Will Canterbury be a key 'youthquake for Jez' and Labour seat again?

Allegra Stratton

Former National Editor

  • Video report by ITV News National Editor Allegra Stratton

It was one of the stories of the last election, and then it was one of the main myths exposed in the months afterwards.

Surely young voters had come out to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in droves?

"Oh Jeremy Corbyn" at Glastonbury festival had to have meant something, hadn’t it?

Professor Jane Green and her team at the British Election Study (BES) debunked the idea there had been an unusual surge in young voter turn-out - they showed that there may have been a small increase in young people turning out to vote, but still nowhere near up as the highs of older age groups.

They also showed you had to have a generous interpretation of young people: it looks like the small increase in youth turnout went all the way up to the under 40s.

The BES urged caution - you can’t be sure all of those votes went to Labour.

Voter turnout has gone up particularly for the under 40s in the last election, according to BES. Credit: ITV News Graphics

So, they are very dismissive of the idea there was a "youthquake" or a "youthquake for Jez".

However, the BES does say that Labour increased its share of the vote at the last election with every group except the over-70s, it’s just not particularly so among the under-24s

There are however some seats around the country where the youth vote does seem to have an effect.

Canterbury was the highest profile upset of the 2017 election and the then Labour MP couldn’t believe they had won.

Labour candidate for Canterbury, Rosie Duffield. Credit: PA

However, Rosie Duffield only had a majority of 187, meaning Canterbury will most certainly be one of the fiercest battlegrounds in the country.

Here there are some 40,000 students across a number of different university campuses in the city.

They had a heavy push to get students voting in this constituency last time and it looked like it boosted student voting by some 8,000 votes.

When you factor that in, plus the industry that surrounds a university – teachers, professors, the lot; even the academics agree, it’s highly likely that young people did have an effect.

But it isn’t just students and the very young.

It’s that bit of the graph on voter turnout showing that any increase there was up to the age of 40 that is interesting.

Students in Canterbury have told ITV News that they want to be a part of that change - to have their voice heard. Credit: ITV News

The BES also say that 2017 was the first election showing the clearest link between age and likelihood of voting either Labour or Tory.

This on its own doesn’t feel that surprising but I think what is interesting is that the age of crossover – the age when people switched from being Labour to Tory - might be getting older.

Is this because people feeling precarious – that it is a struggle to make ends meet – is lasting for later into life?

That could also have had an effect in a seat like Canterbury at the last election.

Canterbury is an example of a once rock solid Tory seat that would once have been full of affluence, but is now becoming home to more people priced-out of London and worried about the cost of childcare and social care.

Perhaps these sorts of people - parents with young children - also backed Labour.

But what's pretty clear is that the students in Canterbury are swinging massively behind Labour.

Some students that are voting for Labour have said they are voting for the party and not the leader. Credit: ITV News

There had been some concern that the date of the general election might "disenfranchise" young people by being scheduled for a time when they may already have left their university for their home towns – but many we have spoken to here say their term ends on December 13 and though they will be handing in assignments on December 12, they’ll still be in a position to vote.

Interestingly the Labour supporting students we spoke to - albeit from a very small sample size - were really anti-Corbyn.

They didn’t think he spoke for them: "He’s a very controversial person; he’s anti-Semitic.

"He’s really bad for women’s viewpoints," were some of the arguments put forward.

Another man said: "I am not voting for Jeremy.

"Even he is not a very electable guy.

"I’m voting for the party more than I am voting for Jeremy Corbyn."

A student voter tells Allegra that the Labour Party says their message is 'more suitable to people of her age'. Credit: ITV News

This time around, it feels like students are less indulgent of Corbyn than they were in 2017.

The Labour party’s biggest problem round here is going to be the anti-Brexit vote.

Some weeks ago, the Liberal Democrats candidate wrestled with their conscience and decided they couldn’t stomach the idea of splitting the anti-Brexit vote.

No sooner had they done so, than Lib Dem HQ replaced them with another candidate, Claire Malcolmson, a councillor in Mole Valley, Dorking.

Even though people here say that the Lib Dem is not working the patch very hard, she is still standing.

On the other side of the divide, the Tories will be boosted by the Brexit Party's decision not to stand against Sevenoaks councillor Anna Firth.

This will be Labour’s biggest problem here, and could be terminal.

Read more from Allegra's Battleground series: