How did the Labour Party manage to achieve 40% of the vote against all the odds?
The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn managed to achieve 40% of the vote and gain seats in the recent general election. Theresa May called the election because she thought she could wipe the party out, so how did Labour end up appealing to so many people, and achieve a staggering vote share?
Youth turnout is normally very poor at general elections, with many criticising the youth for being apathetic towards politics. This can’t be said for the 2017 election, were a reported 72% of 18-25’s turned out to vote. Importantly, 60% of them voted Labour. This was arguably down to Jeremy Corbyn’s authentic style of politics, presenting himself as an honest and principled politician, as well as pledging policies that would appeal to young voters, such as abolishing tuition fees and increasing mental health funds. In key marginals, this unprecedented high youth turnout helped Labour gain seats even their own party thought they couldn’t win. Labour gained seats such as Leeds North West and Sheffield Hallam –two constituencies with a massive student population. The youth voice was finally heard in 2017, and that contributed massively to Labour’s upturn in fortunes.
Jeremy Corbyn arguably appealed to many who had never before voted in an election. Since the 1980’s the two main political parties have seemed to be becoming more and more similar in terms of policy, media strategy and appearance. Whether this is a fair analysis or not, the seeming similarities of the two main parties turned a lot of the public away from politics. Indeed, this has led to recent rises in support for the SNP and UKIP. Jeremy Corbyn also seemed to offer a genuine alternative, more so than his predecessor Ed Miliband, with many describing his platform at the 2015 election as ‘austerity-lite’. Corbyn wanted radical change and is a devout socialist. This no doubt helped Labour win votes from people who believed the system was rigged against them, and in the past didn’t see a vote for a Tory or moderate Labour party as viable.
Previous Green Voters
Albeit not as drastic as UKIP’s collapse, the Green Party did not have a successful election. They retained Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton Pavilion but suffered a decreased vote share in many seats. This is because many left-wing Green voters saw the Labour party once again reflecting their ideology, something that couldn’t have been said about New Labour.
Disillusioned Conservative Voters
Theresa May did not have a successful general election campaign, even according to some Conservative MP’s. Policies such as the return of Fox Hunting, the dreaded ‘Dementia-Tax’, and the scrapping of free school meals left her manifesto looking very bleak in the eyes of many in the public. This no doubt aided Mr Corbyn, who seemed at his most Prime Ministerial during the election campaign.
Local MP Campaigns
Some Labour MP’s felt that Jeremy Corbyn was a hindrance to the party in the run-up to the election. This, coupled with Labours terrible polling at the start of the election campaign, led to some Labour MP’s telling voters that Corbyn had no chance of becoming PM, and so they need not worry if they did not like the Labour leader. Instead, they told voters they should vote Labour to keep a decent local Labour candidate and to stop the Tories from running away with a massive majority. Although it is impossible to know how big of an effect this was, it can definitely be said that many people voted Labour with the notion that Jeremy Corbyn had no chance of becoming Prime Minister.
The Labour Party Membership
Labour has far and away the biggest membership of any political party in the U.K. During the election, this was used to great effect to spread Labour’s message, and get the Labour vote out on the 8th June. The sheer scale of Labour’s local campaign strategy was essential in convincing voters of the benefits of voting Labour, whilst countering much of the perceived negative media coverage surrounding Jeremy Corbyn.
It is important to remember that Labour did not win the 2017 general election. However, for an election that was called in an attempt to wipe the party out, achieving 40% of the vote and gaining dozens of seats can be seen as a remarkable achievement for Labour.