By Gökhan Kurtaran
London briefing May 1

- Young voters and future of Brexit talks

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May surprised many with the decision to hold early general elections on June 8, after repeatedly emphasizing for months that there would not be early elections before 2020.  May stated that she wants to be “stronger” on the Brexit negotiation table to reach a sustainable deal for the U.K.’s future.

May argues that opposition parties at the House of Common have been threatening to block the final deal. Therefore, she reasons that it would be the best to have a valid mandate from British voters before starting the hard talks with the 27 members of the EU. She is clearly aiming for a landslide victory, while her biggest rival, the leader of the main opposition Labor party; Jeremy Corbyn is facing many problems within his own party.

There is no doubt that Brexit will be at the heart of the election campaign. Next month the country will choose who should run the Brexit negotiations and decide the future path of the United Kingdom.

According to the Conservative’s website, the Tories are seeking to target Labor seats with majorities of more than 8,000 votes while May seeks to capitalize on her party’s strong poll numbers. The latest YouGov/Sunday Times voting intention figures show the Conservatives are at 44 percent and Labor at 31 percent, giving the Tories a 13-point lead. According to other polls, the Tories are 21 percentage points ahead of the Labor party.

However, it should be borne in mind that polls were massively wrong in predicting the outcome of the Scottish referendum, the general elections in 2015 and the EU referendum, suggesting that the methodologies employed by polling companies require updating. The participation rate in U.K. elections has been on the decline in the majority of elections. In 1974, the participation rate, which was around 74 percent, dropped to 71.4 percent in 1997 and further fell to 66.1 percent in 2015. The EU referendum saw a 72.2 percent participation of registered voters, according to the Electoral Commission. The turnout for the June elections is expected to be similar to that of the Brexit election.

The Brexit talks, access to European markets, immigration and free movement of people have dominated election talks over those on the National Health Service, education, council housing, social benefits and wage increases.

The possibility of more participation from young voters is high with many in this peer group feeling left out with the result of the EU referendum. Both the Conservative Party and the Labor Party are trying to appeal to the 52 percent of Brexiters. However, so far not much effort or strategies have been put in place to attract the 48 percent ‘remain’ voters and so far only the Liberal Democrats are targeting these voters.

According to the daily Statesmen, the LibDems are particularly hopeful of recouping losses made to the Tories in its erstwhile southwest heartlands at the last election.

Moreover, more participation from young voters is expected this time around. According to Dr. James Sloam, co-director of the Center for European Politics, the turnout among young people (18 to 24-year-olds) has fallen from over 60 percent in the early 1990s to an average of 40 percent over the previous three general elections (2001, 2005 and 2010). On the other hand, the turnout among young people in the EU referendum reached 64 percent, according to a London School of Economics’ study. It is very clear that young voters are becoming more involved in U.K. politics and want to have their say in their future. This change should be carefully considered as it might have a significant impact on the outcome of the general elections in June.



02 May,2017