‘Brexit has politicised a generation’: Hackney councillor Mete Coban on helping drum up a record youth turnout

Getting out the vote: Cllr Mete Coban at a MLMS youth engagement event in Blackburn.

Getting out the vote: Cllr Mete Coban at a MLMS youth engagement event in Blackburn. - Credit: mete coban

Mete Coban has been working to engage young people in politics for years and is delighted with Thursday’s record turnout – but insists he “knew it was coming”.

Mete Coban

Mete Coban - Credit: Archant

Between 57 and 59 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds are estimated to have voted in the general election, compared with 43pc two years ago. And after Mete, 24, who is Labour’s youngest councillor, has been touring the country with his charity My Life My Say (MLMS) to encourage young people to sign up – and he’s sure it had an impact.

He began to question why young people don’t participate more in elections when he ran a youth engagement project at Labour HQ in the run-up to the 2010 election. He set up MLMS to “rebrand politics”, and “overcome the misconception” it isn’t relevant to everyday life.

From May 15 to 22, MLMS toured London, Newcastle, Cardiff, Belfast, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh to encourage young people to register to vote.

“With my Labour hat on it was good, but I was really happy about the turnout,” said Mete.

“We knew from the buzz we had going out to all these cities you were going to get a high youth turnout. The amount of engagement we had was amazing. There are so many issues that everyone wants to have a say.

“The average age of a first-time buyer is 39. There are zero-hour contracts and low-level entry jobs. People are leaving uni with massive debts.

“No hope, really. All these issues along with Brexit have politicised a generation.”

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Added to that, “Corbyn put young people at the heart of his election campaign”.

“Corbyn is different because he’s not really an establishment figure,” said Mete, who became a councillor in 2014 at just 21. “One of the reasons people are put off politics is they see the people are all the same.

“I think they saw he‘s a bit different and it gave them hope.”

Mete was concerned that if the Tories had had pulled off the landslide predicted by some, it “would have put young people off politics even more”.

“People would have thought: ‘It’s my first time voting and nothing is going to change - what’s the point?’,” he said.

“This election demonstrated how people’s votes can make a difference. The SNP in Scotland won only won by two votes, Zac Goldsmith won by 40 votes and Labour picked up Kensington with 20 votes.”