the boris-hating future of britain: straight up
"I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the man to lead us in this post-Brexit world would be Boris Johnson -- it's added a new level of failure to the political system."
Photography Tom Emmerson
The inevitable has happened: Boris Johnson is inexplicably Prime Minister. Despite being voted in by an internal ballot consisting of 92,513 people (that's just 0.13% of the entire population) Boris is now the country's leader, determined to drag us all into a No Deal Brexit future whether we like it or not. But all is not lost! Britain's young people are refusing to go down without a fight.
Last week, as he installed himself at 10 Downing Street, an estimated 100,000 people descended on Russell Square to tell Boris just how much everyone hates him. The crowds represented a divided Britain, one that's angry and confused and disappointed and fearful about the future. We've never been in a more precarious political situation, as we hurtle nearer and nearer to crashing out of the EU. Here, the United Kingdom's young people sound off on how living in that precarious world feels.
Chenai Nduru, 21
How do you feel about Boris as PM? I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the man to lead us in this post-Brexit world would be Boris Johnson -- it's added a new level of failure to the political system. The man quite literally called Africa a country, alongside a huge catalogue of other racist, classist, and misogynistic comments. It's incredibly worrying when the general public don't even get a say on their own PM. His impact will be the incitement of fear of the future in our generation. He's already known to make promises he can't keep -- what hope do we have for our political future when that's his reputation? Should the voting age be lowered to 16? I'm open minded about lowering the voting age now, but I do think that young people need to be better educated on current affairs first. Otherwise, we could end up in a similar situation to the Brexit vote, a huge number of people weren’t actually sure of what they were voting for due to sheer lack of information. If a general election happened tomorrow who would you vote for? Labour, so that they could undo the damage that has been left behind by the Tories. What are the biggest challenges facing this generation? Our biggest challenge is figuring out how we are going to harness the power of social media in modern-day activism. It can be very hard to generate discussions about what actually matters and how to turn that social media activism into real social change. I think we are very aware of how quickly we are able to spread information. There have been multiple campaigns which have shown the success of this, like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, but we still have a long way to go. What makes you hopeful? The future always falls to the next generation, and whats really reassuring about our generation is how effective we have been at exercising our rights, and making sure we have an opinion. How much we actively engage in mass movements makes me hopeful; we are incredibly confident that we have the power to reshape and influence generations.
Sam Richards, 16
How do you feel about Boris as PM? While Mayor of London his contributions were not overwhelmingly progressive, but the impact they had was far from negative. In eight years he brought in a successful cycling rental scheme and oversaw the 2012 Olympics. Although I do not outright promote Johnson, I am glad to see Downing Street rid of Theresa May, who was far from suited for the role of a Prime Minister, especially in such a crucial period of British history. It's impossible to say right now what his legacy will be. He is in a position to either bring prosperity to our nation in every sense, or drive us into a poverty breeding recession. I can genuinely see it going either way. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? No. As a 16-year-old myself I know well those who surround me and do not think they are yet fit to vote. Compulsory education ends [in England] at the age of 18. I think it’s fitting that voting should start when compulsory education ends. If a general election happened tomorrow who would you vote for? Jo Swinton, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrat party. Following the EU and council elections, Lib Dems have had major growth in popularity. I believe a next election offers them a very real opportunity to offer an alternative to Johnson’s far right cabinet or Corbyn’s deluded socialism. What are the biggest challenges facing this generation? It is without doubt the climate emergency. There is no competitor even close. What changes do you want to see in today's politics? A government orientated towards solving climate based issues. What gives you hope? If nothing else gives me hope, I give myself hope. I am confident I will go on to solve many of the world’s major issues with the help of this somewhat increasingly informed generation I’m part of.
Rohan Rahkit, 20
How do you feel about Boris as PM? Angry. And generally quite confused as to how we arrived here. What impact will him being in power have on our generation? I hope our generation comes together to challenge all that’s morally unjust. We’re already more socially conscious than the generations before us. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? With technological advances in modern medicine, life expectancies will continue to increase. People are living longer, so it makes sense that their opinions and lived experiences will be very different to that of young people. The only way to level this disparity is by lowering the voting age; young people now are much more politically educated than people assume. If a general election happened tomorrow who would you vote for? No idea. What are the biggest challenges facing this generation? Climate change and the challenges posed by austerity politics. What changes do you want to see in today's politics? I’d love to see our politics become more diverse, both in opinion and personnel. What gives you hope? The internet. It’s allowed for the increased accessibility of information which has helped to inform our generation in particular.
