Will Sheffield students vote tactically to avoid Brexit?

Joseph Hadfield examines how tactical voting by students might be used to avoid leaving the EU.

Tactical voting is one of those things you can expect at every general election, along with an overload of political point-scoring and false promises.

Due to the UK’s two-party political system of Labour and the Conservatives–and the first-past-the-post electoral system –this explains why Downing Street has been painted a shade of red or blue at every election for as long as many can remember.

In most constituencies, one party is dominant, and any other parties have as much chance of winning as pigs flying over the Thames. Known as safe seats, this is another aspect of the UK’s political system.

But what about the other minor parties – Lib Dems, Greens and such? What chance do they have?

Tactical voting allows voters to put party politics aside and simply use their vote wisely – it’s a way of making sure your vote isn’t wasted as your preferred candidate has no chance, but a candidate you don’t mind wins as opposed to a candidate you hate.

It’s key to deciding the winning candidate in a number of seats – and ultimately deciding the prime ministerial job.

Despite Sheffield being known for having a lot of safe seats – it’s the student vote that could swing results this time around – and many are considering a tactical approach for one reason, and one reason only. Leaving the EU.

Sheffield councillor for Richmond and Labour supporter Peter Rippon says it “can have benefits in certain situations” but he admits “you have to ensure that all supporters that would vote for you” stick to their word.

Coun Peter Rippon

Sheffield Hallam is one of the seats that raises a few eyebrows.

In what is generally a Lib Dem – Labour battleground, most famously the scene of Nick Clegg’s victory over the left-wing party in 2005 and ex-Labour Jared O’Mara’s ill-fated success over Clegg two years ago, the Lib Dems are returning to take back what was once theirs, running candidate Laura Gordon against Green Party electoral hopeful Natalie Thomas and Labour’s Olivia Blake.

It is also worth mentioning that this is one of those seats where the Conservatives are battling, not only for a seat they haven’t held in 22 years, but against the Brexit Party too.

With the high number of student voters registered in this constituency, tactical voting may be crucial here. As a huge number of votes go to both Labour and the Lib Dems, one of the two stands the most likely to win so tactical voting could play its part across the city.

Peter said: “I think it could make a difference, I don’t think Tory voters will switch to us, but they could vote Lib Dem.

”With Sheffield also boasting two universities, this brings a large amount of student voters, many of whom – 53%, according to new data published by HEPI and YouthSight – are ‘willing to vote tactically’.

As a result, there’s speculation about this dominant student electorate and which way they will vote. Despite students traditionally backing Labour, the party themselves have a few concerns about tactical voters, with Peter saying the same could apply – not just in Sheffield but across the country.

“Dyed in the wool Tory students would not vote for us but they may switch to Lib Dems.”

Student voters make up a huge proportion of the electorate –a nd many of them do have a tactical stance, aiming to oust the Conservatives, such as 22-year-old Jack Morley, a recent Sheffield Hallam graduate, who votes in the Ashfield constituency.

“I’m backing Labour as they have the best offer on Brexit, their manifesto is the most appealing to me, and I hate the Tories.

”This is a common stance among students – voting for an anti-Conservative party – due to their raising of tuition fees back in 2011, also backed by the Lib Dems in that coalition.”

This stance is echoed by Sheffield Hallam journalism student and American, Kendra Nicholls, 20: “I’m not allowed to vote as I do not meet all the requirements but if I could, I would probably vote Lib Dem. Either that or Labour.”

She favours Jo Swinson’s party due to their “close alignment to her party back in the States”.

Jack adds: “I wanted to vote Green, but I thought there would be no point. I don’t believe that they have a chance of getting in to power any time soon. People are too focused on themselves to worry about the world we live in unfortunately.”

Ashfield’s Green contingent only came into the mix in 2017, receiving only 398 votes, whilst Labour held on, just to a 441-vote majority over the Tories.

Labour need the students in seats like these, and Jack agrees. “Right now, I personally would rather vote for Labour to ensure that the Tories do not gain power.”

Dr Knut Roder, course leader of politics at Sheffield Hallam University, believes, as an EU citizen, young voters hold the key –especially for those who can’t vote, like himself.

“Students have to go and vote, which has been a huge issue in the past – there wouldn’t have been a Brexit referendum. It will make a huge difference if they don’t.”

He also adds that students voting tactically could make the difference – but not through term-time votes. “Most students will want to vote in their home constituencies rather than in Sheffield – it all depends on the constituencies.”

As Peter says: “It’s all about getting your vote out on the day, doorstep promises are no good unless the person puts their cross in the right box.”


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