Power to the (Young) People: How Corbyn Secured the Youth Vote

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On June 8th, a hung parliament was declared. Despite this unfortunate outcome, which is each day looking more likely to see the Conservative party’s Teresa May, joining forces with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the re-election managed to enflame the youth of Britain. With reports showing that two-thirds of those aged 18-24 years voted Labour, it seems that leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had a lot to do with the aptly titled, “youthquake” in young voters. But, how did Corbyn cause this spike in young voters, and why are young people suddenly so desirous of instigating a change in government?

The Facts and Figures

It seems that Britain’s youth turned out in its full force to vote on June 8th. An exit poll ran by NME, found that 56% of 18-24 year olds voted in the re-election. This number is up by 12%, compared to 2015’s turnout of 41%. Incredibly, 36% of young voters voted for the first time, suggesting that something momentous pushed them to vote this time around. It was found that nearly 250,000 young people registered to vote on the last day of registration, which is staggering compared to 2015’s 137,400 final day. Most astoundingly, two-thirds of voters aged 18-24 voted for Labour, and 60% of 18-34 year olds.

Corbyn’s Policies Affecting Young People

Analysis shows that the spread of Labour votes was much higher in university towns and cities, areas with a higher degree of younger people. Bristol West possessed the greatest switch of votes to Labour, where it increased by 30%. The borough has the eighth highest share of 18-24 year olds in Britain; the home of Bristol University. Similarly, Canterbury became Labour for the first time ever, and Corbyn’s party made surprising gains in Plymouth and Ipswich, areas both holding universities.

Many of Corbyn’s policies were directly aimed at university students and graduates, promising to abolish tuition fees and provide maintenance grants, making life easier for young voters crippling under student debts. Corbyn’s stance on Brexit, would have also enabled the continuation of studying abroad, and would have allowed a generation so bent on travelling the world, to continue doing so.

Young people were especially swayed by Corbyn’s Tenants’ Rights Charter, which promised to secure greater protection for “generation rent”. The charter would have outlawed letting agents inflicting administration charges; prevented unreasonable rent increases; strengthened tenants’ rights, and it would have ensured that properties in the private rented sector, were subjected to a national standard preventing poor or unsafe living conditions.

So how did Corbyn do it?

It is generally accepted that politicians are not ‘of the people’, but somehow, Corbyn connected to the younger generation. At the start of campaigning, Corbyn had a YouGov personal rating of -23 points, but he somehow finished on an incredible +39 rating. Corbyn became increasingly personable, much down to his liberated style of large rallies, compared to May’s highly targeted and marginal visits. May’s stiff leadership and multiple failings made her dislikeable amongst younger people, leaving her with a measly rating of +6 points. So much had been invested by May’s party into making her an asset, but, as the future-face of the country, she proved much too unlikeable for the British youth.

Corbyn became the young person’s candidate by utilising social media, and through aid of heavy celebrity endorsement. His social media presence was boosted by tech wielding supporters in Momentum, a grassroots campaigning network of more than 20,000 users and 150 local groups. Momentum emerged out of Corbyn’s 2015 election campaign, and has since worked to mobilise the mass campaigning movement trying to get Labour into office.

Whilst the Conservatives digital presence has been described as, “unprepared and unresponsive” by the Guardian, Labour successfully used social media to bond with younger voters. Corbyn’s party used Facebook, Twitter, and online videos to inspire and build a base of voters, and refrained from using the internet to attack their opposition. On polling day, Labour utilised the hashtag #forthemany, and whilst buying the rights might have cost them as much as £50,000, the expense enabled them to captivate younger voters.

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Editor-in-Chief of NME, Mike Williams, claimed in an interview that, “Politicians across all parties need to do more to engage the young voters of the future, because ensuring that their voices are heard and that their needs are central to manifestos is vital for a fair and progressive society.” In today’s modern world, social media is the main way with which to connect to the younger generation, and Corbyn did this brilliantly. Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s former director of communications, told ITV that the, “youth vote has come out in strength and lashed out pretty aggressively”. Coulson explained that part of May’s failure, was due to a “disconnection” to younger voters, which certainly seems to have been the case.

Corbyn’s campaign had a strong celebrity backing, including musician JME, and grime artist Stormzy, who stated in an interview to the Guardian last year:

“I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.”

Even across the pond, U.S actors were jumping on the Corbyn bandwagon, with Danny Devito tweeting:

Unquestionably, young people pay great attention to the things celebrities say. So, by careful partnerships, and by appearing with celebrities in social media, Corbyn used his celeb backing to great effect.

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Whatever your views are on Corbyn, one thing is certain: young people all over Britain have finally realised that they have a voice, and more importantly, realised the power they hold over our country’s future.

Gemma Tadman