Interview: Mike, Founder of Bite the Ballot

Mike is the founder of Bite the Ballot, a campaign group aimed at getting young people into politics. Bite the Ballot has several campaigns currently including – My Manifesto, where young people have given their opinions on issues affecting them, and Rock Enrol, getting young people to register to vote.

Shout Out UK sent James Tennent to find out more…

Interview questions for Mike from Bite the Ballot

1.In a campaign video for Bite the Ballot a government, secret service-esque group takes away a young boy for trying to engage young people in politics. Is this really how you view the people in power? Is this not a form of scare tactics – suggesting that we live in a police state?

haha far from it- the intentions for the viral are to be thought provoking and play on some young peoples fear of getting involved and playing an active role in politics. When I sat down with Jamal he said that lots of young people he know won’t register to vote because they believed they we’re providing information about themselves to forces unknown, like the illuminati for example. That is how the idea was sparked and it proved to successful with over 26,000 views and 1200 young people taking the My manifesto survey.
2.Bite the Ballot is making a list of things young people have said are important to them and calling it ‘My Manifesto’, why not just create a political party aimed at these youth concerns? Would that not create bigger change?

I wondering if your a fly on the wall in our office…. first things first and that is to inspire the youth vote and to ultimately assess whether our current public servants will communicate and canvass for young people to vote for them. Many MPs and councillors have dismissed the first time vote with statements like ‘we don’t write policies for young people because they are not a vote worth winning’. Thats unbelievable and so the idea of My Manifesto is to be a tool for engagement for MPs and councillors and more importantly a tool for young people to begin to talk to one another about the things they care about.
3.Do you think the riots in London were about young people wanting to be heard or was it more about consumerist greed?

Well the majority of people involved weren’t young people so thats a question for all ages. Personally I believe its a mix of the both. Not enough is done to engage young people and inspire them to feel empowered to play a role in their future and the futures of others. I also believe the western world puts lots of pressure on society, especially young people, to feel as though they need to have the latest brand and when you have no money, no job and no guidance sometimes different pathways are chosen.
4.Do you think there’s enough political education in schools at the moment? Is this how we can engage young people? Is it an issue with education as a whole?

I believe wholeheartedly that our education system is failing young people. Everyone who lives here should be educated on how our nation is run and the role we all have to play in that process. This will lead to socially aware young people who feel empowered to take responsibility and understand the repercussions of their actions. It shouldn’t depend on which school you go to as to whether you are educated. In only a few months Bite the Ballot has registered 3,167 young to vote, 3,005 didn’t know the register existed or the benefits of being on it. It is easy to involve young people but I fear that if the state just threw political education into the National Curriculum it would be boring, only worth half a GCSE and turn people off. If it’s going to be done it deserves to be done properly embracing technology, keeping things simple, personal and fun.


5.The leaders of the three major parties are named on your website as supporters? Are these not the people who aren’t listening to youth issues?
Change starts from within and these leaders are under immense pressure from lots of people. the fact that they have supported what we do gives me hope that they will ensure their endorsements are through actions and not words. if they do not then its down to young people to express their views at the ballot box by spoiling their ballot paper to send a strong message to our leaders and the parties. Time will tell.
6.Do you think there are issues where the government just doesn’t want to listen to young people’s opinions?

I think its politicians role to ensure we all understand whats going on, that information is transparent and that the media cannot lie or put spins on things. If from an early age young people are taught how to challenge what they hear in the right way and how to play an active role then politics will begin to change. Politicians want to ensure they have a job at the next election, that means they are going to speak to the people that vote and work on ensuring they vote for them. If more young people unite and inspire one another to register to vote and contact their MPs to assess whether their party is worth voting for then MPs will have no choice but to listen.