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.