Why pinning Labour’s resurgence solely on the youth vote underestimates Theresa May’s failure

15 Jun 2017

As Theresa May shakily attempts to re-establish herself in Downing Street with the support of a barely-reshuffled Cabinet and the Democratic Unionist Party, her total unwillingness to address her failure to secure the landslide majority she expected might be her most comfortable political success in recent weeks.

 

Meanwhile, as Jeremy Corbyn has been celebrating the most unexpected comeback since the Nokia 3310, people have been quick to blame a surge in 18-24 year olds turning up to the polling station for the surprise political upset that occurred on June 8th.

 

In the month between April 18th and May 22nd, the voter registration deadline, an estimated one million young people registered to vote. This figure, as well as an eventual youth turnout estimated to be between 66.4% and 72%, has been widely reported as the reason for Labour’s resurgence. One government minister told The Telegraph, whilst criticising his own party’s lack of engagement with the younger generation, said: “Corbyn just came in and basically bribed people to vote for him with other people’s money that doesn’t even exist”.

 

However, to pin the turnaround of this election merely on students voting to have their tuition fees abolished is to grossly underestimate how badly the Conservatives let their voters down.

 

Theresa May’s total lack of charisma even had my dad, a lifelong Conservative voter, ranting: “Can she saying anything other than ‘strong and stable’?!” Meanwhile, May’s disastrous mid-campaign U-turn on the so-called ‘dementia tax’ had alarm bells ringing for the older generation – a key demographic for the Conservatives.

 

Coupled with mounting anxieties over privatisation, which the Conservative party deny is their plan, Jeremy Hunt’s response (or lack thereof) to the NHS cyber-attack and his continued row with junior doctors, voters across the age spectrum were let down by a lacklustre Tory manifesto and an even worse campaign.

 

Similarly, speaking to my peers, tuition fees were not at the forefront of their minds when putting a cross next to the Labour candidate on their ballot paper. I saw people on social media voting for the first time, marking the event with the hashtags #VoteLabour and #VoteNHS. Furthermore, a wildly unscientific poll on my personal Twitter page, in which I asked those aged 18-24 who voted Labour what their primary motivation for doing so was, revealed that an overwhelming 55% of respondents prioritised the NHS and social care.

 

Theresa May assumed that Brexit would be at the forefront of this election, and that those who voted Conservative in 2015 would continue to do so regardless of her campaign performance. Although she won 44% of the vote, and the Conservative party remain in power, these assumptions cost her the majority she was certain to secure.

 

Assumptions regarding the youth vote may cost us some vital realisations in the future. Like many others, young people were as inspired to vote Labour by Jeremy Corbyn’s ambitious promises as they were by Theresa May’s abysmal campaign. Ultimately, their concerns are not that different from everyone else’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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