Meet the 20-Year-Old Fighting Political Apathy Through Free Speech
From humble beginnings–growing up in a small village just outside Bath, England–Matt Gillow has risen to the forefront of the UK’s youth political movement. An International Relations student in his first year at University of Leeds, Matt recently co-founded TalkPolitics–a “non-partisan think-tank and campaign group”–with the aim of tackling political apathy in society.
There’s no doubt that the current political climate can be likened to that of a tumultuous storm, but TalkPolitics is evidence of a potential break in the clouds looming. Can youthful exuberance shake up the status quo and initiate a period of genuine change in the archaic and corrupt current political model?
We caught up with Matt to chat about political apathy and what TalkPolitics is doing to fight it. Check the full interview below:
Why do you think that political apathy is such a problem in youth culture at the moment?
We’re seeing a huge disenchantment with the political establishment, particularly in the UK and the USA. It’s generally accepted by many that both Trump and VoteLeave rode to victory on this–it’s why Le Pen is making movements in France. Normal people are either voting for dramatic change, or not voting at all–in the UK 2015 general election, only 43% of 18-24 year olds turned out to vote. In the recent presidential election, only 58% of the entire eligible population turned up to the booths. That’s awful. I’m not saying that we all need to be making peace with the establishment, but it’s essential that those without access to politics be granted opportunity and provision.
Do you see political activism, like the recent Trump protests in cities around the world, as positive for youth engagement?
Absolutely. On one side of things, I think it’s important to accept democratic results–Trump is the President, Britain has left the EU. I’m by no means a Trump supporter, but certainly one of the positives to have come from his win is that young people are exercising their right to free speech and their ability to protest, rather than becoming disaffected with the whole system. If you disagree with something, whichever side of the political spectrum you sit, there’s absolutely no use just ignoring it and hoping it will go away. We have freedom of expression for a very good reason.
With shocks like Brexit and Trump’s election, do you understand feelings of disillusionment with current political systems?
I do. When nearly half the population of the UK is being pulled out of the EU against their wishes, and the majority of voting Americans back Hillary, it’s impossible not to see the flaws in our democracy. I’m a British Conservative, so I’m not exactly gutted by the current political climate–but for many, it would be ignorant for me to claim that our democracy is perfect. The way to improve it is by massively increasing political education and awareness, protecting free speech, and improving the dialogue between politics and people.
How did the TalkPolitics initiative come about?
I co-founded TalkPolitics not that long ago with Carl Sacklen, who’s our Editor-in-Chief. Speaking to a lot of my friends about politics, the main reason they said they weren’t politically active was because they didn’t feel they knew enough. The prospect of taking on political education was too daunting–they didn’t know where to start. So I decided that, rather than trying to swing them to my point of view, the best way to do things was to break politics down so that people could make up their own minds.
Tell me a little bit about what TalkPolitics stands for?
Improving political awareness, protecting and promoting free speech, and challenging what we believe to be unfair perceptions of politicians in the press and public. We want to improve the dialogue that many believe has begun to crumble, concerning “safe space” culture and the whole ridiculous notion that everybody on the right is a bigot, and everybody on the left is a ‘snowflake.’ We believe the way to do that is to give people the tools to educate themselves, rather than relying on central government and media spin–then provide areas for them to express their views.
What are your future aims for tackling political apathy in the younger demographic?
We’re starting to build up an informal network of like-minded MPs and pressure groups to really get political literacy on the national agenda. Essentially, it’s all about raising the profile–the more young people hear about our initiatives and the way we’re going about our campaigns (can’t give everything away, but some exciting stuff coming!) the more they’ll start to take matters in to their own hands. The fact that platforms such as Milk are interested in what we’re doing really shows that this is an issue that everybody can get involved with– we believe politics is only really interesting once you get engaged. It would be a shame to let the world pass you by without making your mark on it.
To support TalkPolitics’ fight against political apathy, click here.
Image courtesy of Katie Holdoway
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