How did the Labour Party manage to achieve 40% of the vote against all the odds?
By Adam Bradford, social entrepreneur and Queen’s Young Leader
Note: views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of TalkPolitics.
A whopping 72 per cent of young people aged 18-24 voted in the General Election. It was a game changer. Hot off the heels of the EU Referendum I know that myself and my peers rallied round each other to register to vote this year.
I think last year many of us felt like voting in any capacity would be underwhelming and in many ways surpassed by the older generation who had the majority over us. When Brexit hit and the decision wasn’t what we had hoped, we realised we needed to make a difference next time we had a chance.
It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party won the youth vote. Every young person I have spoken to this week has cited biased media coverage, boredom at the Conservatives and a wish to see change in the way politics works in Britain.
A vote for Labour was a vote for change – Corbyn’s refreshing, human-level narrative appealed to young people, alongside his youth friendly policies. I do not agree with all of them but I am grateful he made space in his campaigning for young people. It was politics I could relate to, at least.
Now, we have a hung Parliament and an arrangement with the DUP. Who are the DUP? What will this arrangement cost us? What implications will it have? I am extremely unsure and know young people are still a little confused too. We have made our voices heard with our votes but we will not stop here. We will hold politicians to account, exercise our campaigning and voices to make sure we are properly represented and that our votes were not cast in vain.
Theresa May is our leader, but the make-up of our Parliament represents Britain now more wholly – a country perhaps undecided, a little divided, but longing for change. Keep your ears to the ground politicians, the next generation are becoming more and more politicised.
N.B. Post-publishing, this piece was subsequently moved to the 'Be A Voice' section.
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The House of Lords is the upper chamber of Parliament, currently composed of 805 individuals, none of whom have been elected. All these people have either been appointed by the monarch, are the current holders of a hereditary peerage or are one of 26 senior Church of England bishops. Although it was established in the 1300s, there have long been calls for the abolition of the House of Lords, which have intensified in recent decades. But what are the arguments in favour of retaining the House of Lords and what are the arguments against?
- Peers don’t have to worry about their own popularity
As the House of Lords is not elected, some argue that this means its members are free to vote for what they think is right, without having to worry about being defeated at the next election. This leads to better decisions being made as peers are able to focus on the long term impact of a policy rather than its impact on their own electoral fortunes.
- Legislation would be of a poorer quality without it
It is often argued that the primary benefit of the House of Lords is how it allows experts in certain fields to use their expertise to critique legislation. However, if they were required to stand for election, they may choose not to, as many of them already have other jobs that mean they don’t have the time to campaign. This would lessen the quality of the legislation, as the experts would be replaced by professional politicians who wouldn’t bring as much knowledge to the debates on bills.
- The House of Lords is undemocratic
The main argument against the existence of the House of Lords is that it is undemocratic. It is an unelected body which, on occasion, forces the elected House of Commons to back down, which critics view as profoundly undemocratic. They say that anyone with a say in the legislative process should be an elected representative, which peers are not.
It is too old fashioned
Many say that the upper chamber, which is admittedly around 700 years old, has no role in modern society. They argue that the existence of a 92 strong contingent of hereditary peers is at odds with meritocracy, as it guarantees a large group of people the ability to vote on the passage of legislation because of their lineage. It is also argued that the house is an unneeded remnant of the days when people were appointed to it as a form of patronage, which is out of touch with modern society.
Reforming the House of Lords?
In the vast debate about the House of Lords, there are also those who believe that it shouldn’t be abolished, but reformed instead. The main suggestion of reform is that the House of Lords should switch from being appointed to being elected, which would effectively ‘democratise’ the chamber. Abolishing hereditary peers is another idea commonly put forward, as well as taking away the right of peers to vote on legislation, and reducing their role to simply scrutinising bills. However, although there have been many alterations to the House of Lords since 1997, the proposals to overhaul it in 2012 were eventually scrapped, as they were too unpopular to get through the House of Commons, showing how difficult it is to actually reform the chamber.
Coalitions are often formed in situations where no political party emerges from an election with 50% +1 of all the seats. Multiple parties will form a temporary alliance to form a government. This is a coalition. As a result, none of the parties joining together get to implement their manifestos in their entirety. Instead, the parties must find common ground, put across their red lines and compromise where necessary. In practice, this leads to a cabinet made up of ministers from all parties involved and the parties voting together on most key issues. Under the UK's first-past-the-post voting system coalitions are unlikely as the system tends to produce majority governments. The 2010-2015 coalition government was an exception, formed when the Conservatives fell short of a majority. Coalitions are much more common in the devolved administrations of the UK, which use voting systems that tend not to lead to majority governments. The first two Scottish parliamentary elections resulted in Labour-Liberal Democrat coalitions and Wales has had a Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition. Both now have minority administrations, in which the SNP and Labour respectively are in government but rely on other parties for key support.
Coalitions are also much more common in Europe due to more proportional voting systems. Germany's Angela Merkel currently leads a 'grand coalition' of the country's two largest parties, and Finland has a coalition government made up of three parties. The Danish political drama 'Borgen' shot to fame at home and abroad, depicting the complex nature of coalition life.
One argument in favour of coalitions is that they lead to broader governments, allowing more of the electorate’s voice to get a say in terms of policy. This is the case as policies do not just come from one party. Coalitions water down the extremes of different parties and end the 'tyranny of the minority'. For example, the current Conservative government may have won more than 50% of the seats in 2015, allowing them to pass almost anything they want, but they only achieved 37% of the vote. Proponents of coalitions argue that coalition governments lead to parties to working together as they help create unity, as well as weaken the nastiness and polarisation in politics.
One of the most common reasons coalitions are opposed is the argument that 'no one voted for a coalition'. Individuals vote for parties, not for a policy blend of different parties.
Following on from this, one other criticism is that the main agreements in coalition formation are often agreed in backroom deals. The electorate might end up voting for a hung parliament, but they do not get a say in how parties operate with one another.
Opponents of coalition government argue that it is unfair that in some cases a coalition government can exclude the party that 'wins' the election - the largest party. One party may get the most seats, but a combination of other parties willing to work together could form a majority and block the ‘winner’ from taking power. This has yet to happen in modern UK politics but if the arithmetic adds up then it could be possible.