A General Election. Great, and I’m on a gap year, a 19 year old first time voter stuck out in the middle of South America. The last part’s not so terrible, I know.
There’s no denying that Theresa May has called the election at almost a politically perfect time. Even though she utterly ruled it out. Last year she definitively stated, “I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability, to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing, and have that election in 2020.” Still, Labour is split by Corbyn, the Lib Dems are still fighting back from their university U-turn of the 2010 coalition with weak leadership, and UKIP have realised that as their own dream is realised, they dwindle back into irrelevance again. Of course, the election is still a gamble. The main issue is Brexit, and it means that voting priorities might change dramatically.
Britain is divided. It is split. Half the country is disillusioned with the other half’s opinions. 52 to 48; a majority of just over a million. Brexit was always going to tear the country apart. Yet unlike predictions of a new political age, the burning of the traditional party structure, and of course the continued rise of populism, with the newfound uncertainty, most people returned to their roots and traditions. With no obvious path to choose, families of labour supporters steady themselves by standing by Labour, and the same for the Conservatives, regardless of whether they voted remain or leave. It seems that in an attempt to reboot their sense of political direction, people are aligning themselves to their traditional parties and conventions: so again it’s a two horse race. The Conservative Party, or The Labour Party.
Yet there is still a large number of people who are unsure of who to vote for. I present you with THE YOUNG. Yep, that’s me too. The first involvement in democracy I had was voting in the EU referendum. I’ve never voted in an actual election. A vast number of people my age haven’t either. In fact no one aged 18-21 has ever voted in a general election. They are mostly without allegiance to a particular party, and so not only is the way we vote interesting, but our vote is hugely important as well. Any undecided voters are key to the swing of an election. The real question is how disillusioned are the young? How much did Brexit affect their view of the current government?
It’s true, usually the young don’t vote in their swathes. Remember though, in the EU referendum, over 70% of young people like me voted to remain in the EU. And remember all the 17 year olds who couldn’t vote even though they have an average of 65 years to live with the decision. The majority of the old voted leave, and they have an average of 15 years to live with it. Fair? Ask the young people what they think. Those 17 year olds can vote this year. Already a record number of young people have registered to vote. I’m printing out my vote by proxy form at the moment in a Paraguayan Internet café. The Paraguayans around me are no strangers to political unrest, even political violence. But this voting form is innocent. I know other travellers across the world applying to vote by proxy or for a postal vote. Would they’ve been so bothered if this was a normal election? Perhaps not, however this is effectively a secondary Brexit vote, so yes, they’re applying to vote. Imagine that they’re unforgiving of the people who called an EU referendum. Perhaps unforgiving of a government that tried to put down democracy. Remember, most of the young don’t have party allegiances. Most parties have only betrayed them.
This is the election when tactical voting will matter most. It’s happened, and it’s worked, in Northern Ireland. In 2015 a DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) and UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) pact not to stand against each other in four constituencies resulted in a unionist candidate winning in three out of four seats, and Newry & Armagh’s Sinn Fein majority was halved. Already the Lib Dems are considering not contesting Caroline Lucas’ seat in Brighton & Hove, and they might consider it in constituencies that are only Conservative by a small majority, with Labour the main opposition. My own constituency is Newbury. It’s Conservative. Has been for over a decade. Yet from 1993-2005 the seat was held by Liberal Democrat David Rendel. The main opposition in this constituency remains the Lib Dems. If Labour and Green didn’t field candidates, the likelihood is that those votes would go towards the Lib Dems in a bid to oust a Conservative seat. Traditional allegiance is the only hinderance.
Uncontested seats encourage tactical voting, but it’ll be young British who lead the way in the manner they vote. In constituencies up and down Britain, it’s likely that many young people will vote for the main opposition against the current Conservative government. This is the Tory Party who led us into Brexit, and then tried to make it a Brexit of only their creation, appealing the Supreme Court’s ruling in a bid to block out parliament and thus the actual will of the people. What will decide whether the Tories remain in power or not is whether other voters are prepared to abandon old allegiances and vote for a party as opposed to a person.
My local MP is fantastic. He is a benefit to the community. Yet he is Conservative. Without his seat, the Tories are one seat weaker. It is the same all around Britain. Will people be able to vote against a great candidate to push the Conservatives out of power? I assume young people will do so owing to their lack of past allegiance.
Many predict a change in the way people will vote. Even before the EU Referendum populists were calling for an upheaval of the current system. Thankfully many of those populists have voted themselves out of a job. Yet if the current figures are correct concerning the number of young applying to vote, and if sentiment on how we will vote is correct too, then there will be an upheaval of sorts. Not of the political system, but of the Conservative government. The party that allowed Brexit, and the party of Theresa May’s 2020 election promise. Their party is already on its way to becoming an anachronism. When all people join the young in voting tactically, voting for the main opposition to The Conservatives in each constituency, then this government will see the result of their continual betrayals.
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