Donald Trump abandons traditional White House Ramadan celebration

Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies all had receptions to mark end of Muslim holy month

Donald Trump has not hosted an iftar dinner during Ramadan, breaking a nearly 20-year tradition.

Despite events held by previous administrations from across the political divide, this years Ramadan which began on 26 May passed nearly unobserved by the White House. It was marked only by a statement published late on Saturday afternoon, coinciding with the end of the holy month.

The first White House iftar dinner is said to have been hosted by President Thomas Jefferson, who hosted a Tunisian ambassador during the Islamic month of fasting in 1805.

Hillary Clinton resurrected the event when she was First Lady in February 1996, hosting about 150 people for a reception for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month.

The sunset dinner, attended by legislators, diplomats and leaders within the US Muslim community, went onto become an annual tradition from 1999, observed by the past three administrations.

George W Bush held an iftar dinner every year of his two terms, including just after the 9/11 terror attacks of September 2001.

President Barack Obama hosted his first Ramadan dinner in 2009, and subsequently every year of his presidency.

The Washington Post reported that Saturdays White House statement was signed by Donald and Melania Trump, and was not posted to the presidents social media presences. It read: Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity.

Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbours and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honour these values. Eid Mubarak.

In May, Reuters reported that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had refused a recommendation by the State Departments office of religion and global affairs which typically initiates such events to host a reception marking Eid al-Fitr.

A State Department spokesperson told Reuters it was still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr … US ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.

The Trump administration has been accused of Islamophobia for the presidents controversial proposed travel ban on six predominantly Muslim nations. After the presidential order was temporarily blocked by two federal appeals courts, the US supreme court is considering the Trump administrations appeal.

This month, about 100 Muslim activists protested against the US presidents divisive policies and rhetoric on Islam outside Trump Tower in New York. The group prayed and broke fast outside the presidents business headquarters late on 1 June, as part of the #IftarInTheStreets action organised by immigrant advocacy groups.

Read more:

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump head for clash at G20 summit

German chancellor plans to make climate change, free trade and mass migration key themes in Hamburg, putting her on collision course with US

A clash between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump appears unavoidable after Germany signalled that it will make climate change, free trade and the management of forced mass global migration the key themes of the G20 summit in Hamburg next week.

The G20 summit brings together the worlds biggest economies, representing 85% of global gross domestic product (GDP), and Merkels chosen agenda looks likely to maximise American isolation while attempting to minimise disunity amongst others.

The meeting, which is set to be the scene of large-scale street protests, will also mark the first meeting between Trump and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as world leaders.

Trump has already rowed with Europe once over climate change and refugees at the G7 summit in Italy, and now looks set to repeat the experience in Hamburg but on a bigger stage, as India and China join in the criticism of Washington.

Last week, the new UN secretary-general, Antnio Guterres, warned the Trump team if the US disengages from too many issues confronting the international community it will be replaced as world leader.

On climate change, Merkel has prepared the ground carefully, hosting in Berlin the two allies she most needs the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang.

China is the single largest emitter of carbon, and India the third. If they followed America in rejecting the Paris agreement, the whole process would unravel. Both countries have said they will not pull out of the treaty, and will beat their Paris commitments.

Germany insists it is not seeking confrontation at the summit. Sigmar Gabriel, the German foreign minister, points out there will be many far more rightwing governments present in Hamburg than Trump, and they will receive far less obloquy from the expected tens of thousands of street protesters.

Nor does he pretend his country wishes to set itself up as a rival to America, saying Germany has got enough responsibilities already. As German foreign minister, you wake up in the morning with a demand for leadership, and in the evening you go to bed with it, Gabriel said.

Merkel is reluctant to be cast in the role of leader of western liberal vales, although a poll published last week by Pew Research found Merkels favourability ratings on the rise, especially on the left, with an impressive 52% of all Europeans surveyed confident she would do the right thing in world affairs.

But the G7, and Trumps subsequent decision to shun the Paris climate change treaty, clearly left a permanent mark on her, leading to her famous declaration of independence four days later at a Christian Social Union (CSU) rally in a Bavarian beer tent. In remarks seen in the US as marking a new chapter in the trans-European alliance, she said: The times in which we could completely rely on others are over to a certain extent. That is what I experienced in the last few days. That is why I can only say: We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.

