will turnout be higher, especially amongst the young? Or will Brand surprise us all by successfully manoeuvring people to register and then spoil their ballot (which still counts as a vote)? We have just two weeks to wait until we discover if they were just tricking the political establishment or if the efforts made by the above did actually make a difference.
By Catherine Humphrey