Young U.K. voters feel left out as they lament their options in coming polls

Young U.K. voters in upcoming election face economic hardships, housing crisis, and political disillusionment with major parties

Updated - June 17, 2024 11:26 am IST

Published - June 17, 2024 01:01 am IST - London

Voters born after 1997 only made up 9% of the electorate in the general election in 2019, but are up to 15% this time.

Voters born after 1997 only made up 9% of the electorate in the general election in 2019, but are up to 15% this time. | Photo Credit: AFP

Many young voters in next month’s U.K. general election have lived under a Conservative government for most of their lives, with the ruling party having been in power since 2010.

Gen Z voters — those born after 1997 — only made up 9% of the electorate for the last polls in 2019.

But they make up around 15% this year, according to the National Centre for Social Research, and want to hold the government to account for their economic hardships.

Kevin Patel, 26, has been hit by soaring rental prices in London, where he is a postgraduate student, and still lives with his parents. “With the way it’s looking like, I genuinely don’t know how long I’ll have to wait before I can actually afford my own place”, he said.

In the past few years, a housing shortage and landlords passing on increased costs such as higher energy prices and mortgages have hiked up rent. Government data last year showed that renters and young people were among the worst-affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr. Patel, historically a Labour voter, said he will likely be voting Labour again, because the party has “better plans” to deal with the rental crisis.

But he was still afraid that neither of the main parties will address the issues. Asked how he feels about his vote, he said: “Cynical, but with a layer of hope underneath.”

Holly Cobb, a first-time voter from Cambridgeshire, said she was considering voting for the Liberal Democrats because of its leader Ed Davey’s promise to make carers a political priority.

Top of her wish-list was an increase in allowances for carers like her and fixing the social care system, which lawmakers have warned is enduring “chronic underfunding”.

Josh Saunders, 24, a student at the Guildhall School of Music in London, worked at a bar four nights a week to pay for university.

Earlier this year, the government announced cuts in funding for creative courses at universities.

‘Not represented’

Mr. Saunders said students not on scholarships at Guildhall were struggling to get by with minimum wage jobs. He said he did not feel represented by either Labour, who he voted for in 2019, or the Tories but would back Labour this time round because of its leader Keir Starmer’s promise to boost the minimum wage.

Sawen Ali, 24, also voted Labour in 2019 but will not be repeating it this year.

She cited the party’s stance on Israel’s war in Gaza, including suspending some members who voted for a ceasefire in Gaza last November. “It makes me feel sick that Labour takes a vote like mine for granted, purely because I’m young, or I’m a person of colour”, said Ms. Ali, who was a masters student at Cambridge University.

Amie Kirby, a recent graduate from a working-class background, said her vote was based on policies on Gaza and other issues including immigration and gender identity. “Culture wars” attacks on migrants or trans people feel “completely out of touch with my generation”, said Ms. Kirby, who was raised as a Labour voter but is now “torn”. “I think part of me wants to vote Green, part of me wants to spoil my ballot,” she confessed.

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