Duncan Kenyon reports on the new studies conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), which imply that greater student vote can have an impact on the General Election.
Campaign season began for the major political parties when David Cameron unveiled the Conservative’s first political campaign poster: ‘Let’s Stay on the Road to A Stronger Economy’. A recent study conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) suggests that the student vote could have a decisive impact on the upcoming General Election. The study shows that 51.8 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds voted in the 2010 election, meaning that nearly half of them didn’t, a significant number that could make a difference this time around.
In 2010, 44 per cent of students voted for the Liberal Democrat Party, 28 per cent for Labour, 23 per cent Conservative and 3 per cent Green. Recent indicators have suggested a collapse of the Liberal Democrat support from students and an upsurge in Green support. This was reflected in the 2014 European Parliament election as the Greens won 25 per cent of the student vote, with the Liberal Democrats amassing just 13 per cent. If this trend continues into the 2015 election, the Green Party could potentially take a number of ‘student’ constituencies, possibly at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. Furthermore, the HEPI study predicts that Labour will see a significant increase in student support. In a crucial period, where poll numbers put Labour at 3 per cent clear, an upsurge in student support could win them enough seats to form a Government. This is supported by opinion polls in Selly Oak, where Labour candidate Steve McCabe is favourite to keep his seat.
Unsurprisingly then, the Birmingham Edgbaston constituency is a key battleground. Any UoB student living on The Vale or in Edgbaston can register to vote in this constituency. Labour’s Gisela Stuart took the seat from the Conservatives in 1997, the first time they had lost the constituency in 99 years. In 2010, Stuart retained the seat with a 1,274 vote majority. This is less than the student population of The Vale, reflecting the significance of the student vote. This year both Labour and Conservatives are pouring a lot of time and money into the seat’s campaign, meaning it will be a very close call. The student vote could make a difference in this area.
Similarly, in 2011 the Edgbaston council by-election saw the Labour candidate lose to the Conservative candidate by just 21 votes. Even in 2012, when there was another council election, Labour lost by just 241 votes. Another constituency, Sheffield, Hallam, which has a large population of university students, also has an interesting dilemma. The seat is home to Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who relies on the student vote to be re-elected. Latest polls have put him at 3 per cent ahead of his Labour challenger. In 2010 he was elected with an 8.5 per cent majority. The students will decide the constituency’s fate.
Previously, the Guild of Students automatically registered all students to the electoral register when they moved into halls. However, this is no longer allowed under new laws, so all students must register individually. The voting process is simple and can only be done online. You will require your National Insurance number to register. You can register both at university and at home, but you may only vote in one constituency as to vote in both is illegal. The date as to when students must register by has not been announced, but it will be several weeks before the election on Thursday, 7th May 2015.