With the In campaign’s supposed strength lying with the young vote, you would have thought they might know a thing or two about how to target young people. Indeed, if they have the sort of backing and support from young people oft claimed in the media, you would imagine that their campaigns would be slick and focused. Instead the campaign has had a fundamental disconnect with the student vote which begs the question, are the Remain camp complacent or incompetent?
They have quickly gone to great lengths to claim that the ‘#Votin’ adverts were made deliberately so that people would ridicule them. If that was the case then they were certainly very effective, with the adverts showing a clear and patronisin’ disrespect for young people. Rather than providing a series of clear and articulate arguments about the benefits of staying in the European Union, they decided that students and young people would identify better with a series of words missin’ a g at the end.
Perhaps unable to tell us how exactly workin’, learnin’, earnin’, shoppin’, ravin’, chattin’, roamin’, makin’, meetin’, sharin’, goin’, and livin’ would be worse off outside of the European Union they do however seek to assure us that ‘life’s better in the EU but it’s at risk’ and that we should be votin’ to stay in. Well, that’s certainly my mind made up – clearly us young people wouldn’t have been able to cope with a set of reasons or some vague rationale for stayin’ in and instead we are safe and happy in the knowledge that the Remain campaign have some buzz words and a vague assurance that life is better in the EU.
If it was indeed deliberate then the advert smacks of complacency. Indeed if it was deliberate then the Remainers must be feeling secure in the arrogant belief that young people will toe the line regardless of how they are treated. For a generation often accused of being disengaged and disenfranchised with politics, one can hardly blame students for seeing that ad and giving up all hope of being represented. For a campaign supposedly so reliant on young people, for a campaign about our futures, such complacency is disturbing.
The alternative must of course be considered: that is, that the advert was not intended to be ridiculed and that they genuinely thought it would connect with young people. If so then the incompetence displayed is overwhelming. Whereas Vote Leave have allowed students to lead their campaign, with groups like BeLeave and Students for Britain providing clear messages on the streets of the United Kingdom about why we are better outside of the EU; the In campaign have taken the schoolmaster approach and sent in some politicians and ad agencies with no hope of understanding young people and told us that we must vote to remain. No reasons given, no discourse promoted, just that we must listen to our elders and vote how they say.
It isn’t just this advert either, when David Cameron began his one man tour of the country’s universities by turning up at Exeter in the middle of the holidays, with enough stealth to make James Bond jealous, it felt just a little bit patronising. Sort of as though we (the students) had been a little bit naughty and had to be told what to do. No student speakers were invited to share the stage with Mr Cameron, no young voices were permitted.
The Chancellor and Prime Minister feel Brexit will cause a DIY recession, and there is certainly a DIY feel about the Remain camp’s attempts to connect with young voters. Unfortunately it is less the sort of DIY you would expect at B&Q and more the kind you would expect if you asked me to put up a shed.
So the real question is: incompetence or complacency? Is it simply that the Remain campaign do not know how to engage young people? Do they not have any young people in their campaign they can turn to for advice? Perhaps that is the case, perhaps Students for Europe simply don’t have the ideas to help the campaign out. Perhaps the lack of young people seen on Remain campaign days is indicative of the campaign as a whole.
Or do Remain think the young are not worth wasting their time on? They imagine they can throw a stupid ad at young people, they can come to campuses when students aren’t there, because they think that at the end of the day we’ll do as we are told. Or is it simply that they don’t think we’ll bother to vote this time?
Only they can tell us, but it is definitely a question worth considering. If the Remain campaign believe what they tell us – that it is vital that young people vote to stay in – is their failure to connect with us a result of their complacency or their incompetence?