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Niko Omilana’s London Mayor race proves YouTubers could win at politics if they wanted to

Posted by Jennifer Adetoro in Comment

2 years ago

The results are in and YouTube’s very own Niko Omilana placed fifth in 2021’s London Mayoral Election. Ranking as the highest independent candidate with almost 50,000 votes (three times the votes of Hartlepool’s new MP Jill Mortimer), Omilana successfully beat several popular independent rivals including Laurence Fox and Piers Corbyn purely on “vibes”.

While this does mean the vlogger will not be receiving his £10,00 deposit back (though I doubt he actually cares), the outcome of Omilana’s mayoral candidacy reiterates once again the real life power of YouTubers. In 2019, we saw a similar instance when voter registration for the UK’s general election surged after KSI (and Stormzy) encouraged fans to sign up. Soon after the YouTuber tweeted the link out on Twitter, a huge spike in registration was recorded the following evening. This, along with Stormzy’s posts on both Instagram and Twitter, eventually resulted in a record-breaking of 350,000 people registering to vote, the highest in a single day of the entire electoral campaign. Of this number, 264,000 were under 35, with 150,000 under 25 – which combined makes up the majority age demographic of KSI’s audience.

Across the Atlantic, right-wing prankster and controversial YouTuber Joey Salads registered as a Republican candidate in New York’s 11th Congressional District in 2019. Although he eventually ended up withdrawing from the race a few months later, data from Social Blade showed monthly views on Salad’s YouTube channel doubled after he announced his campaign. A year prior to this, Brazilian politician and leader of the Free Brazil Movement (MBL), Kim Kataguiri went on to become the youngest congressman elected and fourth most voted due to the help of his YouTube channel. In the same year, MBL’s YouTube grew from zero subscribers to one million, the channel was featured on the front page of YouTube daily in the month leading up to the election and eventually, the group’s elected members would go on to launch their own YouTube channels. Like a political version of Sidemen.

Nonetheless, it’s evident Omilana’s mayoral candidacy is representative of an emerging movement of YouTubers entering politics and actually somewhat succeeding. Unlike mainstream politicians, these online personalities have a loyal audience that are ready to drop everything to rally around a candidate that resonates with them based on a parasocial interaction. It’s the same reason why influencer collaborations sell out – there’s a core foundation there. If Omilana took the race seriously, who knows how far he would have truly placed. One thing is for certain though, MPs are definitely going to have to work harder to appeal to the younger generation when the next general election come around. Will we see a YouTube channel from the likes of Boris Johnson? Who knows – but he should at least consider it.

By Jennifer Adetoro, culture editor of CORQ. Picture credit: Niko Omilana via Instagram.