As It Happens

'Appeal to the young people': Millennials put their vote behind Jeremy Corbyn

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn may not have won the U.K. general election, but a surge in youth votes took down Theresa May's Conservative majority government.
Britain's Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn waves as he leaves the Labour party headquarters in London, Friday, June 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (Tim Ireland/Associated Press)

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U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has a lot of people to thank for his unexpected showing in the UK general election last night. But on the top of his list will likely be the country's young people.  According to exit polls, there was a surge in younger voters. 

And with all the seats declared, this youth turnout seems to have cost Theresa May's Conservative government the majority. Before the election, the Conservatives held 330 seats to the Labour Party's 229. Now the Conservatives hold 318, short of the 326 seats required for a majority, resulting in a hung parliament. 


Now May is in talks to create a minority government with the socially conservative Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party.

Libby Mayfield, a 20-year-old Labour Party member, was one of those first-time voters who rattled the Conservative majority. As It Happens spoke with Mayfield last June, when Britain voted to leave the European Union. She wasn't happy about the results then, and now the country has voted again. 
Elizabeth Mayfield is a 20-year-old Labour Party member who voted in the U.K. election. (Facebook)

Mayfield spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about how the youth vote impacted this general election. 

Here is part of their conversation.

Carol Off: Libby how did it feel to vote for the first time yesterday?

Libby Mayfield: It was great. It was the first time I voted in the general election. I voted in the referendum last year but it's very different how it's structured. And it's great to be able to have a say in the future of country. And to be able to vote for something I truly believe in.

CO: The last time we spoke was the day after the vote about leaving the [European Union], about Brexit. Of course you were very unhappy about that. Are you in a better mood today? Do you think this is helpful?

LM: I'm of two minds about it. I'm very glad with how well Labour did. I don't think anyone really honestly expected them to do that well. I'm not sure really anyone expected them to win. But to get so close and to have such a huge increase in seats was brilliant. But unfortunately it's left us in a position with a hung parliament and the only people who will go into a coalition with the [Conservatives] are the people who are more right wing than the [Conservatives]. So instead of having a bad government that we left, we now got bad mixed with slightly worse somehow. 

CO: And you're pointing to the party that is most likely to become the partner of the conservatives if they want to form a government, it's Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Which is opposed to same-sex marriage, against access to abortion, is a climate change denier. So do you fear that now if they do form a government you have an even more conservative, conservative government?

LM: Yes, definitely. I think the only thing that's going to stop that happening is the DUP are going to come to the Conservatives with a very big wish list of things that they want and I don't think the majority of the Conservative party, the moderates of the party, are going to be OK with that. So it's what sort of deal they come to, but of course this deal will probably be done behind closed doors and we won't find out about it until after it's all been done. 

CO: Is it not possible though that if they can't form a government, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party might actually be able to do that themselves?

LM: If you combine all the other parties, Labour, Greens, [Liberal Democrats] and the Scottish Nationalist Party, I believe even when you add in the independents, you can't form a majority government. He can go to the Queen to ask permission to form a minority, but it would be very hard to pass anything. If the Conservatives can't form a majority government with the DUP, this is just a guess, but I believe what's going to happen is Theresa May is going to continue as a minority government, and then step aside, there would be another leadership contest for the Conservative party leader, and in three or four months time we go back to the polls and have another general election. 

CO: So many young people turned out, this is being pointed to one of the principle reasons Labour did so well —surprising even Labour. Why did so many young people turn out?

LM: Well, because if you like Jeremy Corbyn or not, there's no denying the fact that what he offered was very different. Myself, and my generation, we grew up under Tony Blair's Labour and then David Cameron's Conservatives and when you look at it, there's not a terrible difference between them. So that difference engaged people's interest.  A lot of people are saying that students voted because of the free tuition fees. But there are other things like the minimum wage and protecting worker's rights, that really matter to the millennial generation because it's more difficult to buy a house, working standards are going down and so is real wage. I think the Tory's got a bit complacent because often the young vote doesn't turn out. They didn't really focus on anything. I don't think they had any policies for young people.  

CO: Jeremy Corbyn is often compared to the U.S. politician Bernie Sanders, and again appeals to young people. He only entered the Labour leadership because no one else would. And the odds against him winning were  like 200 to 1 but he still prevailed. He prevailed again last night. But do you think that he will deliver to the young people who were turning out to vote for him, like yourself?

LM: If he gets into government, yes I totally believe he will. He didn't necessarily stand because no one else would, he stood in the name of democracy. He thought there should be a left wing person on the ballot.  

I believe that Corbyn not only has the ideology but also the practical ability to deliver a Labour government for everyone. 

CO: The first item of business will be in about ten days when the negotiations for Brexit are supposed to begin. This is what got you interested in politics. Labour's strategy is a softer exit than Conservatives have. Do you think this election has altered the way that the UK might be leaving the European Union?

LM: To negotiate leaving the European Union we're going to have to have a government in place first, and I don't necessarily trust Theresa May to get a government in place. She called this election, as she says, to strengthen her negotiating hand, and she's weakened it. She shows she doesn't have a negotiating hand. Which is reflecting badly on the U.K. You know I was against Brexit. It does look terrible of us to say 'oh we want to leave this wonderful collective of countries', and then we don't even have a person to take us out properly or cleanly.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our interview with Libby Mayfield.