IT'S OUR FUTURE, OUR CHOICE
We spoke with the co-founder of Our Future, Our Choice, Lara Spirit, about her goals for OFOC, women in politics and the critical role Gen-Z play in the anti-Brexit movement
By Amie Tyrer
Young people overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union, with around 75% of 18-24's voting to stay.
Most of us see this as a massive injustice as we are the individuals that will be burdened with the consequences in years to come. The sense of powerlessness rang true for 22-year-old Lara Spirit following the Brexit results and, driven by her frustrations, Lara set up the young people's anti-Brexit movement, Our Future, Our Choice. In just over a year the group has gained enormous traction. The group helped gather the 1.5 million signatures which were taken to Number 10 last year and have over 35,000 social media followers. With the European elections looming right around the corner, we spoke with Lara about her passion for politics, women's role in a largely Patriarchal system and the critical role Gen-Z can and will play in the anti-Brexit movement.
You co-founded Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) – can you tell us a little about why you founded this group and what your intentions were when starting up?
I started the group with three others, and we were kind of appalled and surprised that there wasn't a group representing the interests of young people already. We were tired of never seeing young people in the media talking about Brexit - a decision which is set to affect us for the longest, when we are the demographic most opposed to it going ahead. At this point there was no deal, but the negotiations were looking pretty bad for Britain and none of us could envisage a situation where the country would leave with a deal the public were happy with, or that looked anything like what we were promised in 2016.
When did you become interested in politics? Has it always been something you’ve been invested in and passionate about or were you spurred to speak up because of the current political climate of Brexit?
I've been interested in politics since school and studied it at university, but I'd never been an activist and never thought I'd leave university to work on a political campaign. I'm not hugely unusual - my friend Will, who is another co-founder of OFOC, also left university. I think Brexit has galvanised many of our generation into action in new and exciting ways.
I know a lot of people, both old and young, find the Brexit ordeal difficult to follow, how do you keep a clear head amidst all the chaos?
It is difficult, and its hard to find the right balance - you become so emotionally invested in the turmoil and its developments that occasionally you're forced to switch off for a few days completely. I'm lucky to work in a team of people who I think have a healthy balance and support each other where they can.
'Gen-Z' often see themselves as the ‘voices of the future’ - how important do you feel it is for the younger generation to become involved in the political debate surrounding Brexit?
It's essential, and there's a real appetite for it. If you don't vote you've got to resign yourself to living somebody else's future. Brexit put to bed the myth that old people are capable of making decisions on our behalf and have our best interests at heart - this has been a monumental fuck up and our generation are set to inherit the mess. Since then, you've seen young people engage with politics in new and exciting ways - in climate strikes, marches and Brexit demonstrations. The young people we work with still celebrate traditional forms of engagement too, which will always be important routes to change. They write letters regularly, and go and see their MP where possible. We do events in schools and colleges across the country, and more and more I'm struck by how keen our generation are to learn about how politics will affect their future and how they can have an impact in shaping it.
Do you feel that the younger generation is being represented sufficiently in parliament as it stands?
As a young, female activist, do you feel as though you are treated with the same respect and recognition when you express your opinions compared to older male figures?
No - but we're getting there. People certainly find it unusual to see young women speaking on TV or writing about Brexit - and Brexit really has been an issue which men are disproportionately involved in.
Women for a People's Vote have done research into the speaking time given to men over women and the difference is horrifying. We're lucky to be a team with some great women, but politics has such a long way to go before women are seen as political equals. Just look at the treatment of Jess Phillips, or Anna Soubry. No women should feel unsafe voicing their opinions or fighting for what they believe in and the threats against our most inspiring women in Parliament cannot dissuade other women from following in their footsteps.
What advice would you give young girls wanting to make their voices heard and become political activists like yourself?
If you're at school, start a politics society; if you're at university, join one. Write and read about the issues you care about and learn from those who have fought hard for change in the past. It would be odd, I think, to aspire to be an activist - I would wait for a cause which makes you passionate and which you wake up thinking about.
What has been the highlight for you in your political career so far?
The people's vote marches have been inspiring - each time I've been moved by the number of people marching peacefully through the streets. Speaking in front of those hundreds of thousands who came was a daunting but incredible experience. The best highlights for me though have been the events we do in schools - last week I had lunch with a group of young women before one, all of whom wanted to get involved and who were so passionate about a range of political issues.
Do you feel as though there is a destination point to your anti-Brexit journey and if so what does that look like for you?
A people's vote, and Britain remaining a member of the European Union!
Give us 3 ways young people can get involved with the anti-Brexit fight?
Join Our Future Our Choice.
Set up an OFOC at your school or university by getting in touch with us.
Write and pitch articles to everybody and make the point that your voice deserves to be heard as much as anybody else's.
Share this article