Voter campaign to put p

A group of musicians and stand-up comics is backing Rock The Vote. a non-party political campaign to encourage young people to vote. But is anyone listening. asks Eddie Gibb.

Politicians are getting hip to the youth vote: in America Bill Clinton loses no opportunity to haul otrt his saxophone to jam with the stars. while his British counterpart Tony Blair makes a meal of the fact that he once had long hair and played in a rock hand. Most bizarre of all was a recent newspaper article by former Tory cabinet minister John Redwood who appeared to suggest that the rise of Britpop was as good an argument as any for Euro-scepticism.

The question remains. however. whether youth buys any of this. Generation X appears not to be putting its ‘X' on ballot papers. According to recent figures published by left-of-centre think-tank Demos earlier this year. young people are opting otrt of mainstream politics like never before. In the 1992 General Election. an estimated 43 per cent of eligible voters under the age of 25 did not vote. compared to 31 per cent at the previous election in l987.

Low turnout among first-time voters has always been a feature of the British political system. but voting apathy does appear to be increasing. ()ne of the main reasons is that young people don't register. or if they do they have often changed address by the time polling cards are sent out. The Rock The Vote campaign was launched in January in an attempt to encourage young people to register. and use. their vote. Bands including Radiohcad. Teenage Farrelth and the Boo Radleys have already lent their support. and a comedy tour organised by Eddie l/Jard is heading for Scotland.

Rock The Vote is a non-party political campaign which is solely intended to encourage people to vote. not influence how they vote. People attending gigs and events under the Rock The Vote banner will be able to register to vote. with special events organised to fund a press and television advertising campaign as election time nears.

‘Democracy is the best sytern we‘ve come up with so we should try to make it work.‘ said liltti'tl. ‘If a million extra people voted that would win some extra people some power. I'm quite positive about what politics can do Nelson Mandela showed what you

Rock The Vote: indie band Radiohead put out a call to a generation of lost voters

can pull off alter his rclease.’

lnevitahly. Rock The Vote has been compared to Red Wedge. the mid-Stls music industry campaign to recruit Labour voters. The main difference. of course. is that Rock The Vote is politically neutral. It also lacks the same conscimrsness-raising zeal of Red Wedge. making more modest claims about the ability of celebrities to influence young people‘s opinions. Singer Jimmy Somerville. a high-profile Red Wedge supporter. believes Rock The Vote is a worthwhile. if limited. exercise. ‘You have to educate young people about politics.’ he said. ‘()ne of the big problems is apathy. More people play the National Lottery than votc.‘

l/./,ard and some of the other Rock The \'ote supporters have declared their personal support for the Labour party. and there may be an unspoken assumption that more young people voting would mean an increased anti-Tory turnout. However. the campaign has received support from the (‘onserv ativ‘e party and former Tory MP Matthew l’arris is a director.

Although a (iovernmcnt supporter. l’arris acknowledges that the (.‘onservative‘s fotrrth successive term may have contributed to apathy amongst first time voters. ‘Quitc a few people have lost. or never gained. the idea that there is a choice and that Governments are not there for ever and evcr.‘ he said.

In its paper l‘J't’H/tlllliy‘ ('hi/(lrwi. Demos argued that

p into politics

joining CND instead.‘ he said. ‘I don‘t buy all this

the declining youth vote is a combination of a dissatisfaction with existing political processes and uncertainty about how to actually register and vote. "There may be pragmatic rather than ideological reasons why some young people don't vote.‘ said Demos research director Helen Wilkinson. In part. Rock The Vote is a response to its calls for widening registration opportunities aimed at young people and offering political education for first-time voters in schools.

The fall in youth voting between the 1987 and l‘)‘)?_ elections may in part be a result of the way l’oll Tax collection was linked to the voting register. Btrt Wilkinson also discovered a widespread cynicism among young people about the power of mainstream politics to effect change.

However David Denver of Lancaster University. a politics lecturer who specialises in voting behaviour. is sceptical about the theory about a disenfranchised generation of voters. ‘They were saying in the 50s that young people are fed up with politics and

stuff about alienation that's always been the case.‘ The Rock The Vale corner/y tour is a! the Edinburgh

hes/i val Theatre on Sun [4 April. See C(mwdy listings/Ur (la/ails.

And finally . . . Pepsi canned as Captain Pugwash sails again

Living up to its reputation in some

usual on such occasions. the Scotland squad provided the singing-inalie- bath' backing. ‘We could have a

generous offer. which lapses tomorrow (Friday). Another Scotsman in the news last

quarters of Glasgow at least -- as the ‘Daily Ranger". Scotland‘s best-loved weekday newspaper published a special ‘blue-nosc‘ edition to mark the launch of Pepsi's new colours. The Daily Rt't‘ul't/ was printed entirely on blue paper and readers were offered the chance to grasp a free can.

()hv'iottsly anxious to reassure its more green-hired readers. an editorial repeated that this was a one-off event. Nonetheless. die—bard Celtic fans may have to consider boycotting l’epsi along with that other ‘true blue' drink. r‘ylcEwan's lager.

Raising football. however brielly. above petty club rivalries was that Beverly Hills-based ambassador for Scottish soccer and singing. Rod Stewart. The blonde-streaked one was

Rod Stewart: hit purple patch

recording a version of the song ‘l’urplc Heather". a traditional ditty which Stewart claimed as his own on his last album. which is to be the Scottish team's official [Euro or» single. .»\s is

number one hit on our bands.‘ warned the squad‘s agent. The only consolation is that all money raised is going to an appeal fund for victims of the Dunblane tragedy.

('ontinuing the nationalist theme. news broke last week of an anonymous Skye-based consortium who have apparently offered the ‘peoplc of l'ingland‘ a cool £250.()()() in return for the Stone Of Destiny. Speaking on behall'of this ‘please mister. can we have our coronation stone back' exercise is none other than Robbie the l’ict. ‘The trust feels that the Stone of Destiny ought morally and practically to be returned to Scotland.’ he said. So far there has been no response from the linglish people to Mr l’ict's more than

week was cartoon character creator John Ryan. whose jolly pirate Captain Pugwash was much loved by children and. more recently. sniggered at by adults. Ryan broke his silence to refute a totally untrue yet persistent myth relating to some of the supporting characters' names in the kids series. Neither Seaman Staines nor Master Bates ever boarded the Black Pig; five years ago The Guardian was keel- hauled by Ryan‘s lawyers for suggesting otherwise. ‘I don't want to go down as the man who wrote dirty books for children.‘ said Ryan while visiting an Edinburgh primary school. Less serious-minded organs might have made something of the apparent innuendo of that statement. but not us. (Eddie Gibb)

The List 5-l8 Apr 1996 5