New Internationalist

Rax Interview with Tamsin Omond (Independent Candidate)

RaxIn July, New Internationalist published The Rax Active Citizenship Toolkit. It is aimed primarily at teachers and students of Citizenship Studies in UK schools but in fact it can be used by anyone seeking to engage more actively in the world around them.The Toolkit is a landmark in textbook innovation, graphic style, approach to content and attitudes to learning. It also contains exclusive interviews with a range of voices, from popstars and politicians to young active citizens. Over the coming weeks we will be posting the full text of the Rax interviews.

TamsinAs well as being a well-known activist, Tamsin Omond ran as an independent Parliamentary candidate in the 2010 general election, leading her own party, the Commons. The Rax team caught up with Tamsin in March 2010. 

How are you taking part in the run up to the general election of 2010?

I’m campaigning to be the Member of Parliament of Hampstead and Kilburn. I’m leading a new political party called the Commons. We’re offering something completely new, returning a meaningful democracy to the community. Leading up to the election, we’re organising a series of events and discussions around key areas that affect the local community. Instead of telling people what I think they want to hear, I’m going to be out on the streets talking about what really matters to them and finding out what would make people tick come Election Day.

What campaigning techniques have you used to make your campaign stand out (young people will love the 'Usual Suspects' posters, for example)?

Each week I’ll be out in the community discussing local issues with community leaders and members of the public leading up to an open-invitation Saturday event. Locals can also look out for ‘Text to vote’ numbers on posters and leaflets asking key questions around each issue. Meanwhile, the Commons will be gathering information online using social networks to launch polling and discussions.

How is digital technology important to your political campaigning and how do you think it can affect the future of democratic engagement?

Digital technology is different because the audience can interact with it – voters don't just want to be told what's important, they want to be able to shape and affect it. Social media is all about conversation and it has to be a two-way exchange. Too often politicians try to use social media to push their own agendas instead of really listening.

What do you think it takes to have young people in the UK becoming more engaged in politics and how is your campaign seeking to achieve this?

Young people have grown up in a world of relentless branding and spin, and they can see straight through it. Above all what young people want is an honest message about how the world they live in has come about (rather than just saying 'we're good and the other guys are shit') and an honest approach to the future – that nobody has all the answers and that we're going to have to work together to find solutions.

In what ways do you think the three main parties are failing to meet the needs of the younger generation?

Right now politics simply isn’t engaging the younger generation. Around 60 per cent of people under 30 don’t vote. Politics is too top down, too boring (even politicians seem bored by it most of the time). Parliamentary politics has nothing to do with what goes on in the real world – most politicians don't speak like people outside or look like the people outside, they think £65,000 a year is low pay and they don't seem to realise how irrelevant they are to everyone else.

What would your three top tips be to young people who want to become more involved in politics?

Start with your peers – no-one else is managing to engage them so you've got a clear playing field. Don't accept their terms – yes politics is about compromise, but not their compromises! If you don't like the system do your own thing instead. Don't lose hope – there are huge challenges ahead but together we have the power to turn things around.

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