The Conservative Party won hundreds of seats in the local elections. And this is obviously bad news for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn supporters. But media coverage of the results has ignored one crucial factor: none of the people who’ve registered to vote in the recent registration surge were eligible to vote in the local elections. Furthermore, the media glossed over the fact that the turnout of registered voters was only around 36%.
It’s all in the timing
Registration for voting in the local elections closed on 13 April 2017 in England and Wales. But since Theresa May announced the general election on 18 April, there has been a massive surge in people registering to vote. In fact, 934,600 people have applied since the announcement. And, therefore, none of these people would be have been able to vote in the local elections.
The turnout is also significant. There was a five-point increase from the 2013 local elections. But voting in those elections was at an all time-low. So, the Tories may have gained seats. But they’ve done it with nearly two-thirds of the electorate not voting.
Students and young voters
It would obviously be wrong to claim that every new voter registration or every person who didn’t vote are supporters of progressive politics, let alone Corbyn.
But there are elements of the figures which do show substantial hope for Corbyn. In particularly, the number of students and young people registering to vote. As The Canary previously reported, in just three days, 103,439 18-to-24-year-olds registered.
Meanwhile, 93% of students say they are registered to vote. And student support for Labour has leapt to 55% under Corbyn, according to research from the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and YouthSight. This is a huge increase. Towards the end of Ed Miliband’s leadership in 2015, student support for Labour sat at 35%. Under Tony Blair in 2005, only 23% backed Labour.
It’s all in the turnout
The question remains how many of those registering to vote actually turn out on the day. In 2015, only 43% of those under 25 voted compared to 78% of those over 65. And analysis shows this discrepancy in the turnout benefited the Tories.
But Corbyn has offered young people a different sort of politics and he is making every effort to get them to vote. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that they like Corbyn. Voters in this age group have lived with Conservative or Coalition governments for most of their adult lives. And these governments have taken away their benefits, increased tuition fees, and destroyed their NHS. At the same time, young people have been priced out of the housing market and told they will likely work for longer than their parents, for less. And 38% of all zero hours contracts are held by those under 25.
It’s not a done deal
The local election results were not good for Labour. But equally they are not the general election results and a Tory landslide is not a done deal. By not mentioning newly registered voters who couldn’t vote and not emphasising the low turnout, the media is ignoring the nearly two-thirds of the population who didn’t have a say. And this only favours Theresa May and the Tories.
But if people continue registering and actually use their votes, it could be a very different picture. And the combination could still mean disastrous news for May.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election. People can call 0300 200 3500 if they don’t already have a national insurance number.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
Featured image via Wikimedia
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