Saturday, August 26, 2006

Proof that Blogs Can Engage Young People in Politics

From time to time I get emails from people telling me either how much they like the blog or telling me what a tosser I am. Forgive me if I don't print the latter ones, but this one arrived this evening, which has brought a warm glow to my heart. Because if half what he says is true it makes the time I spend on this blog worthwhile.

Sorry to just email you like this out of the blue. I've followed your blog for a while now (can't remember how I stumbled across it). I love it and I must say, I'm quite a young person and my interest in British politics until I found your blog and Guido's was minimal. I find your blog shows politics in a slightly more realistic light than BBC/ITV etc, you seem truly independent of the whole shebang.

Anyway, I have forwarded the link to my friends, all of whom to be honest were not interested in politics one jot, although upon reading your blog they have taken a new interest in such matters. I think it is because you report the 'underbelly' of it all, the briefing etc. Guido is also a big hit among my friends because of his 'I don't care' attitude! Blogs like yours and Guido's go into the nitty gritty of politics. You shine a spotlight and pick up stories the MSM would never touch. 'Who watches the watchman?' Well now it's bloggers.

My friends and I (all of whom are under 25) are much more receptive to this form of reporting/blogging and how easily it is accessed (RSS Feed etc, the wit of the delivery. We don't want to read some dry, humourless byline or weekly column!). It's a more realistic and engaging presentation of politics and how it works. If you go to news.bbc.co.uk/politics it is like a message board for whatever ridiculous New Labour 'initiative' they have dreamt up. Obesity/Health & Safety blah blah!

I don't buy this line that 'young people are not interested in politics' We are, although it has to be presented in a manner in which young people who have grown up with the internet feel is relevant to them. A young person is more likely to access something on Youtube than watch the TV, we don't sit about and accept the status quo. We decide for ourselves how we access information, it's very much on our terms. We don't watch the 6 News on BBC1, we have the RSS feeds of numerous websites/blogs in our RSS readers.

I find it refreshing that a man such as yourself grasps this instinctively. If the Tory party 'get' this concept and harness it, they will be well on their way to mobilising a significant number of young people to vote in their favour. I find it mind-boggling that Labour are so far behind on this concept! Anyway, I am sorry to blab on like this. I wish you all the best in the future for your blog and I sincerely hope you become an MP. Although, if you do, please remember to keep blogging with your trademark wit and humour.

Good one, Barry. I know Francis Maude reads this blog and he'll want to take note of the beginning of the last paragraph.

27 comments:

Ellee Seymour said...

Iain, when you did your recent survey, what was the percentage of under-25s who read your blog?

Do we know what percentage of under-25s voted during the General Election?

How many 20-somethings have joined the Cons Party since Cameron became leader?

It's great to hear Barry's supportive and enthusiastic comments, but can he tell us how we can engage with other young people who do not read blogs?

I think we need young people like Barry writing their own political blogs to share their views among their peers, as well as the more professional sites like this.

So Barry, if you have not already started writing your own blog, what is stopping you?

ian said...

I would take issue with the phrase "truly independent" though. Would you even describe yourself as such?

Is the Adam Ricket advert below related? Was the email from our beloved a-lister? Now the email makes a lot more sense.

When do we stop being young people? I suspect I may already have.

beethoven writes said...

Euan, sorry, "Barry" must have had a hell of a lot to drink before he wrote that. No wonder he ended up in hospital.

ThunderDragon said...

I am 21, and have my own blog ([url=http://thethudnerdragon.blogspot.com ]The Thunder Dragon[/url]to show my thoughts. After all, how are my views, and those of my age group, to be taken into account unless we make them known?!

ACM said...

I'm a university student, and find it shocking when people say that young people aren't interested in politics - it's just that their political priorities tend to be different to those politicians often present. Those that I know tend to be more interested in foreign affairs, rather than domestic politics - the latter of which seems to be the main focus of most politicians.

On a personal note, I am now on the committee of the Model United Nations at my university (our website is at http://uk.geocities.com/uclmodelun/ ). This activity is growing rapidly in popularity in this country, after originating in the States some time ago. It is based around takeing part in simulations of UN debates, ie participating in politics, not just observing it. While I'm here, if any readers of this blog have an expertise in issues that may be relevant for the society, do get in touch at modelun.ucl@googlemail.com .

Barry said...

Injured cyclist I have had one glass of wine this eve and that is all!

I do not pretend to speak for every 'young' person in the UK, I just felt like emailing Iain a few thoughts of mine. Perhaps one sentence which I now realise was a bit silly was saying Iain is "truly independent of the whole shebang" when in fact he obviously has a political slant to his writing/blogging. What I meant to say was independant of the MSM.

