A Post-UK election analysis by the Financial Times suggests that better educated people tend to vote for leftwing or centrist causes, while those who never went to university are more likely to vote for rightwing or populist parties. It concludes that Tories made heavy forays into working class territories previously considered the exclusive domain of the Labour Party, even though, overall, the Conservatives’ showing at last week’s poll was poorer.
An analysis of the trends in the recent elections in France reveals similar results. Emmanuel Macron for instance won his highest votes in Paris, home to France’ most literate population. He garnered 34.8% in the first round and scooped a whopping 89.7% of the Parisian vote in the second round.
Polling from Lord Ashcroft’s also suggests that the Conservatives beat Labour to the middle class votes by just three percent in the 2017 election. For context, in the 1974 elections, the Tories took 56% of the middle class vote while Labour managed 19%. As a consequence, Labour seems to have narrowed the difference in a manner that convinces some analysts that if an election was called today, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn will lead the Brexit negotiations in the coming days.
The Brits were faced with two choices – a ‘Strong and Stable’ incumbent and a wobbly Labour leader, whose affinity towards the IRA was played up in the weeks before Polling Day. In what some analysts described as an ‘unnecessary election,’ British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted she needed her proverbial hand strengthened by a strong majority to face her counterpart leaders in Brussels for the Brexit negotiations.
It turned out that the slim majority that made her the Prime Minister, following the referendum that blew her predecessor David Cameron apart, will be eroded. The foregoing has exposed Mrs. May to varied attacks both home and abroad.
The day after the elections, following her declaration to form a government with the ‘support’ of the Democratic Unionist Party, a Northern Ireland caucus, political commentator Robin Oakley called her damaged goods with diminished authority. He believed that the Prime Minister had lost the confidence of Britons to lead the country out of the EU.
Mrs. May however said the U.K. now more than ever needed certainty that she was now poised to offer. One imagines this certainty has to do greatly with the impending Brexit negotiations with EU leadership. This was despite many EU leaders taunting her after the results of the poll became public. The already wounded Prime Minister had become a laughing stock. Though her party lost seats in the elections, the Conservatives won the majority of seats as well as the highest number of votes.
The percentage of votes accrued to the Tories under Theresa May in this ‘post-Brexit’ election, was more than what sent both Tony Blair (40.7% & 35.2% in 2001 & 2005 respectively) and David Cameron’s (36.1% & 36.9% in 2010 & 2015) to Downing Street. But can you blame anyone for chastising Theresa May, who made the election a personal contest with Jeremy Corbyn? He was a punch bag but the ‘Strong and Stable’ leader shied away from all debates.
A Town Hall engagement that followed with an interview with Jeremy Paxman had to feature the two leaders on separate platforms. This arrangement and the subsequent decision not to take part in a debate with other candidates in the election spelled her doom. Many could no longer defend her ‘Strong and Stable’ mantra. Her U-turn over proposals in her Party’s manifesto was also perceived as utter disregard for the voting populace and a resolve not to subject her party’s policies to scrutiny.
The London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack days before the election probably drove the last nail into her coffin. It brought to the fore how decisions of her Party, with her as Home Secretary earlier and now Premier have contributed to reduced spending on the police and its concomitant decrease in police numbers on London’s streets.
In all of this, millennials were probably keen observers. They were only interested in policies that furthered their interests and aspirations. Many believe the outturn of the elections was also to ensure that Britain’s leaders ‘talked’ to each other in this bid to sever ties with the European Union. I differ on that one.
It is nearly impossible for voters in an election to agree in their political choices to bring leaders from diametrically opposed sides to do business. The hung Parliament, the outcome of last week’s election, is better explained by voters aged 18-24 years, whose shift to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign shored up his votes 51 points more than the national average.
Many analysts believe that if the youth feel rewarded by their massive turnout and voting for their preferred candidate, their engagement could be sustained, further shifting the voting patterns in the UK towards Labour.
Given the expected renewed commitment of Millennials in voting on their everyday realities, politicians seeking to attract them can’t be fixated on their ideals and history. Corbyn asked voters to judge him on his politics today as well as the policies his party offered and we saw the verdict. Can we conclude that the verdict for the Conservative Party under the watch of Theresa May was a verdict of her politics and policies both as Home Secretary and Prime Minister?
The dynamics of the Brexit votes and Trump’s emergence in the White House and last week’s UK election must tell politicians that the largest pool of voters don’t just care about who leads parties but they also care about how the leader remains committed to following through his or her policies, the strength of his or her engagement and how those policies touch their daily realities.
I rest my case.
By Kobby Gomez Mensah
The writer is a senior broadcast journalist