Unpopular leader of the much-criticised Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, has recently made an unexpected move pre-general election 2015. With a budget to encourage voters, Clegg vetoed the Tory’s move to put it towards newspaper adverts in Spain reminding the largely privileged ex-pat community they must register to vote. Instead he has dedication ten million pounds to help increase student registration and therefore voter turnout in the student demographic.
This may come as a surprising move due to Clegg’s recent turbulent past with the student community. Before the general election in 2010 polls showed that up to 50% of students would vote for the Liberal Democrats – this was during ‘Cleggmania’ after his exceptional display in the TV leader’s debates. Since then however things have taken a turn for the worse for the Deputy Prime Minister. By “getting into bed with the Tories” the Lib-Dems alienated a lot of their left-inclined voter base and this was only intensified – especially amongst students – with the vote on tuition fees fiasco.
This most recent move is an important one whichever way it is interpreted. A recent article in The Independent highlighted how the student vote could seriously swing the results in up to ten contested constituencies, having a potentially vital effect in the increasingly uncertain outcome of the next election.
The funding should see an increase in the registration of students and other young people to vote, but has been criticised as a poor attempt to reconcile with students, many of whom feel they will never vote for the Liberal Democrats because of their raising of the university tuition fees. However, making sure that students and young people use their voice is a vital issue in current UK politics and democracy on the whole and with an allocated sum to go towards increasing voter turnout, is arguably the best place for it to go.
[Callum Price – @calprice28]