15 Jul ‘My Kutta ate my polling card’
I was blessed to be a youth worker for 20 years in a number of different parts of the country. So I worked first hand with groups of young men and women mainly from South Asian, African, African-Caribbean and Middle Eastern backgrounds. Many were second generation born here and some were newly arrived. Myself and others worked with those who were of secondary school age around democracy and participation in a gentle but critical way, but most importantly of all we looked at the issue of who exercises power and quotes such as that from the late MP Tony Benn:
“In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person…ask them five questions: ‘What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?’ If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”
In my later years as a youth service manager I ran a Youth and Community Centre in a big Pakistani area which was a polling station. We held all manner of County, District, General and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and even mosque elections. So as this was a regular occurrence in the life of the building it meant that on a certain day (invariably on a Thursday) the youth project would not be open. But away from this we needed to engage and get young people thinking and talking about what kind of world they were living in and how participating in democratic processes made a difference.
We respected that for some young folk they were completely disenchanted with the system but the work that we did with 16-17 year olds on voting at least gave them the space to articulate this and work through their positions. For others they were quite engaged and looked forward to elections as a path way into adulthood and having responsibilities in the future.
Now with great power does indeed come great responsibility and we were proud to see our young people who were 18 using their vote, but also understood those who kept away because they were cynical and distrustful. Of course with some there was a less sincere response and we heard a number of amazing excuses:
‘My Uncle says its haraam to vote’
‘My kutta/dog ate my polling card’
‘I’m grounded, my Mum caught me talking to a kuree/girl’
‘It was bare tunda/cold’
‘Don’t vote bro, bare feds there and they’ll clock me as soon as I reach’
From latest estimates more than 400,000 young people under 25 years have registered to vote this year. The challenge is about making sure that they turn out to vote (particularly those from BAMER communities) and are not put off by the weather, internet imams, paranoia and peer pressure!
If you hear or have heard better/worse excuses for not voting, please share them with us using the hashtag #ExcusesNOTtoVOTE
Peace, Saqib Deshmukh, V4CE