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Mhairi Black MP: A first-time voter, aged 20, who had the luxury of voting for herself (photo: Anadolu Agency)

Cancel the Russell Brand revolution: young people are politically engaged after all. Despite the grandiloquent comedian’s attempt to persuade fans to abstain, figures from the British Election Study suggest that 58 per cent of 18-24 year olds cast their vote on May 7. Not bad, considering that the UK turnout across all ages was 66 per cent. It’s an improvement on the youth vote in 2010 (52 per cent) — and let’s not mention 2005 (38 per cent).

That Brand made a violent U-turn three days before the election and urged his fans to vote Labour makes him a hypocrite and, politically, a loser. It also makes him responsible for the countless fans who didn’t register to vote on his advice; well over a million 18-24 year olds failed to join the electoral register.

But celebrity dandies aside, it remains cause for celebration that the generation branded irredeemably apathetic by the media ultimately turned out to vote in droves.

Many of these young voters will have been, like me, one of the 3.3 million first-time voters born after May 9, 1992. We have long been considered politically indifferent: unconvinced by parties’ promises and susceptible to the revolutionary logorrhea of YouTube celebrities. Last year, a survey suggested only 41 per cent of us were certain to vote — and of those, many thought that Jamie Oliver, Jeremy Clarkson or, yes, Russell Brand would do as well as Cameron or Miliband. After the election, social media was full of newly-eligible voters who hadn’t gone to the polls explaining that “one of the reasons I don’t vote is because I honestly don’t think it makes a difference.” Many of us remain, rightly or wrongly, deeply resentful of Nick Clegg’s U-turn on university fees. Politicians just don’t understand us: so why should we bother to understand them?

As someone who has just cast my first vote, I don’t believe the media’s dismissal of us as disengaged louts. It ignores the nationwide drive to engage first-timers, which has been extraordinarily successful. The National Union of Students launched #GenerationVote last October, a campaign which saw Liverpool Student Union hand out free pizza to those registering to vote. The University of East Anglia, meanwhile, catered for the lactose-intolerant with a petting zoo for students attending a meeting about voting options. Of course such incentives trivialise a serious democratic right. Students will sign anything for free pizza; it doesn’t mean they crawl out of bed and go to the polling station. But the message got through that voting is — at the risk of sounding anything but — cool.

It would be impossible to underestimate the power of social media in this, of course. For #GE2015, politics was no longer confined to newspapers but nearly broke the internet with memes and hash tags. Potential young voters were inundated with politics — but to the severe detriment of politicians’ credibility. In the omniscient online environment, Britain’s future leaders became little more than reality TV stars, whose careers could be decided on their ability to eat a bacon sandwich. Are young voters really that superficial? Unfortunately, I suspect so: polls have suggested significant numbers would vote for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister because of his hairstyle.

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