Ellee, I would love to write a witty insightful blog but I have zero time and it would be completely crap, of that I am sure!

Verity said...

acm - oh, God! This is a classic!

"Those that I know tend to be more interested in foreign affairs, rather than domestic politics - the latter of which seems to be the main focus of most politicians." Maybe because it is domestic voters who pay taxes, not models of UN dictators, strongmen, presidents-for-life and thugs?

"It is based around takeing part in simulations of UN debates".

Why? Of what possible value can even someone as young and eerily unconnected to reality as yourself imagine a UN debate to be?

beethoven writes said...

Barry,

Seriously, I was only kidding. You write most eloquently. I agree with Ellee -you should start your own blog.

Tom

Little Black Sambo said...

We all remember ACM from our schooldays: his pen never smudged, he always had the right books. He almost, but not quite, cancelled out the euphoria induced by Barry's wonderful remarks.

MJ Martin said...

Okay let me see.

Under 25? -- check (21)
Joined the party since Cameron became leader -- check
Inspired to blog by Iain and a few others -- check

Wow, I didn't realise I'm such a cliché LOL

Anyway, yes Barry's right about our particular demographic. I watch Youtube more than I watch TV these days. And the teachers on my course actively encouraged us to play Nationstates; an online game where you create a country of your own and turn it into a hippie/fascist/royalist etc... state.

(You should have a play Iain. After all, you must keep up with us youngsters now...)

The point being, blogs and general t'internet stuff is the key to getting through to us difficult kids. I too am amazed Labour is catching on so slowly. Then again perhaps they're all a little busy screaming in frustration at their own inadequacies and their supercrazy leader these days to notice. Their loss.

SPL said...

Barry is absolutely right re the democratising effects of the internet. As he says, the consumer is now in control of the information s/he consumes. The front page of The Economist this week asks "Who killed the newspaper?" The answer, of course, is the internet-savvy generation - and what a good thing too.

With regard to under-25 blogs - www.debate-it.co.uk is authored by six undergraduates (with varying political views).

Anonymous said...

One of the things young politics / blogging aficionados need to develop is the ability to critically appraise information... whilst this blog can be good on occasions, it can often be characterised by one or more of the following:

- smug self satisfied complacency (see header pic)
- limp humour
- ill-informed speculation
- pompous bluster

When it's good, it can be very good - but the fawners need to realise that when it's bad it's horrid.

Mike said...

This is the kind of thing that gets my blood boiling. Not because of what the articulate young man says, but because I've been saying it for years to people in the Conservative Party and my words fall on uncaring ears that believe we don't need the web - and that's people the same age as me (around 23).

We look around and wonder why we aren't getting any new young members in, but with the above email it is obvious why we are not.

It's not rocket science to get in there as proven by Iain, Guido and Jonathan Sheppard. They have not had to learn miles of code or master Flash, they just say what they think and present it properly.

Leaflets, birthday cards, invites to the pub, barbeques, and such like are all limited in their success in bringing in new young members these days. Yet, there is an additional option, the web, that goes widely unused.

Time for that to change.

Who's with me?

Praguetory said...

The paragraph in Mori's 2003 "Young People's Attitudes Towards Politics" about reasons that young people don't vote is instructive. 47% of those not certain to vote said "they were just not interested in politics" and 23% said they will not vote because "politicians don’t care about people like me". Hardly implacable opposition to voting is it? Suggests to me that if candidates can give local youngsters a reason to vote, they'll grab it.

ian said...

I think if you want your voice heard, you should move to a marginal constituency.

david kendrick said...

If a letter of support like this email were in the MSM, we'd all think it was made up by somebody.

The strength of bloggers is that nobody queries the genuineness.

That won't last for ever---we should enjoy it while we can.

strapworld said...

Iain,

The email is very interesting. I asked my son, who is at home from University, to read it. He told me that it read like it was written by an anorak! He and his friends have no interest whatsoever in 'lying, cheating politicians'
He cannot stand Bliar, thinks Cameron is the tory Bliar and reckons Campbell is older than his dad! (which means of course, useless!)He said that the party that will stop bending over to the muslim minoritywill get his vote.

On that note,I was having a pleasant lunch in the third world on Friday with friends and people I had not met, all business men and women, who one would hope would support the Conservative Party.

Without exception all said that Cameron has not said anything 'Tory', has not impressed them and that the only party that spoke the truth about the state of the country was the BNP!.

All of them said they could speak for many people in their families,companies, friends etc who thought the same and if they have the opportunity will definately vote for them.
The major concern was the appeasement towards the minorities to the detriment of the white majority.

They said that Cameron has said aboslutely nothing about this bruning issue, which shows he is weak.