European voters decisions to give a commanding parliamentary majority to Emmanuel Macron, and not to provide the same to Theresa May, will have confirmed Merkels belief that Europe once again can be master of its own fate.

The landing station of the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream in Lubmin near Greifswald, Germany. Russias Nord Stream 2 pipeline is due to double the amount of gas sent to Germany. Photograph: Stefan Sauer/EPA

The fact that the only country Trump will visit in Europe before the G20 is Poland the bad boy of Europe and its greatest carbon emitter is symbolic of a president uneasy with Europes new confidence. Poland and Trump also both oppose Russias Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to double the amount of gas being sent from Russia to Germany.

On protectionism, Merkel was blunt in speaking to German business this week about her belief in open markets. Well do all we can to get as broad an agreement on this as possible in Hamburg. Given the new American administration thats not easy, but nonetheless we need to make the effort.

But Europes leaders are not the only ones re-evaluating their relationship with the US. The Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, told her parliament last week the fact that the US, under its new administration, has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, means Canada, like other countries, must set our own clear and sovereign course.

Australias foreign minister, Julie Bishop, in March claimed many regional partners were locked in a strategic holding pattern, waiting to see where Trump will go.

Argentina, the next host of the G20, has also told Trump that it has tried isolation and it does not work.

So at the broadest level, the G20 summit will be a first test of whether other leaders can, or indeed want to, escape from Americas shadow.

But it is Merkels compact for Africa that most animates her, according to foreign ministers that have seen her recently.

Merkel fears that long term demographic trends mean 100 m Africans could come to Europe driven by climate change, poverty, and Europe is wholly unprepared.

Combating poverty upstream in Africa as a way to stem the mass migrant flow to Europe downstream is her guiding idea. Her specific initiative is to team up African nations which have committed to economic reforms with private investors who would then bring jobs and businesses.

Read more:

Black queer love shines on Instagram through joint couple accounts

Dom and Nic have their life as a couple out there for the Instagram world to see.

For soon-to-marry couple Dominic Spence and Nick Gilyard, Instagram has become a place where together they show others what a young, black, queer relationship looks like.

Their joint page, @dom_and_nick, recently had a moment when the Instagram account The Way We Met profiled the 27- and 25-year-olds, who live in Brooklyn. Their photo and story of growing up in South Florida and knowing each other for many years before dating became one of the most popular posts with 17,500 likes in the past week.

“Dominic and I met as teenagers. We went to different high schools but they were close in proximity, so we had a lot of mutual friends. High school was also the time period in which we both came out to our families, although at separate times and unknowingly of each other’s personal journeys. After graduating high school, life took me and Dominic in different directions. He went on to attend UCF in Orlando while I went to college in Kentucky. We reconnected one summer when I was in Orlando helping a friend move into her dorm and asked Dominic to have dinner with me. That night we talked for 4 hours and shut down the restaurant. Shortly after, Dominic asked if we could make it official and so our long distance relationship began. But the distance wouldn’t be ending anytime soon. After college, I moved to New York for work and Dominic moved to D.C. to go to law school at Georgetown University. Finally, after 7 years of the back and forth, we are finally living together in Brooklyn… and engaged! Dominic and I feel lucky to have found love at such a young age. However, falling in love with another black man was scary in ways neither of us could have ever imagined. It forced us to face the very real resistance from society for being not only homosexuals but black men as well. We had to confront the stereotypes of being largely defined as uneducated, disloyal, untrustworthy, and unreliable individuals. But together we chose to rise above those prejudices and rewrite our own story- one of inspiration. We want others to see that our union is marked by achievement, love, friendship, respect, and unconditional support. We hope to encourage other black and brown men and boys everywhere to be true to who they are. And when they find love in each other’s eyes, to know that their love is just as strong and beautiful as anyone else’s.”

A post shared by The Way We Met (@thewaywemet) on

The couple started their joint account last year because they both were “frustrated that many of the advertisements and gay love stories highlighted by both straight and LGBTQ-centric media rarely (if ever) showed images of gay black couples.”

So they started posting their own photos and videos where they could “proudly and unapologetically showcase our black gay love all the time.”

