Britain’s youth regain their political voice in UK election

The election creates a new dynamic in terms of Britain’s negotiation with the European Union over Brexit
Kevin Featherstone
Professor Kevin Featherstone

The 2017 general election will go down in history as the moment that Britain’s youth regained their political voice, according to LSE Professor Kevin Featherstone.

Young people played a crucial role in denying Theresa May the mandate she sought, with two-thirds of 18-24 year-olds voting for the Labour Party, according to polls.

But the Conservative Party’s crushing result – losing 13 seats and their majority – also exposed Britain as “more divided than at any time for a generation,” the Head of LSE’s European Institute added.

Professor Featherstone said: “Never before in modern times have we had a prime minister going to the voters with such a commanding lead and then seeing it evaporate overnight. It is a personal defeat for the Prime Minister because so much of the campaign centred on her ‘strong and stable’ style of leadership.

“At the same time, it creates a new dynamic in terms of Britain’s negotiation with the European Union over Brexit. Theresa May will have little scope for political manoeuvring now and the EU leaders will be aware of this. She won’t be in a position to make many compromises because the threat to her leadership will come from the right of her party – the Brexit hardliners.

“The only way she will prevent a leadership challenge from people like Boris Johnson or David Davis is to be seen to be playing hardball when it comes to the Brexit negotiations.”

Professor Featherstone said the election favoured Jeremy Corbyn’s experience and appeal as a political campaigner.

“Political rallies are clearly his forte but there was a striking contrast in the campaign strategies between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was clearly very comfortable and loves the idea of large, open rallies. By contrast, we had Theresa May conducting a very safe campaign, restricting her appearances to small events in confined environments.

“We now realise that Jeremy Corbyn is a very astute political campaigner. That is only one task of leadership, however, and it remains to be seen how he would govern this country.”

On the global stage, the election result has not done Britain any favours, Professor Featherstone added.

“The result shows that Britain is very uncertain about itself and most of the issues in this campaign were fought on insular, local topics. I think Britain has made itself seem less relevant, more divided and therefore a less credible partner in world affairs,” Professor Featherstone said.