In light of the recent call for a general election, we spoke to the four main political party affiliate societies on campus.
Manchester Labour Students, Manchester Young Conservatives, Manchester Young Liberals and Manchester Young Greens commented on their plans to engage students in the run-up to the Christmas election. They also commented on Boris Johnson’s performance as PM so far and the election itself.
Manchester Labour Students (MLS) were critical of Johnson’s performance. A spokesperson from the society said: “Boris Johnson has been in power since July and in that short time he has proven what many of us already knew; that he is a liar, a bully and has nobody’s interests in mind except those of himself and his rich mates. Whether it be in Doncaster or Morley or Cambridge, Boris Johnson has proven himself to be extremely unpopular with the public. Contrast that with Jeremy Corbyn, who has been delivering Labour’s message of hope across the country at rally’s, public meetings and campaign sessions.”
Unsurprisingly, Manchester Young Conservatives had a much more positive outlook on Johnson’s time as PM.
“If you roll back the clock six months things were looking pretty bleak for the Conservative party. We had lifelong Tory voter after lifelong Tory voter saying that they probably wouldn’t be able to bring themselves to vote conservative, because of their handling of Brexit and the lack of leadership shown by the last administration. But, six months later the tables have turned. In just under four months Boris Johnson appears to have rejuvenated the party completely.”
They also commented on Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to take on the role should he be elected, describing him as “unpatriotic”. They said he “has used his 36 years in parliament to side with terrorists and those who are ultimately opposed to the core values that our great country stands for.”
Young Conservatives had the most positive outlook on Brexit, describing Johnson’s Brexit deal as “an improved” version, but didn’t speak about it any further. Interestingly, Young Labour didn’t speak about Brexit in their comments at all, other than stating that “this election is too important to solely be about Brexit”.
Young Greens were equally as scathing of Johnson as MLS, saying it was “clear [he] should never have been Prime Minister in the first place: from his record of racist remarks to involvement with the Vote Leave campaign that broke the law he was always entirely unfit for the job. This record of dishonesty has continued throughout his time as PM, with his unlawful prorogation designed to prevent democratic scrutiny and rhetoric that incites division.”
Young Liberals responded similarly, saying “Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister. On top of Islamaphobic and homophobic comments designed to divide us, he is taking us to a cliff edge with his disastrous Brexit deal.”
Both of these societies did comment on Brexit however. Young Liberals called Johnson’s deal “disastrous”, and said that it would have a detrimental effect on workers rights. They were equally pessimistic about Corbyn’s potential as PM. They said that “the country deserves better than a binary choice between these two stale men.”
Young Greens were sceptical about the effect a general election would have on the country’s divided opinions surrounding Brexit; “a general election under our broken electoral system will not deliver clarity on this. The Green Party has always argued for a People’s Vote before a general election – the question of how Brexit is carried out should have been directly put to the people so we could have an election that focuses on the real issues facing the UK today: climate breakdown and deep inequality.”
Labour were the only ones to comment on what could be gained by students in their response to questions. They commented that “this election is incredibly important for students. After a decade of austerity, the trebling of our tuition fees and an all-out assault on the working class”, they are looking to elect a candidate who will reverse the policies of the Tory government that they feel will affect students.
Similarly, Young Greens were the only party to talk about climate change and how the electorate in Manchester, especially amongst students, will vote with this in mind.
“With more than half of voters saying the climate emergency will influence how they vote, this has to be a climate election that delivers not only climate justice but crucially social justice to those have been hit hardest by austerity and will bear the brunt of the effects of climate breakdown.”
All of the societies reported to ramping up their campaigning efforts over the coming weeks. They all mentioned student engagement as essential, and are looking to register as many new voters as possible.
Brexit has clearly dominated the discourse surrounding this election, and it’s likely that people will be voting based on what Brexit outcome they want. The question for the political party affiliate societies in Manchester will be whether that will be the focus for students. For some students, especially international students eligible to vote, students planning on doing years abroad in Europe and students from Northern Ireland, Brexit will have a bigger impact in the short term, and therefore they may vote based on Brexit outcomes. However, it seems that all four societies are looking to engage with students about topics outside of the ‘B’ word.
Each of the four main political societies will be campaigning for votes based on domestic policies as well as Brexit resolutions. National issues such as homelessness, education, and poverty to name a few have fallen by the wayside. The political societies will be looking to engage with students about these issues as well as Brexit in order to break the stalemate over leave or remain, and make sure students are voting on issues they are passionate about.
Information about all their campaigns can be found on their Facebook pages.