While couple accounts are definitely a thing on Instagram, it’s still pretty rare to find black queer couples sharing a public profile. Some hashtags, message boards, and Instagram and Tumblr pages provide an outlet to showcase these complex relationships, but few are solely dedicated to one couple and their experience.

“The hope was always that showing our lives would inspire others (especially young queer people of color),” the duo wrote in an email.

The couple, a law clerk and a public relations senior associate, are marrying next month in Miami Beach. Earlier this year, they were featured in shaving company Bevel’s Valentine’s Day ad. They called the experience “empowering.”

“We received so many messages from people who had seen the ads who told us how it actually made them cry to see two black gay men embracing each other in an ad for a black-owned company. So often we feel like there isn’t a space to be both black and queer so to have Bevel embrace both parts of our identity was truly a special moment,” the couple said.

When Monday comes way too quickly #fivemoreminutes #MCM

A post shared by Dom And Nick (@dom_and_nick) on

Another couple, Kordale Lewis and Kaleb Anthony, stepped into the spotlight several years ago to show what a family with two black dads looks like. They pioneered the way through a joint Instagram account to show what moments of fatherhood, family, and partnership are actually like, especially with a new baby in the family.

The couple shot up in fame when a photo of the couple doing their daughter’s hair went viral back in 2014.

From there they became a well-known Instagram presence and the whole family starred in a Nikon ad the next year. Later, in July 2015, Lewis and Anthony announced they were no longer together on Instagram. Their breakup played out all over social media as their fans learned of the news, showing that a joint account can have its drawbacks. The pair had to put everything out there, even their most difficult moment.

The two have since gotten back together and deleted their breakup posts. By Christmas 2015 they were posting family photos again and by the next April they were expecting a new baby.

Their account and others are curated to emphasize the beautiful, happy moments and don’t always catch the disagreements and tears. But relationships can get messy and these profiles are about highlighting what makes a relationship worth it, even during the hardest times.

Enjoying the day at Islands of Adventure. @universalorlando #UniversalMoments

A post shared by Kordale N Kaleb (@kordalenkaleb) on

Like Spence and Gilyard said, they wished they had more role models and relationships, like Lewis and Anthony, to look up to when they were younger. So now they want to “give people someone who looks like them, faces the same hardships and adversities, and not only overcomes them but finds a love that helps them do so.”

Juan and Gee Smalls, a married couple in Atlanta, also share their professional and personal lives together on their joint Instagram. The couple, who married in 2009 in Connecticut, offer relationship, dating, and life coaching. Back in 2011 they wrote an advice column for a magazine which turned into a joint Facebook and Instagram page and blog. Now they help others with their relationships. They started The Gentleman’s Foundation to celebrate gay men of color.

Together, we will conquer all that our heart desires. Let’s go get em! #loveworks #juanandgee

A post shared by Juan & Gee (@juanandgee) on

In a phone call, Gee Smalls, 40, said he hopes something as simple as their Instagram posts help other gay people of color and “inspires them to keep hope up.”

Even if Gee and Juan, 35, are using their social media profile for their coaching business, Gee said they keep it “transparent and real.” He’s been told couples got married because of their blog and social media presence. “It’s been a blessing for us.”

June is Pride Month, and Gee said it seems like this year more than ever Instagram and social media pages like his and Juan’s are getting more attention.

For them and others, these profiles are another small, but powerful way to use digital tools to combat negativity around black, queer relationships.

Read more:

MashTalk: What is Uber’s future without Travis Kalanick?

After this week, Uber is forever changed. Co-founder Travis Kalanick was forced to resign as CEO after pressure from investors over recent scandals.

Those scandals? Where to begin: There are the allegations of sexual harassment and HR incompetence from Susan Fowler Rigetti. There’s the ongoing lawsuit from Alphabet’s Waymo that alleges Uber benefited from intellectual property that the now-fired head of self-driving may have stolen. There’s the Greyball program that the company used to evade regulators and is now being investigated. There are the reports that Uber’s leadership team obtained and viewed the medical records of a rider in a rape case. There’s…

You get the point. Uber has been been having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. But does the exit of Kalanick who had been on leave from the company and will remain on the board signal a new direction for Uber?

