The lessons our politicians can learn from Love Island

Kevin Craig
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More people tuned into Love Island than watched Jeremy Paxman grill May or Corbyn during last year's General Election campaign (Source: Getty)

The phenomenon that is ITV2’s Love Island hit the UK’s screens again this week, drawing the channel’s biggest ever audience, as 2.95m viewers tuned in to see the first arrivals to the Mallorcan villa.

That’s more than the number of people who watched Jeremy Paxman grill Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn during last year’s General Election campaign.

The hit show has swept the nation, with a record-breaking 85,000 people applying to be this year’s contestants – 49,000 more than those who applied to attend Oxford or Cambridge.

With the uncertainty of Brexit a glowering cloud over Westminster, the British electorate is more disengaged than ever. Last month’s local election turnout was estimated at 36 per cent, another dismal number in a long line of low voting statistics.

So, what must be done to re-invigorate British politics? How can MPs win back voter affection? Take lessons from Love Island, it seems.

On the surface, the show appears as far from the dusty and stuffy halls of parliament as you can get.

But it would be a mistake for politicians to dismiss Love Island and its popularity as low-brow culture aimed at numbing the minds of the masses.

Why is the show so popular? Because it puts young people front and centre. In today’s political and economic environment, young voter alienation is old news, yet it still needs to be properly addressed.

Yet it’s not just about giving neglected stories a platform – politicians need to actively listen to them.

Why do we feel an emotional connection with people we’ve only encountered through our TV screens and who we’ll likely never meet?

Personal connection is one of the most powerful forces, and politicians need to understand this if they want to engage voters.

It’s finding the people behind the policies which will enable us to develop a politics that truly speaks to, and caters for, the people.

Love Island is definitely a show of the present age – it’s a programme which represents an evolving and changing society, displaying very modern sexual politics.

Although this may cause offence to those with more traditional views, its popularity cannot be ignored. It’s a mistake to refuse to adapt to society’s developments and to cling to the policies of the past.

And staying relevant involves politicians embracing technology. The Islanders may be deprived of phones in the villa, but the way viewers interact with the show relies on votes through an app.

Too often, MPs refuse to take social media and its power seriously, and this is one of their gravest mistakes.

Although Love Island actively encourages betrayal to provide viewers with drama, that’s not to say its viewers lacks a moral compass.

In fact, fans are quick to call out dishonest behaviour. If the British public are so quick to denounce people whose actions have no effect on them, how much stronger will their reaction be to those in charge of running the country?

So there you go. Perhaps Love Island is the unlikely tool that will help British politicians understand an ever-changing electorate.

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