Yes, politics is dull, and young people abstain from voting because they don’t believe that politicians have their interests at heart, and not just because it can’t yet be done through mobile phones or the Internet (Balloting Blair’s babies, MW February 28), but there is a more fundamental issue at the root of this problem.
One of the basic principles of marketing is to know your product or service, know your audience, and then know how to reach them. There isn’t a brand on the planet that can effectively position itself as being all things to all people. Under no other circumstances would anyone involved in marketing accept a brief to develop a brand and communication strategy that could win over both a retired teacher in Penzance and a Mancunian clubber. The attempt to develop communication strategies around common interests leads to the kind of vague politico-speak that mushes crucial issues into bland concerns about decent standard of living, a good health service, safety on the streets – well, are you still awake?
The establishment of youth divisions is one way that political parties have responded in an attempt to create multiple faces of the same brand to talk to different audiences. Other initiatives have attracted well-deserved ridicule. There is more to building links with the youth market than inviting round a few celebrities for drinks at Number 10, or putting your youth party through a training programme in how to be hip (Young Conservatives, you should hang your head in shame).
Expensive research initiatives will show little more than what you should have arrived at via downright common sense – young people want choices and a stake in the future.
If you had to ask, you really are in trouble, if you don’t know where they are, you won’t recognise it when you’re shown, and if you don’t know how to communicate with them, you really can’t be taught.