On this week’s MashTalk, Pete is joined by a panel of Uber experts, including Farhad Manjoo from The New York Times, JP Mangalindan from Yahoo Finance, and Kerry Flynn from Mashable‘s business team to answer that very question. Also up for discussion: What kind of person should lead the company next? What about the internal petition to reinstate him? Will Kalanick’s downfall change Silicon Valley startup culture at all? And, if you’re an Uber user, what should your takeaway be from all this?

Please subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes or Google Play and give us a review if you have a sec. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @Mash_Talk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

Read more:

Mark Zuckerberg loves Iowa in his latest Facebook story

A man who loves Iowa.
Image: LISA HORNAK/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Everyone’s best friend, Mark Zuckerberg, has a new Facebook story and he’s having a great time in Iowa.

Zuckerberg used Facebook storiesthat product Facebook introduced to add onto Instagram Stories but that hasn’t quite caught on yetto document his trip midwest. The Facebook CEO traveled to Iowa as part of his 2017 promise to visit U.S. states he’s never been to.

That trip led Zuckerberg to declare, “Iowa is my kind of place.” Everyone on Facebook who follows Zuckerberg was basically guaranteed to see his trip, since no one else is really using Facebook stories. Zuckerberg’s story waited to be watched in a little bubble all alone, without any other friends’ stories to distract from exciting photos of Iowa.

Image: screenshot/facebook

Hope the pork tenderloin was good!

Read more:

Limited-edition Nikes get an AR twist on the SNKRS app

Available through AR.
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Nike’s SNKRS app will soon move shopping for sneakers on the app partly into the real world.

The app is adding augmented reality technology for the drop of the Nike SB Dunk High Pro “Momofuku.”

App users have to find a copy of the menu for the New York restaurant Fuku, part of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, online or even on the street in New York. Then, SNKRS will overlay an interactive 3D model of the limited-edition sneakers. Tapping to unlock will reveal the new sneaker and invite app users to purchase it.

Nike introduced its SNKRS app in 2015, but its new AR tech is a nice twist. Right now, it’s just being used for these limited-edition sneakers, but maybe the whole app will get an AR component soon.

Read more:

Could Trump’s vague plan to expand rural broadband actually work? It’s hard to tell

A sign in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hangs on a farming tractor near a polling station in Cave Creek, Arizona. (Photo by )
Image: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

If you live in the country, there’s a good chance you don’t have broadband-speed internet.

Only one in ten Americans lack access to a connection that meets the government’s new standard for the designation, but more than two thirds of them live in rural areas. In those regions, nearly 40 percent of people can’t get broadband.

Experts worry this digital divide is slowing small-town economic development at a time when farm and factory jobs are vanishing and young people and retailers are fleeing for cities.

Donald Trump, who capitalized on this despair in his run for the White House, finally offered a concrete answer to this problem, however vague, in an Iowa speech this week.

The president said he plans to propose an expansion of broadband access to remote areas as part of an ambitious infrastructure bill.

“I will be including a provision in our infrastructure proposal $1 trillion proposal, you’ll be seeing it very shortly to promote and foster, enhance broadband access for rural America,” he said. “We will rebuild rural America.”

Trump said limited broadband is keeping farmers from using the latest agricultural technology, like big data tools that track crop growth and soil conditions or online livestock auctions.

“We must ensure that [agriculture] students have the broadband internet access they need in order to succeed and thrive in this very new and very changed economy, and world,” he told the crowd at Kirkwood Community College, a school that specializes in farm tech. “Farming is very beautiful to me I’m not a farmer but I’d be happy to be one.”

An agronomist and a farm manager measure soil moisture and collect samples for salinity testing in The Coachella Valley, California.

Image: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

The White House didn’t offer any details as to how such an expansion might be implemented or how much of a budget he’d allot it.

Nevertheless, the support was no doubt welcome news to farm lobbies and capitol hill lawmakers who’ve urged the president to fit the issue into his plan to rebuild the country’s roads and bridges.

“Rural broadband, we need that quite honestly more than we need roads and bridges in many of the counties I represent,” Rep. Austin Scott, a Georgia Republican, said in a House committee hearing last month.

