Parliament Street’s newly appointed head of events Georgia Toffolo speaks out on tackling voter apathy
Politics in Britain is in crisis. The MPs’ expenses scandal triggered a seismic reaction across the country, with millions of people viewing their elected officials as opportunistic, greedy and dishonest. Five years have passed since then, and the sting of the scandal still remains in the hearts and minds of the public, a fact reflected in the tumbling opinion polls of all three of the main political parties.
In conjunction with this loss of trust, the social media revolution has given a generation of young people unlimited opportunities to have a say on the big issues facing the country and make their voices heard. The public have always had a right to be sceptical of politicians, but now through channels like Twitter and Facebook, they have a platform to express it and influence the opinions of millions of other people.
If the political establishment wishes to rebuild the trust that it once enjoyed, then simply apologising for the financial scandals of the past is not enough. The fundamental structure of politics in the UK must change to reflect the decentralised, globalised world which the rest of us are living in. Voters do not want to see politicians sucking up for past failures, they want to see them engaging on the issues that matter to them now.
I’m sure that many people in the political establishment do not believe that appearing on E4’s Made in Chelsea qualifies you to have a credible viewpoint on the big issues facing the country. But like it or not the programme is watched by around two million people, and a fair portion of them are of voting age and have their own opinions. The programme has given me a platform to speak out on the issues that matter to me, and hopefully encourage other young people to study and enter the political arena.
Over the last year, there has been a distinct fragmentation of politics in the UK, with minority parties receiving unprecedented and unexpected high polling numbers, a sign that the old establishment model is on the verge of extinction, if action is not taken. Voters are looking for something different, because they can no longer see or feel this energy or authenticity from the three main parties, whom they feel are out of touch with the challenges facing their daily lives.
It is in this climate of political change that reality TV, once viewed as a hindrance to aspiring politicians, may well now be seen as a new avenue for the championing of important issues and engaging the electorate. The old rules which governed the world of politics no longer apply, and the sooner our elected officials recognise this, the better it will be for all of us.
Georgia Toffolo is head of events at Parliament Street and star of E4’s Made in Chelsea @GeorgiaToffolo