Tackling The Bias In The Election System

On Monday 22nd May my inbox was full of messages about the election – the big news being the Tory manifesto or rather the May manifesto, building on the lead May has in the opinion polls with her running ahead of her party – while Corbyn runs behind his. The latest polling before the manifesto row the previous week showed Tories 47%, Labour 32%, LD 8% and UKIP 5%, but on the leaders May was 24 points ahead, with just 23% believing Corbyn would make a good Prime Minister.

However the 22nd was an inbox of reminders that the deadline for registration, with some 7m people not registered. On the day in fact some 2m registered, leaving 5 million out of the system. This is bad news for Labur as 30% of under 24s and 28% of people who moved in the last year were unregistered. The old, pensioners without jobs but with no plans for moving are the stable basis of the Tory vote, with much more likelihood to cast a ballot. Indeed, the news prompted a brief flurry in the Independent which deserves to be more than an eve of deadline chatter fest. Corbyn will go at some point. But the problems of a Tory bias in voting will remain. And the individual voter registration system may be the most serious of all New Labour mistakes, and another you can’t blame Corbyn for. Not that he understands the problem.

The fact that 30% of under 24s don’t register led to speculation in the Indie on the 22nd whether getting them registered would stop May. An interesting article by James Tilley argued not, stating that while the young don’t vote – he said in 2015 47% voted against 73% of over 24s, broadly correctly – thus as in the 2011 census they made up less than 12% of the electorate, an increase of 30% of 12% being c3.6%, getting them to vote would make little difference – around 1% overall. Ben Bowman agreed, stating that the most marginalised school leavers – 25% – many BAME – have fallen away since the rules were changed again in 2014, by the Coalition, and that a reversal would need “a groundbreaking social movement, but it would bring along  older voters as well” and thus was not worth doing.

The focus is however too narrow. Important though school leavers and 18-24s are, the problem is actually 18- 40 year olds- a much bigger group. 40% of this group are certain to vote, 64% of the older cohort, and this was the pic in the EU referendum. There never was a majority of the UK voting for Leave, and the wafer thin majority of those voting has now been decimated by the grim reaper. Remainers are in the majority at this point in time, and we Remainers must start to take demography seriously. Unpleasant though it is to say it, the older age cohort are a wasting asset for the Tories. Not that we should rely on the grim reaper, silence from Labour on pensions is disasterous.

But the crucial issue is the young. There has been a big shift since Thatchers’ time, when in 1979 42% of 18-24s backed her, according to IPSOS MORI at the time. Then they saw what she produced. On the current picture, house ownership is the biggest factor in Tory voting. And the young cannot buy houses. The Yougov poll which produced these results, 2-20 April involved 12,746 adults deliberately to increase accuracy. It is of course only a snapshot, but it shows the importance of seeing voter registration and aiming at the 16-40 year olds as key. And they stay around longer. The future is young voters, and a relentless focus on them is now the key to the future.

Its not going to be easy. The young are social media oriented, personally I never do it. And they are ghettoised through their phones. Did I ever tell you I may have taught Jony Ive? If only I had known what he was going to do….. But we are where we are. When Jezza spoke to a rock concert earlier this week the kids cheered him so much they could not hear what he was saying. Whatever, its too late to affect this election and get the young voting, though we do what we can. But for the future, the bias in the system has to be tackled. For the future, its Voter Registration, Stupid.

Trevor Fisher,

23rd May 2017

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