Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Another national election? This calls for a drink.
In a nation that’s growing weary of frequent, high-stakes votes, what will it take for the U.K. to attract new voters to next month’s general election? How about a free beer?
This is an actual offer to the British electorate, and it’s currently sweeping the country. With fresh
hell general elections due on June 8, 52 pubs across Britain are offering a pint on the house to any newly registered voter who brings along a print-out of their confirmation email. New voters participating in the “Vote This Year Get Free Beer” campaign will also be entered into a lottery for tickets to a music festival later this month. It may sound a little desperate, but these are desperate times.
Just consider the state of the U.K.’s electoral politics in recent years. In September 2014, Scottish voters narrowly rejected a proposal for independence. The following summer was Britain’s most recent general election, in May 2015. And it hasn’t even been a year since the fateful Brexit referendum, which led to the departure of Prime Minister Cameron and partly precipitated next month’s vote.
When you factor in the blanket coverage of the recent American presidential elections and, for closer media watchers, the Dutch and French elections, it’s understandable if some voters are feeling a little fatigued. When this voter in Bristol expressed her exasperation at the new election’s announcement last month, British tweeters rallied behind her with the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #JeSuisBrenda.
This is nonetheless a critical election for Britain. As the Vote This Year Get Free Beer campaign’s website notes:
Every vote will directly affect what happens to our [National Health Service], schools and universities, our economy and the relationship we have with the rest of the world.
The hoppy registration drive may be partly powered by the chastening fallout of the Brexit referendum. In the aftermath of last June’s vote, it was reported—initially with some exaggeration of the facts—that younger people voted in markedly smaller numbers than their seniors, despite having far longer to live with any Brexit decision. The beer drive may be a way of trying to urge more young people to vote—more by publicizing the issue than with actual free beer, not least because young Britons actually drink less alcohol than older generations. Anyone worried about voter apathy may nonetheless be cheered by recent stats.
According to the U.K. government, almost half a million people between the ages of 18 and 24 have registered to vote since last month, far more than any other age group. You’d expect registrations to be higher among the young, many of whom have just become eligible to vote or have recently moved, requiring a new registration with their new address. The spike is still striking. Free beer or not, it seems that the third national vote in two years hasn’t jaded Britain’s younger voters yet.