Cameron, I note, from today's newspapers is now denouncing Maggie's South African Policies. I hope to hear that the new Tory Anthem will be Cher's 'If I could turn back time!'

Anonymous said...

why don't you print the 'anti' messages? no-one's going to agree with you all the time and some people are going to think you're a tosser. but you ought to be big enough to take it on the chin... surely? hiding it all away, censoring it... smacks of new labour/spin etc which is not good.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, I do print the 'anti' messages, but they can stay in the Comments section thank you very much. Forgive me if I don't put them as a main story. But then you knew that anyway didn't you...

But one thing I will say, is that I shall be much tougher on anonymous commenters. If you;ve got something to say the least you can do it put a name to yourself.

Anonymous said...

you do print the anti ones?
so what did you mean by this?
"From time to time I get emails from people telling me either how much they like the blog or telling me what a tosser I am. Forgive me if I don't print the latter ones".
Confused of Chester (Dave)

Iain Dale said...

exactly what I say - on the front page. Have you got nothing better to comment on?!

ACM said...

@verity

Let me respond to your post.

“acm - oh, God! This is a classic!

"Those that I know tend to be more interested in foreign affairs, rather than domestic politics - the latter of which seems to be the main focus of most politicians." Maybe because it is domestic voters who pay taxes, not models of UN dictators, strongmen, presidents-for-life and thugs?”

To be honest, I’m not really certain that you have a point to make here. Perhaps it is that since domestically-collected taxes pay the salaries of our politicians, they should focus on domestic issues. In which case, I’m sure that you’ll say that Blair has been wrong to focus on Afghanistan/Iraq, Thatcher on the Falklands and Churchill on the threat of Nazi Germany. After all, it wasn’t the Jews in Eastern Europe who were paying his salary.

On the other hand, perhaps that wasn’t your point – if it was in fact something else then do let me know!

“"It is based around taking part in simulations of UN debates".

Why? Of what possible value can even someone as young and eerily unconnected to reality as yourself imagine a UN debate to be?”

I really do think that you must realise weakness of your position when you begin to use ad hominem arguments like that. But I’m not offended, in part because I know that you are talking from a position of ignorance – I do suggest that you visit the website at http://uk.geocities.com/uclmodelun/ and then give some informed opinions. (I know that you have not done this already, as I have analytics on the site.)

The value of a UN Debate? Well, to take one recent example a negotiated ceasefire in Lebanon through the Security Council Resolution 1701. If you prefer a more widely applicable example, perhaps the Convention on the Rights of the Child will satisfy you – ratified by every member state except the USA and Somalia.

Beyond the specifics, however, is a broader and deeper point: surely anything that increases positive participation in politics is a good thing.

ian said...

Now that the young are engaged in politics, could one of them explain the appeal of "myspace" to me.

Ta.

adam carew said...

This person is not only reflecting The Voice of Yoof. It also speaks for one 48 year old and I suspect many more people who make up the voting and taxpaying population

Barney said...

Iain, you may find the uptake of the under-25s even greater if you slap down the nasty posters who attack every new/young person who posts here. Verity berrating me for my youth a few weeks ago (even though he was about ten years wide of the mark) mirrors the way the "mainstream" talk to those of us under 25, too. Can we not be safe from being patronised and dismissed here?

In addition to adding my name to the list of those querying the rogue use of the word "independent", can I also doubt this blog's status as being "outside" the mainstream media?

You often trumpet how many people read this blog, and that it is read - and commented on - by the political establishment too. How can you not also be mainstream, then? Blogging from Tunbridge Wells doth not make you an outsider.

Barney

Iain Dale said...

Barney, I try where possible not to censor or delete comments, but I have said elsewhere that I am going to be tougher on anonymous posters.
I have also never pretended to be independent. Everyone reading this blog knows I am a Tory and I do not pretend anything else.
Your point about maninstream media and establishment is of course arguable. I suppose because I appear on the MSM and write for it I straddle both camps. I don't feel I belong to the political establishment but can quite understand why people would think I do.

eddie said...

Strapworld... I share your scepticism about this e-mail. It is too polished, too erudite, and cliches like "Who watches the watchman?" make me raise an eyebrow.

I don't believe the author of the e-mail was originally uninterested in politics. It is nigh on impossible to go from uninterested to full engagement in the political process quicker than you can grab the latest (minimal!) RSS feed of Iain Dale's blog. Using phrases like "Who watches the watchman?" somewhat implies a previous knowledge of the philosophy involved in political dialogue.

Perhaps saying it was written by an "anorak" is being a little harsh, but it definitely seems suspicious if you ask me. That's not to deny Cameron is energising the youth of the Tory party to a certain degree, but I'm not convinced this is a genuine expression of it.