“We agreed that the government should call a general election to be held on June 8th.”
Theresa May returned from her Easter ramblings around Snowdonia and the country let out a collective gasp. The UK is now faced with its fourth major political event in as many years, and after the bitter arguments with Edinburgh and Brussels, pollsters always getting it wrong, and more party leaders than you’d care to count, it would be easy to assume that people just can’t muster the enthusiasm for this vote. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. In the 24 hours immediately following May’s announcement, more than 100,000 young people aged between 18 and 25 registered to vote, a large proportion of these were students.
Young people are always a key demographic during election campaigns, as politicians try to appeal to one of the country’s largest social groups, but given the summer schedule, Britain’s 2.3 million student population may not be as influential as they have been in the past.
The high concentration of under 25s in student cities has previously influenced election results, but students will have plenty else to be thinking about by the time June rolls around; exams and end of term pressures could influence the likelihood of students voting, that is if they’re still at university at all. MPs who have previously been boosted by the student vote could find themselves struggling in June’s election as students concentrate on their studies or head home for the long summer break.
Clive Lewis is one such MP. He was elected to represent Norwich South for the first time in May 2015, taking 19,000 votes, and beating the Conservative candidate Lisa Townsend who polled just under 11,500. Lewis beat the incumbent Lib Dem Simon Wright, the party having had a lot of success among students in 2010 after promising to protect cheap tuition. After infamously backtracking on this promise in coalition with Cameron’s Conservative government, the Lib Dems lost the vast majority of their student support.
In 2015, Wright came fourth with only 6,500 votes, and the Lib Dems also lost student seats to Labour representatives in Cardiff, Cambridge and Bristol. Would it be silly to presume that the broken student promises affected all of these elections? With the student population shrunk or otherwise distracted, Lewis may find that he has a tighter race with the yet-to-be-announced Conservative candidate. Norwich’s other seat, Norwich North, has been held by Conservative Chloe Smith for almost a decade.
The 15,000 students at UEA who helped to get him elected just two years ago greatly outnumber Lewis’ 8,000 majority over his closest competitor. Whether it be Conservative, Green, or LibDem chasing him for the seat, Lewis will surely be keen to secure the student vote in our city.