Sonia Khan, 19
How do you feel about Boris as PM? I wouldn’t say I am particularly surprised, but it has definitely reinforced feelings of dissociation and disappointment in our current political system. What impact will him being in power have on our generation? Its more of a question of what effect Brexit will have. We will no longer be able to take for granted all of the privileges that come with the EU. The exact repercussions are uncertain but closed borders inevitably mean a closed society. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? My opinions and perspectives have definitely shifted since being 16. Despite this, I still think that at 16 individuals are able to make competent decisions for themselves – and politics affects everyone! Our stances shift continuously throughout life anyways. If a general election happened tomorrow who would you vote for? This is a frustrating question. I can’t say I identify with any of the candidates. We need fresh faces and to break apart these political dynasties. Both in the U.S. and here we repeatedly see the same individuals running for leadership -- all of them to some extent tainted with political baggage from the past. What are the biggest challenges facing this generation? Finding ways to make the relationship between humans and earth symbiotic and not destructive! What changes do you want to see in today's politics? New faces. Less polarisation. What gives you hope? My peers and knowing that there are people out there striving for change. I hope that individual efforts culminate into something meaningful.
Aria Shahrokhshahi, 22
How do you feel about Boris Johnson being PM? I’m really and truly heartbroken, he’s a dangerous character to have as our PM. I fear people will just be so enamoured by his charisma that they overlook his genuinely dangerous side. Not only has he made abhorrent quotes about people of colour, people in the LGBT community and Muslim women, he is also fully prepared to exit the EU with no deal, which, if you pay attention and listen to any of the experts on the matter, would be disastrous. He’s an upper class, publicly educated Eton Conservative rugby 'lad' -- that’s just not who I want running the country I live in. Not to mention the absolutely terrible job he did as Foreign Secretary. What impact do you think him being in power will have on our generation? I would like to say I don’t think he’ll be in power long enough to have a genuine effect on my generation, but unless a general election is called before May 2022, we're stuck with him for a while. I think in the coming years we will see further polarisation of politics in the UK. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? No, I just don’t think the average 16-year-old is able to make considered decisions for the greater good of the country. I know I wouldn’t want a 16-year-old Aria being able to vote. That being said, I think the importance of democracy should be taught much more in schools. There are so many countries in the world where people don’t have democracy or political freedom and I really feel it’s something that a lot of us take for granted and overlook. Who would you vote for in general election? I would have to think really strategically about which way I would cast my vote. Maybe Green, as I think my vote would make more of an impact. I wouldn't be caught dead voting Tory. What's the biggest challenge facing this generation? Short and sweet: the climate crisis. And I just hope and pray that we don’t see any more delusional leaders in politics to deny the reality of our effect on the planet. What makes you hopeful? David Attenborough.
Milo Black, 22
How do you feel about Boris as PM? Not great. His failures in previous governmental jobs and ineptness in diplomacy don't fill me with confidence in him as Prime Minister. His cabinet is also pretty terrifying, but I’m not sure he’ll be in power long enough to directly affect us. Should the voting age be lowered to 16? No. Through no fault of our own, young people are relatively uneducated in politics. Allowing more people that don’t understand what they’re voting for isn’t going to fix anything. There might be some substance behind the idea of a test you have to take to prove your political knowledge before you’re allowed to vote, or allowing 16-18 year olds to vote in referendums. If there was a general election tomorrow, who would you vote for? I'd probably vote green -- at least their vision is clear. What are the biggest challenges facing this generation? The echo chamber, addiction to phones, Instagram, inability to focus on your own career or life, comparing yourself to one another... Basically just social media.
Harry Wilby, 23
How do you feel about Boris Johnson being Prime Minister? Ambivalent. I’m holding my judgement until he’s actually done something in government. Do you think the voting age should be lowered to 16? Yes. I think it would actually encourage political responsibility from a generation that so sorely needs it. Who would you vote for in a general election if it was going to happen tomorrow? Not Johnson. Not Corbyn. Not Swinson. Not Farage. What changes would you like to see to today's politics? There's a complete absence of leadership in today's politics, and that applies to both Labour and Conservatives. Our current style of adversarial politics has done nothing but propagate uncertainty rather than provide us with decisiveness. I think the Leave campaign succeeded in 2016 because half of the country have absolutely no idea how the other half live and find it completely unfathomable that anyone could have a view that’s contrary to their own. I want to see a more equitable spread throughout the country in all aspects of decision making.
Photography Tom Emmerson.