So why hasn’t anything been done to meet this demand? Laying the fiber optic cables needed for broadband connections can cost up to $30,000 per mile. That investment simply isn’t economical for telecom and cable companies in sparsely populated areas with few potential customers to justify the spending.

That means people in there are often stuck with copper lines that are too weak for high-speed data. Many of these consumers are stranded in the dial-up age, while others rely on spotty satellite or cell service.

A map of fixed and unfixed broadband coverage as of 2016.


The federal government has historically helped fill utility gaps like these through subsidies and other incentives for the private sector, public works, or a combination of both.

The playbook’s no different in this case. The Federal Communications Commission and other agencies have dolled out tens of billions in subsidies to providers for more than two decades.

Yet the divide persists for a variety of reasons. Some of these programs have been mismanaged, in other instances, providers don’t live up to promised connection speeds or the government later raises the broadband threshold, and sometimes, markets are so unattractive that private companies even turn down government funds to avoid them.

Wrapping an expansion drive in a big-money infrastructure plan could be a rare opportunity fort the government power past such piecemeal efforts. And it’s one of the few Trump policies that appeals to both sides of the aisle.

Disagreements abound, however, on the best way to approach expansion and the respective roles of public and private entities.

In the case that Trump does follow through with the plan, Congress will need to carefully craft an intricate system of policy mechanisms in cooperation with state and local governments. It won’t be easy, but the prospect could certainly be promising.

‘Removing stop signs and traffic lights’

Trump’s FCC chair Ajit Pai has already said he wants to make broadband access a top priority, despite having voted against various items that would have furthered this agenda as a commissioner.

“One of the most significant things that Ive seen during my time here is that there is a digital divide in this countrybetween those who can use cutting-edge communications services and those who do not,” Pajit told FCC staff on his first day.

Pajit has been pushing a plan for months that mostly amounts to removing rules around how broadband infrastructure is installed. He claims regulations are discouraging telecoms from investing in rural areas.

The FCC passed a notice in April that aims to let businesses bypass local and state construction laws such as permit requirements for attaching fiber cables to utility poles and eliminate caps on how much providers can charge consumers.

Several consumer advocacy groups oppose this approach and argue that it won’t expand broadband coverage and could even diminish service.

Public Knowledge, a public interest group focused on digital competition, said in an FCC filing that Pajit’s proposal will “abandon critical consumer protections, threaten the stability and reliability of the nation’s communications networks, and railroad state and local governments, all for the apparent convenience of incumbent telecommunications providers.”

Megan Clyburn, the sole Democrat left on the commission, voted for the item despite some apparent reservations.

“On the road from legacy to modern services, this item seeks comment on removing stop signs and traffic lights along the way,” she said in a statement on the vote. “I only hope, that we do not crash and burn.”

That deregulation proposal, along with a scheme of tax credits, loosened restrictions on bonds and other incentives, have since morphed into a bill introduced in the senate last month with bipartisan sponsorship.

Two other bills aimed at creating a more consistent and comprehensive replacement for the government’s outdated broadband coverage maps are making their way through the house and senate respectively with similar cross-party support.

The Democrats also unveiled their own long-shot $1-trillion infrastructure bill in the week after Trump’s inauguration that sets aside $20 billion for broadband installments.

Troubling signs

Despite Pajit’s full-throated support for broadband expansion, he’s also given plenty of indication that he’s not committed to the ideal of equal internet access in the same way most progressive consumer advocates would like.

Geography of access is only the first hurdle in bridging the digital divide. Affordability of access is a perhaps even greater challenge, especially because steep barriers of entry and esoteric policies have created exploitative monopolies and duopolies in many regions.

Pajit’s FCC hasn’t shown much interest in resolving that issue. In a reversal of his predecessor’s policy in February, Pai blocked nine companies from offering discounted service to low-income areas through the agency’s Lifeline program, which was originally created to subsidize phone service in 1985. The next month, he delegated oversight of the program to state governments in a move that opponents say could hand more power to telecoms and cable companies to kill competition.

Pajit argues that the landmark regulatory framework his predecessor entrenched to protect net neutrality the notion that providers should treat all internet traffic as equal has curbed new investments in low-income and rural areas by restraining potential profits. Net neutrality proponents say there’s limited data to back up this claim a favorite talking point of cable and telecom lobbyists and peeling back the rules will ultimately hurt consumers.

