Blog / May 18, 2017

Politics’ ‘merky’ new spokespeople

Author: Jack McCombe

In the lead up to June’s snap general election, we’ve seen a new wave of unexpected political spokespeople – grime artists.

Whilst most have come out to show their support for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, they have also looked to tackle a serious issue facing politics – the ability to attract young voters to register.

Grime artists JME, Novelist, AJ Tracey and rapper/poet Akala have all come out this week to offer advice to politicians – most notably Jeremy Corbyn – on how to engage young voters and communicate their often dissociative election manifestos to them.

2017 has been a big one for grime, the London-centric music genre has dominated the charts and industry awards and is especially popular among a particularly difficult to reach age group, those aged 18 – 25. As a result, politically-minded grime artists have stepped up and taken a social responsibility to help connect their audiences with politicians and the general election – even if they are pushing their own political stance in the process.

This week, grime artist and Boy Better Know boss, JME, met with Jeremy Corbyn to take over the latter’s Snapchat channel and urge young people to register before next week’s deadline.

Now, whilst ‘JME and Jeremy’ (grime’s new catchily named duo?) had a clear agenda to engage younger voters to register and vote Labour (according to a survey more than half of students would support the centre-left party if they voted) it also highlights politics’ realisation that often out-of-touch politicians aren’t the right people to engage with young audiences.

Corbyn’s astute use of relevant grime artists like JME in communicating to a hard to reach voting demographic is a refreshing tactic. Not only has it exaplained Labour’s manifesto through a current and relatable voice in JME’s, it has also tapped into the artist’s considerable (and youth targeted) social media following – he posted content of the meeting across Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter – as well as creating unique and engaging content for Labour’s channels.

In addition, the story has been picked up across multiple traditional and social media platforms where Labour would usually struggle to gain relevance – such as Vice, FACT and The Fader. These are are the go to news sources for many disengaged young voters.

Whilst it’s too early to know if this unique ‘collaboration’ between grime and politics will provide any tangible results, and some media are already taking swipes at JME’s credibility (Daily Mail), it is refreshing to see politicians using a more genuine and relatable way of engaging younger voters – especially if the voting age does drop to 16 as proposed by Corbyn.

And if it doesn’t lead to anything? At least we’ve got the grime rave being set up for the week of the election by a group called ‘Grime4Corbyn’ to look forward to!

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