How Britain’s youth mobilized to swing the election

The British youth vote has delivered a devastating blow to prime minister Theresa May and her governing Conservative Party in last week’s general election. Young Britons have spoken – and they said Jeremy Corbyn. Tilburg University student Martha Skillern from Canterbury explains why she, too, voted for him.

British prime minister Theresa May called an early election to increase her parliamentary majority, but she ended up getting the exact opposite. No longer commanding enough seats to avoid a hung parliament, the victory lap the Conservatives were hoping for turned into a political disaster. How could this happen? According to analysts, the answer is simple: it was the youth vote that turned the election around.

Young voters came out in force to vote for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on June 8th. The turnout among voters aged between 18 and 24 is being estimated at 72 per cent. Voting online, Tilburg University student Martha Skillern helped secure a catastrophic day for Theresa May and her party. Like many of her peers, she voted for Jeremy Corbyn. Her two main reasons: Corbyn’s promise to improve life for those less well off, and his anti-Brexit agenda. 


To many young voters, Corbyn is the only honest man left in politics. The Labour leader has a low-key, unpolished style and he even wears a trendy beard. He wants to abolish tuition fees and invest in education and health care. He is extremely popular among Britain’s twenty-somethings. They were left angry with Brexit and the cuts made by Theresa May’s government, which have hurt the country’s most vulnerable. Some newspapers have called the stunning election result ‘payback’.

“I am a strong believer in the National Health Service, and the way the Conservatives are running it into the ground really does not settle well with me”, Martha Skillern says. “Under Conservative rule, nurses have been having to go to food banks to get food. As my mother works as a GP for the National Health Service, I’ve seen her struggles. Under Labour rule, Jeremy Corbyn has promised to change this. He strongly believes in the National Health Service. So I really voted Jeremy Corbyn to help others.”

Tuition fees

Martha also voted for Corbyn because he has promised to abolish tuition fees. “I believe in the right of education”, she explains. “I have two younger sisters who both want to go to university. And others who are of a lower income should also be able to receive higher education without having to pay 9000 pounds a year on fees.” 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party gained 31 seats, while Theresa May lost 12 seats and her parliamentary majority. The parliament is now ‘hung’, which means that no party has enough lawmakers for control. “I would have voted for the Liberal Democrats, as they are anti-Brexit like me. But I thought, if I vote Labour and there is a hung parliament, the Labour party is most likely to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, so then I would be more able to voice my anti-Brexit opinion.”

‘Dead woman walking’

Jeremy Corbyn has called for Theresa May to resign, but she has announced that she will try to stay on as prime minister. Whether she will able to do so after the outcome of the election, is questionable. Polls show that nearly half of the British public thinks May should resign. Former chancellor George Osborne called May ‘a dead woman walking’ on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Corbyn was long considered an outsider, who had no real chance of winning a general election. He was ridiculed as being ‘scruffy’, ‘too left’ and ‘unelectable’. For now, Theresa May still leads. But the British youth vote has made ‘bearded leftie’ Jeremy Corbyn a force to be reckoned with.

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