In any case, Pajit’s actions have suggested a clear priority of business interests over those of consumers characteristic of the Trump administration. If that’s any indication of how Trump plans to approach the problem in his infrastructure bill, it’s likely to be a bumpy road.

Read more:

Free trade deals for ‘poorest countries’ to be maintained post-Brexit – BBC News

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Free trade deals with developing countries will continue post-Brexit, the government has said.

The UK will maintain an EU deal, which provides 48 countries with duty-free access to Britain for imports.

It means British firms do not pay import tariffs on goods bought from countries such as Bangladesh and Haiti.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Brexit gave the country an opportunity “to step up our commitments to the rest of the world”.

He added: “Free and fair trade has been the greatest liberator of the world’s poor, and today’s announcement shows our commitment to helping developing countries grow their economies and reduce poverty through trade.”

The deal excludes arms and ammunitions.

The list of countries – which also includes Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda – is based on the UN’s Least Developed Countries index.

Currently 19.2bn of goods are imported from the 48 countries, including 79% of the tea consumed in the Britain.

Some 45% of the UK’s textile and clothing imports, and 22% of its coffee, also come from the developing nations.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said the renewed commitment would “help the world’s poorest people stand on their own two feet”.

She added: “Building a more prosperous world and supporting our own long-term economic security is firmly in all our interests.”

The government also intends to explore options to expand relationships with richer countries like Jamaica, Pakistan and Ghana, which currently enjoy a mixture of reduced tariffs or zero tariffs.

Dr Fox added it would result “in lower prices and greater choice for consumers”.

Read more:

Scheme to limit commercial bins on city streets launched – BBC News

Image copyright Google
Image caption West Nile Street is one of eight areas which will be included in the scheme

A scheme to limit the amount of time commercial waste bins are left on the street is being launched in Glasgow.

Containers found on streets and lanes in eight areas in the city centre outside designated times will be removed by the council.

Offending businesses will then have 28 days to reclaim their bins as well as pay council costs.

The six-month pilot scheme is designed to “improve the look and feel of the city centre”.

If successful, the project will be rolled out across the city centre.

One-hour limit

Councillor Kenny McLean said: “This project will make Glasgow city centre more attractive for all those who work, live, study in or visit the area.

“Clearing commercial waste bins from our streets will make the city centre cleaner, greener and safer, and we have received great support from local businesses and residents for the pilot scheme.

“We are greatly encouraged by the input of businesses within the project areas.

“Although this is a challenging initiative, this input will be invaluable in ensuring its success and our streets are cleaner.”

Waste can only be placed on the street within a specific time period. The proposed windows are 07:30 to 09:30 and 17:00 to 23:00.

Bins must only be on the street for an hour, only when the business is open and never left out overnight.

Similar schemes operate in Edinburgh, Manchester and the City of Westminster.

The areas initially covered from Sunday will be:

  • Sauchiehall Street – from Cambridge Street to St George’s Road at Renfrew Road
  • Sauchiehall Lane – from Elmbank Street to Hope Street
  • Robertson Street
  • West Nile Street – between Gordon Street and St Vincent Street, and including Drury Street
  • Garth Street, Merchant City
  • John Street, Merchant City
  • North Lane
  • North Court

Read more:

Five ways politicians can win over young voters – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn continued his drive to appeal to young people with a visit to Glastonbury this weekend. But how can politicians get more young people to support them at the ballot box?

Turnout amongst 18-24 year olds rose from 43% in 2015 to 54% in the latest general election and most of them voted Labour, latest polling data shows.

It’s a “wake up call”, or a “tipping point” – says Dr James Sloam, co-director of Centre for European Politics at Royal Holloway University.

He says the increase in the youth vote has got to effect the agenda.

“What we know is that once people vote, they tend to vote for the same party again. Politicians cannot ignore young people on a permanent basis.”

And what’s more, this section of the electorate is now “anyone’s to play for”, Caroline Macfarland, director of think tank Common Vision, says.

Breaking down the boundaries to politicians

Image copyright Getty Images

Young people in the UK are as interested in politics as elsewhere – volunteering and being involved in community engagement projects – they are just spoken to less by politicians, Dr Sloam says.

