‘Twas the week before the election…

As the smell of mulled wine and mince pies descends upon us, politicians of all creeds are scrambling to campaign for a pivotal Christmas election, the results of which could have dramatic consequences for future generations. Before we get too distracted by cheeseboards and re-runs of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, let us examine some of the lesser-discussed concerns of the upcoming election.

As a postgraduate politics student drowning in current affairs, it is easy to forget that so many young people will not vote in this election, despite the fact that it is these people and their children who have the longest to suffer the consequences. Even if politics is not your bag, it affects every aspect of life and should not be ignored. 42% of 18-24-year olds did not vote in the 2017 General Election[1]. With think tanks such as You Gov stating that age is the new predictor of voting intention, I urge the younger electorate to seriously consider which direction they want this country to go in.

On the flip side of that coin, a valid complaint of any British voter (or non-voter) is that many of our votes are wasted. In a first-past-the-post system, any votes for a losing party, or any extra votes for winning parties, are not reflected in our Houses of Parliament. This means that there is a large disparity between how many votes a party received, and how many seats they earn. For example, in 2017 the Liberal Democrats received 7.4% of the vote share, but only 1.8% of seats[2]. This is even worse for small, non-mainstream parties, most of whom will have no seats at all. So I could ponder over manifestos, policy promises or who has the best haircut – slim pickings all round – but will my vote make a difference to the sea of blue that is my constituency? Probably not.

From seas of blue to skies of red, a point of interest for many voters this election is the radical new plan put forward by the Labour Party, taking the party closer to its ideological roots. Whilst it is easy to joke about forests full of magical money trees, it is also refreshing to see a mainstream party drifting away from the ‘catch-all’ approach that has caused so much disillusionment in the last few decades. This plan could potentially cost them many floating voters who want to play it safe, but it might just regain the respect of traditional Labour voters who have struggled to tell the difference between the main parties and their respective policy objectives.

Of course, one cannot comment on the upcoming election without acknowledging its trigger. 68% of voters rank Brexit as one of their top three priorities in this election[3]. The parties are offering a range of solutions, from the Conservatives who will definitely (no, seriously) ‘get Brexit done’, to the Liberal Democrats who plan to stop it altogether, facing the wrath of angry Leave voters. Quite what they will decide to do if there is a hung Parliament is an ominous thought. Heads down, thumbs up? Flip a coin?

What is clear from all the political chaos is that voters are viewing British politics with ever more despair. All politicians, whether naughty or nice, will have a job convincing the electorate that they are the best option on the list this December. Or at the very least, the best of a bad bunch.

[1] https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2017/06/13/how-britain-voted-2017-general-election

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2017/results

[3] https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/11/07/which-issues-will-decide-general-election