Image: Unsplash - Laura Lefurgey-Smith

Young people don’t want an anti Brexit party

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James Chapman, David Davis’ former aide, has recently proposed the creation of a new, centrist, anti Brexit party. It’s often assumed that young voters would be keen on this, but it’s far from clear that this is the case. The appeal of such a party for ardent Remainers, many of whom are younger members of the electorate, are clear. The party could act to moderate Theresa May’s hard Brexit stance, and could lead Britain towards a softer Brexit.

That there was a significant increase in turnout of young people in the 2017 general election bolsters the designs of this postulated new party. Given the apparent greater political engagement of youngsters, the electoral base of such a party might appear to be robust. That the majority of young people voted for Labour does not detract from this calculus – as many held Labour to be offering a softer Brexit than the Conservative party.

Regardless of this, the conceptual integrity of a so-called ‘Democrat’ party is called into question as their core aim already appears to be the rejection of a democratic decision. Democracy doesn’t stop when it disagrees with you. Ultimately, this could just lead to splitting the Conservative vote into the left and right wings of the party, hardly the wishes of most non-zealot young people.

There is also very little evidence to support the notion that the young are fanatical about Brexit

Yet all thus far rests on the premise that this new party would be successful, a fact belied by the current first past the post voting system. At present young people don’t feel compelled to vote, whether this be because they see their vote as wasted, not listened to, or not making a difference. What’s the point in forming another party which would require concentrated local support to gain even one MP given such intense voter apathy.

There is also very little evidence to support the notion that the young are fanatical about Brexit. It is clear from the most recent general election that much of the youth vote is tied up with Labour and the personal figure of Jeremy Corbyn. The anti-Brexit stance of both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens did not sway large numbers. A new centrist, anti-Brexit party would be equally unappealing to the young – the most Europhile demographic.

For young Remainers to begin their anti-Brexit crusade now is, bluntly, 18 months too late

Although it is clear to most that the postulated anti-Brexit party could never be an electoral success, it could possibly be claimed by advocates that the mere creation of such a body might encourage the Conservatives to temper their hard Brexit approach. Yet if this is the goal, then surely it’s better to work from within the Conservative party to remodel the negotiations – rather than going to the effort of constructing an electorally nonviable new party.

Rather than introducing a new party, maybe more should be done in future to engage the young. Surely if the young were that bothered about the UK’s place in the EU then they would have voted in June 2016. For young Remainers to begin their anti-Brexit crusade now is, bluntly, 18 months too late.

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Comments (3)

  • In fact a centrist anti-Brexit party already exists and is officially registered. It was founded a couple of years ago, before last year’s Referendum, to provide a proper choice to voters who believe in a Thriving Economy for a Caring Society. That is centrally between Labour and LibDems on the left, and Tories on the right.

    The Just Party’s official stance on Brexit is that Brexit undermines that vision and so there needs to be a Soft Brexit or No Brexit (#HalfBrexit or #HaltBrexit) . Indeed we have a specific proposal based on EEAplus. Unlike Labour who are still officially gunning for a Hard Brexit after a softer transition.

    The article is right in saying that FPTP is a formidable obstacle to getting a new party started, but FPTP is the system we have to work with. It is therefore vital to establish MPs as quickly as possible, preferably by a mass defection to The Just Parry, bigger than to UKIP or SDP. Brexit potentially provides that impetus for MPs who are not comfortable with the two main parties diverging to left and right.

    Further details in these links:
    #HalfBrexit proposal: bit.ly/JustMaj
    Labour’s position: bit/ly/JustLabour
    Just Party overview: bit.ly/JustNutShell
    Rebel MPs: bit.ly/JustCrunch

    Perhaps Warwick can be the first university to have a Just Party membership group. Who would like to get it going?

  • Georgia Stainforth

    Chris, before writing this article I didn’t know about the existence of The Just Party, so you make a really good point. Perhaps the fact that student don’t know about the party however just goes to show the lack of interest that they may have in an anti-Brexit party.
    With regards to the Liberal Democrats, during the General Election they supposedly placed ‘we are the 48’ at the forefront of their campaign to entice the young electorate into voting for them as the main anti-Brexit party. And yet they endured a crucial loss in their seat of Sheffield Hallam and their vote share fell from 7.9% in 2015 to 7.4% in 2017. It does suggest that the electorate, including the young, have come to accept the Brexit decision, where a new centrist, anti-Brexit party would be just as irrelevant. Assuming all young voters are remainers is quite easily an election losing formula. Maybe the Just Party haven’t come into the limelight for that exact reason.

  • Two separate points.

    Firstly why you haven’t heard of The Just Party. Until a party has an MP, Ofcom rules mean in practice it is very difficult to get coverage from broadcasters, and newspapers tend to do likewise. UKIP took years to get any traction. So we get no free publicity and have limited funds to pay for our own. We certainly hadn’t expected success overnight.

    As to the GE, the media generally wrote off LibDems, partly due to its leader, and promoted a two-way Tory/Labour vote to the public. Many people either voted against the Tories or against Labour, not for them. As the two parties’ policies on Brexit were very similar, that wasn’t the distinguising factor.

    Latest polling is exactly 50:50 on whether it is right to leave, but 2:1 to stay in the Single Market. Tnat is not accepting the Brexit decision, but suggesting there needs to be a better arrangement with the EU. Further analysis here:
    http://bit.ly/JustColl

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