Working to engage younger voters in British politics

How did you convince young people to register to vote?

In our voter registration drives for the 2017 and 2019 elections, we partner with brands like Tinder. If you were between the ages of 18 and 24 in the week before the voter registration deadline, and if you swiped left or right on Tinder looking for a date, an ad appeared saying, “Hey, have you signed up for vote? If not, swipe right. It will take you directly to the government website and you can register in two minutes.”

How did you convince Tinder to accept that?

We were helped by the then prime minister, David Cameron. In the run up to the EU referendum in 2016, we were part of a body advising the government on democratic engagement. He convinced the big tech firms to partner with the organizations that were part of that body and basically opened the doors.

Why do young people feel so disconnected from politics?

There is a lack of trust. We have a survey that comes out every six months. The latest shows that 53 percent of young people do not trust politicians. They do not feel that the system works for them. Their expectations are too high, because there is a lack of education in politics and democracy. And politicians make promises that they never mention again.

Then there’s Boris Johnson, who keeps people in isolation for a whole year and throws parties in his Downing Street office in the meantime.

Was Mr. Johnson and the so-called Partygate scandal detrimental to your cause?

Absolutely. The Partygate scandal is irreparable damage that will take a generation to overcome. Now when you talk to young people about why politics matters, they say, “That’s not true. The prime minister who makes the rules breaks his own rules and nothing happens to him. He gets fined £50 and goes on with his work.”

Wasn’t Boris Johnson the prime minister who awarded you the MBE?

If he was. But prime ministers acknowledge people who don’t necessarily agree with them on every issue, or who don’t necessarily align with them politically.