Posted on Tue 13 Jun 2017 at 15:39 by Callum Aldcroft
When I ran to be your Community Officer last year, I promised to make voter registration a key priority for LUU.
In one of the first meetings I had as your Community Officer, I was told there wasn’t really much point making a big deal of voting and local democracy this year, since there wouldn’t be another General Election until 2020. Obviously.
I fought to put it on the agenda at our Union and on our campus because if students don’t vote, as we’ve seen over the last few years, we end up with policies like £9,000 tuition fees, maintenance grants scrapped for students like me who depended on them, EMA gone, the upheaval of Brexit and we end up with politicians like the one the students of Leeds threw out of office last Thursday. Students in Leeds voted to sack a politician who represented over 20,000 students who didn’t even bother to mention you as students or the universities on any of his leaflets, never mind fight for us in parliament over the last few years.
To put it simply, if students and young people don’t vote, then bad things sometimes happen to us.
This election looks likely to have ended in a coalition of chaos taking office, led by a discredited Prime Minister who’ll be propped up by a group which seems to threaten both women’s and LGBT+ rights. Despite another result that shocked all the pundits (and myself!), the result of this election still means that people across our campus, across our city and across our country will continue to bear the brunt of austerity, an agenda which has dragged down the living standards of so many over the last few years.
However, students in Leeds made their voices heard loud and clear in this election and we said that we won’t be taken for granted anymore. This election showed that hopefully soon, things can and will change. Stay engaged.
With me out of office at LUU over the past few weeks, the hard work of LUU staff played a key part in the record rates of voter registration and turnout across Leeds North West and Leeds Central which are both student-heavy constituencies. Both seats saw a 10% growth on the electoral roll, making them the 2nd and 3rd seats (out of 650) for growth respectively in electoral registration in the run up to the election.
Our Political and Campaigning societies played a key role in this, hitting the doorsteps around Hyde Park, Woodhouse, Burley and Headingley as well as in our Halls of Residences. You gave up your own time to play a part in registering thousands of students to vote and making sure they used their voice in our democracy.
Our Leeds Community Project, LUU’s team of part-time community organisers that I started last September, spoke to thousands of students about registering to vote in the weeks after the election was called.
From next year, after work from myself, with support from Hilary Benn MP and local city councillors, the university has made voter registration part of your enrolment process as a student. Since every student at Leeds has to complete that form, this small change means that no student has an excuse for not registering to vote.
When this year’s Exec took office, Britain had just voted to leave the EU. We’re leaving following the election of this coalition of chaos. As this period of political uncertainty and instability continues, it’s even more important that young people and students stay as engaged with the process as they were last Thursday.
Thursday ended the myth that we’re an apathetic generation. We could be a couple of months away from yet another General Election (pray for Brenda). When it comes along, let’s show them that we can shout even louder.