He believes a centralised Westminster government and a break down of local government, also contribute to this lack of conversation.

Ms Macfarland agrees: “Millennials are more likely to sign a petition, attend a protest and join a campaign on a singular issue.

“Young people expect transparency and are less interested in political structures. These structures need to change and be more responsive to public sentiment.”

In other words, this generation is unlikely to write a letter to their MP, or even email one, but they will still expect to see a reaction from government on issues that matter to them.

If they want to see change, they do it themselves – whether it’s boycotting a brand or buying a different food, Ms Macfarland says.

Politicians are no longer the fixers or doers, they are the enablers, she adds.

Less focus on immigration, more talk about climate change

Image copyright Reuters

“These are people who aren’t concerned with immigration, but are worried about the environment,” says Dr Sloam.

“The environment wasn’t even an issue in this election. Here, young people can have more influence in the debate.”

Dr Avril Keating, director for the Centre for Global Youth at the UCL-Institute of Education agrees: “Younger people tend to be more supportive of multiculturalism and inclusion.”

Common Vision has put together a Millennial Manifesto for generation Y – that’s those now aged between 18 and 35 – that it argues has a more “everyday” political agenda than generations before.

Looking at the environment – it suggests a policy which isn’t just about how much energy we use, but how we think about these resources too.

One way of doing this would be through so-called “bottom-up” supply models – where citizens could be involved in renewable energy generation on a local level.

A housing model for ‘generation rent’

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionShould ‘Generation Rent’ try co-living?

Dr Keating argues that ultimately young people want the same things as everyone else; good wages and the prospect of owning a house.

Consecutive governments have promised to build ‘X’ amount of homes, with the debate focused on “supply and demand” or “buy or rent”.

But young people tend to be less binary according to Ms Macfarland.

The Millennial manifesto points to examples of self-build, community housing and co-living models – where people share spaces and facilities – which are already happening in the UK and abroad.

In Germany – where almost half of Germany’s first-time voters back Chancellor Angela Merkel – housing problems are similar to those in the UK.

But their government has invested in greater rental regulation, where rents are only increased if improvements are made, tenants have long term agreements and are able to save money in a different way to paying a mortgage.

“Germany looks 10-20 years in the future with its policy,” Dr Sloam says, but he admits these types of policy are costly.

It is this long term thinking that could be the real “win” for policy makers though, according to Ms Macfarland

“Look beyond the five-year term – policy makers would instead be appealing to voters with five decades ahead of them,” she said.

A new rule-book for a new way of work

Image copyright Reuters

This is the generation that has born the brunt of the financial crisis with uncertainty, unemployment and wage freezes being a staple of their adult life.

Young people experienced the tightest pay squeeze in the wake of the financial crisis – with real pay falling by 13%, according to the Resolution Foundation.

While a lot of people have heard the “gig” economy being discussed, the debate has had a negative focus on the challenges around workers rights, rather than the opportunity the market offers.

In the gig economy – instead of a regular wage, workers get paid for the “gigs” they do, such as a food delivery or a car journey. In the UK it’s estimated that five million people are employed in this way.

Employment law needs to be brought up to date to protect this flexible and dynamic labour market, but also offer security, policy analyst Laura Gardiner from the Resolution Foundation says.

What is the ‘gig’ economy?

Meanwhile the Millennial Manifesto points to personal development and work life balance, which it says are seen as more important than financial reward – and so a focus on workplace conditions and flexibility is as important as a focus on pay.

Current policy has punished the under 25s – who don’t get minimum wage, by treating them like they are not adults, Dr Keating says.

Hi-tech know-how

Image copyright Reuters

Surveillance, misuse of data, privacy and hacking are all issues that Dr Huw Davies of the Oxford Internet Institute believes young voters of the future will be concerned about.

“Young people are already participating in the digital economy off their own backs,” he says.

“They are recognising their future could be in a gig economy with a collection of jobs as opposed to one role.”

With a new computer science curriculum already in the education system, pupils are learning about encryption and data provenance.

It’s only a matter of time Dr Davies argues, before people become aware of how ignorant governments have previously been on these issues.

Politicians won’t get away with saying “backdoor encryption” then, Dr Davies says.

Read more: