By Sophie Wroblewski
You will have most likely seen the clip of the MP Fiona Onasanya quoting ‘Man’s Not Hot’ in the House of Commons. While it is refreshing to see that MPs are in touch with modern music, the fact that this reference was not widely understood speaks volumes.
I do not expect all 650 MPs to comprehend the latest rap culture references, but it does highlight that perhaps some of these elected officials are not fully in touch with all the people they represent. This relates to the idea that there is a general lack of understanding and mistrust of young people by those in power.
Even though it brought some excitement to the floor of the Commons, I think Onasanya citing rap lyrics is a cheap shot to spark attention to her cause and further her agenda. It is well known the influence young people can have, especially using social media. I think the use of rap lyrics to gain attention is slightly patronising as it suggests young people would not have an interest in political matters otherwise.
I am the first to support modernising Parliament and making it more reflective of our society, but I don’t think this is the appropriate method. Quoting rap lyrics about ‘quick maths’ will not provoke the necessary educational reforms and instead just trivializes the matter.
We hear so many jokes about millennials’ love for avocado toast and all things material and I am fed up. Young people do care about politics and are interested in what is happening in our country. We all have opinions and we want to be heard.
The fact that 16 and 17-year-olds were not allowed to vote in the EU referendum shows that their opinions are not wanted, but it does not mean they do not exist. In the past, many young people have not bothered to vote, but according to Opinium research following the EU referendum, 64% of 18-24 years olds voted and of that 71% voted to remain. This reiterates the fact young people are concerned with the decisions affecting their country’s future as well as emphasising how influential their votes could be. Perhaps if 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote the result could have been different.
The influence young people have is huge. They are the upcoming generation and are increasingly liberal and accepting. This is reflected by the rise of online petitions using websites such as Change.org and Parliament.gov. These allow more people to support issues as well as increase awareness and accessibility to campaigns. I know many people that have started petitions and have seen even more shared on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter.
I believe the political landscape is changing and finally modernising, not through rap lyrics quoted in the Commons but through young people’s engagement and social media. It gives power to the people. In an unsteady and fractioned political climate, both in the UK and globally, people want to stand up for their opinions and beliefs and it’s easier than ever before.
One of the most famous examples is the Parliament petition preventing President Donald Trump from making a state visit to the UK. This received 1,863,708 signatures. It was eventually debated in Parliament where it was dismissed, and President Trump will be allowed a State visit. Even though the result was arguably not desirable, it shows that these petitions can have a significant effect. They allow people to convey their views and force Parliament to respond if the petition gains over 10,000 signatures.
It is clear to see that politics and participation are on the rise and people want to be heard and acknowledged. This is particularly true for young people, who are often disregarded in political conversations. It is evident to see they want to be involved in the conversation, and through social media and online campaigns they are creating their own dialogues and encouraging those in power to take notice.
Photograph: Max Pixel