How someone votes is dependent on numerous factors, but most recently, the growing gulf between young and old has gained much attention. It’s a deep divide. According to YouGov ninety percent of Britain’s over-65s cast their ballot in the June 2016 referendum and they were twice as likely as the under-25s to have voted for leaving the European Union. As I consider recent elections one theme keeps reappearing however - education, in particular the gap between university graduates and unskilled school leavers. Each has a different take on the political status quo.
Firstly, economic change. Increasing demand for highly-skilled workers in sectors from I.T. to financial services opened up a new globalised world, providing an abundance of opportunities to university graduates, at the expense of unskilled school leavers. The last two decades have not been terrific for the latter group, fuelling the rise of radical alternatives and a weakening of the Left - unable to appease the political demands which non-graduates and graduates make.
Stagnant wages and increased job volatility with globalisation and automation have curtailed opportunities for the least skilled. Not having it so good, they turned to the left to protect jobs and communities, a gamble which hasn’t paid off.
The challenge facing the left is that it struggles to tackle the inherent conflict between these two sub-groups. The graduates have a different agenda. Their goals are more progressive, championing gender and racial equality, LGBT rights and openness to immigrants. This is a central and vital agenda for the left’s very existence, yet it seems stuck. The graduate left seeks a tolerant, cosmopolitian and socially liberal society, fuelling the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum, a group which could not be further apart from the socially conservative values of the non-graduates who are more likely to be over the age of 65. They see immigration as out of control, a threat to their communities and not being addressed. With a pro-Remain membership and marginal seats in Leave areas, Labour MPs are divided on whether the party should prioritise the single market or immigration during Brexit negotiations.
But compromise is needed if it seeks to govern again. Labour now finds itself in a tricky dilemma. University graduates are essential to Labour’s electoral prospects in the big cities but at the same time, non-graduates dominate the core Labour electorate and the Brexit vote has given Corbyn’s team a taste for mass rebellion.
Party politics could soon be reorientated on the basis of education. Perhaps the Liberal Democrats will soon become the party of progressive graduates? Perhaps, UKIP and it’s 'northern agenda' will succeed as it seeks to snatch non-graduate voters - who overwhelming voted to leave the European Union in defiance of the graduate-dominated establishment. At a time when there is a lack of trust in established institutions combined with resurgent English nationalism, anything is possible.
Should a realignment of party politics be on the cards, the Labour party has the most too lose. Its internal conflict and its indecisiveness over the education divide show so.
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'Education Level' is The New 'Age' When it Comes to Voting | Calum McKeown Reviewed by Student Voices on 19:39 Rating: