Danny Bartlett is a One Young World Ambassador from the UK who is passionate about youth involvement in democracy. He founded the organisation Hand's Up, Who's Bored to break through the yawn barrier of British politics and turn apathy into action!
Three years ago, I was approached by an executive at a PR agency asking if I’d be happy with Alastair Campbell becoming my ‘celebrity endorser’ for an imminent campaign launch.
The campaign in question was to save Citizenship education from the clutches of a Tory government whose leader still believes we shouldn’t ‘politicise the classroom.’ The decision to make Citizenship non-statutory was looming and the UK was on the cusp of losing the only subject on the curriculum that teaches us the fundamentals of a democracy and how to become active citizens.
Despite winning the campaign, confusion remained as to why I took the decision not to involve the prominent, if not politically tainted, former aide of Labour prime minister Tony Blair.
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A leading member of the coalition told me that by involving a policy maker, I’d have greater influence on decision making, even more so than having the weight of public opinion on my side. Seeing the political landscape in this way horrified me. Still relatively naive to the systems of governance and how they worked, I expected, at the every least, the critical masses to yield greater influence over a handful of elected representatives.
In spite of this, I stuck to my guns and as time passed, felt relief as I became fully aware of our political culture and the part young people are made to play.
My eureka moment came while on stage at the conservative party conference. Accompanied by Tim Loughton MP and Greg Clark MP, I featured in a session titled Young People and Cities.
Having been told my prompts, I performed my role beautifully, providing nothing more than filler and cosy transitions between the two MPs, who subsequently identified my efforts as a vanguard to Tory policy. I shoehorned a few messages on the impact Citizenship has made on political literacy but everything else was relatively toothless.
I only realised after watching the footage back that my inclusion was merely an act. I had become the resident youth; a stage prop used to pepper a conference usually reserved for the likes of Eric Pickles, who spent 30 minutes discussing his war on wheelie bins to rapturous applause.
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I’m not taking pot shots at the Tories because during conference season all parties are at it. Joe Public are drafted in like topical mercenaries, there to discuss whatever ranks highest on the political agenda. From Emma Clifford’s speech on social care to Harry Smith’s more recent ‘get your mitts off my NHS’, our presence is seen as a proof-point to how ‘in touch’ the parties are with the electorate and the younger you are the more potent the message.
It all changed after I realised I had become yet another cog in a big political wheel. I felt as if I had cheated not only myself but also those I set out to help at the start of the campaign - the young and apathetic.
They don’t watch BBC Parliament on a random Tuesday afternoon while this was being broadcast or care if I’m lobbying behind closed doors; the path I chose had become self-serving and I had become disingenuous in my attempts to break through the political yawn barrier by becoming a part of it.
So, I’ve gone back to find my grassroots and If you're one of the 42% of 16 to 24 year-olds who don't care who walks through the door of Number 10 on May 7th, then read on!
Bar crawls, mud wrestling and mechanical Vote Bots are not things you’d usually associate with politics but Who’s Bored has turned its back on the political mainstream to show you the alternative side of political engagement! From the radical to the unorthodox, we’ve found epic new ways of consuming and engaging with politics, that allow you to participate in ways people never thought possible!
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We're building up an awesome inventory of those groups and individuals bringing colour to our political culture by doing things differently. Sure, there’s a place for youth parliaments, councils and debate clubs, but they come later. First, we want to build up an appetite in those who are completely disillusioned by the political system.
For many, not including politicians or the youth wings of their parties may seem paradoxical but with Hansard predicting only 12% youth turnout in the coming election, we're trying something different! So, if you want a slice of the unconventional, then visit Whos-Bored.com and together, we can take the yawn factor out of politics!