As the small room in parliament filled with more and more people from all sorts of different backgrounds, one could see the culmination of Bite the Ballots work coming together. Each individual in the room had listened to the call for a change, each supporting the voice of young people nationwide.
Before the event began, everyone was handed a copy of the My Manifesto, a collection of policy propositions, stats, figures and suggestions for government officials: A true collection of the youth voice, bound in a single leaflet.
As the time drew nearer to 4pm, the expected start time, a voice shouted from the centre of the room: Poet Dean Atta began reciting his piece ‘Revolution’. The passion that came from his spoken word electrified and stunned the audience. Instant silence fell on the crowd as he began to speak.
After the performance, Michael Sani and other speakers began taking the crowed through the My Manifesto booklet and the work that went into it. My Manifesto is a huge research project, involving a very large number of young people, from all over the United Kingdom to construct a clear and simple booklet, outlining what young people care and think about.
The manifesto covers Education, health, Jobs, transport, housing and Policing. The policies were simply written and very clear. On education for instance, the youth “recommend giving every young person key life skills vital for their future”. Does it seem reasonable enough?
In fact the Manifesto, collected by asking young people throughout the country what their real thoughts are, has no crazy or unrealistic demands, it simply shows the reader that young people are not all a lost generation, they are not all idle, with no interests, despite what the media likes to portray: young people today know what they want and they are saying it clearly.
The manifesto also contains some very shocking and disturbing facts, one of which begins with the government introducing the infamous Academy schools, 34% of them are now selling food that was previously banned when they were state-run.
Even more shocking is that homelessness has risen by 26% in the last two years; leading young people to suggest, in the manifesto, that emergency accommodation should be extended. Other statistics also involve young people’s relationship with the police, where 50% of young people believe that it has either “broken down to a large extent or completely”. It also states that 75% of young people believe that more riots will come if the relationship between young people and the police is fixed or re-adjusted.
As mentioned by one of the speakers, none of these ideas are new or revolutionary; they have been repeated again and again over and over. The difference this time around, according to Michael, is the sheer volume of young people voicing their opinion. As the youth voice grows, so does its power to influence and Bite the Ballot hopes that this increase in influence will mean that MPs will have to start hearing the youth over the voice of other currently more prominent factions.
Other than trying to create a unified youth voice, Bite the Ballot has gone on tour to try and lift the very low percentage of young people registered to vote. Their Rock Enrol tour was inspired by the USA’s Rock the vote campaign during the Obama elections. The campaign registered three million young people and the leader of Rock the vote now has frequent meetings with the US cabinet, giving young people a direct inroad into policy. Something similar has never existed and Bite the Ballot wish it to occur here in Great Britain.
Following on from the event, Bite the Ballot announced its future cooperation with Google to turn the My Manifesto into a viral experience that can be spread quickly and easily, showing us that this is just the beginning. The words are written down; now people have to begin to read it.
BY: Matteo Bergamini