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Political Parties: simplified for students

Often students and young voters feel alienated by the political process, and confused by the political parties that represent them. In this article, I will explain (hopefully fairly and with no bias) the UK political parties, especially how they refer to students in their manifestos and policies.

I have also written an article on why students’ voting is so important in today’s society, if you need persuading to have your voice heard.

The Conservative Party

It seems only fair that we start with the current party in power. The Conservatives developed as an opposition to the Whigs (a dissolved political party) in 1834 and have since been one of two major players in UK politics. In recent years, the Conservatives have become a more progressive, centre-right party, aimed at achieving a “stronger Britain and a prosperous future”. They are currently led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and have been in power since 2010.

How do they relate to students? The Conservatives feel that the younger generation are unfairly placed when trying to buy a home; this is one of their key points when referring to younger people, such as students.

You can read the full Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto from 2017 here.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party is a centre-left party and the second most popular party in the UK after the Conservatives. Formed in 1900, the party has been in government multiple times throughout its lifetime. Currently led by Jeremy Corbyn, it remains the Queen’s official opposition in the House of Commons. This means that it currently  plays the role of the scrutiniser and inspector of the Government.

How do they relate to students? The Labour Party states that it wants “to build a Britain that works for the many, not the few.” In their 2017 manifesto they say “Labour will reintroduce maintenance grants for university students, and we will abolish university tuition fees.”

You can read the full Labour Party manifesto from 2017 here.

The Liberal Democrats

Commonly known as the Lib Dems, the party is thought of as the middle ground between the Labour Party and the Conservatives. Currently they are one of the most influential anti-Brexit campaign groups on the UK political scene. Led by Jo Swinson, they argue that Brexit undermines a university’s ability to draw the best teaching staff and students from around the world.

How do they relate to students? Much like the Labour Party, the Lib Dems plan to reinstate maintenance grants, but instead of a complete reinstatement, this will only be “for the poorest students, ensuring that living costs are not a barrier to disadvantaged young people studying at university.”

You can read the full Labour Party manifesto from 2017 here.

The Green Party

The Greens have become more popular as the call for a stronger stance on environmental protection and climate change has boomed. They are predicted to take around 4% of the UK’s votes.

How do they relate to students? The Green Guarantee sets out their 10 key pledges, including their “promise to young people”. The Greens say they will “invest in opportunities for young people, starting with a guarantee of their right to study, work, live and travel in the EU.”

Much like the Labour Party, the Green Party wish to abolish tuition fees and “restore the Education Maintenance Grant” for future students. In addition, they wish to reduce the voting age to 16 and give young people “free local public transport.”

You can read the full Green Party manifesto from 2017 here.

The Brexit Party

With a predicted 10% of the vote, the Brexit Party emerged from the conflict we are seeing in the UK regarding Britain’s exit from the European Union.  The party is considered to be far right and often associated with anti-immigration and anti-European rhetoric.

How do they relate to students? It is difficult to relate the Brexit Party to students, as they remain a “one issue party”. This means that they have gained in popularity due to one issue – Brexit. Therefore, there is little of their literature that mentions students directly. However, if you are interested in the political situation regarding Brexit, this party’s focus is only on this issue.

You can read the full Brexit Party manifesto from 2017 here.

Independent Candidates

Here we find a complicated part of the political process. Independent candidates are individuals that are not members of political parties, and therefore do not have to follow the political party’s mandate or manifesto. In this way, many independent candidates are able to express and follow their own opinions, beliefs and agendas.

How do they relate to students? Independent candidates relate to students in different ways and to different degrees, varying from candidate to candidate. There is no fixed opinion shared by all independents, and therefore the best option for voters is to read into the candidates policies on their own initiative.

In conclusion…

For students, the best advice I can give is twofold. Read my blog post on why it is important for students to vote, so as you can understand the power of your voice. And read around the political situation of the UK, take an active interest in how political parties refer to students.

The way students vote has the potential to change the outcome of general elections and the general political climate. Whichever way you choose to vote, just get out and do it.

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Meet the author

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Richard Croxford

I'm a 3rd year Politics and International Relations student from Birmingham. I love training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, running, and flying in a glider near Stratford-Upon-Avon, in Warwickshire. At university I have been learning Arabic outside of class and have an interest in completing a masters in the international relations of the Middle East after I finish my degree. I especially enjoy writing articles around politics, sport and mental health.

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