In the evening before the UK would be hitting the polling stations, five First Year Specialists representing the leading political parties addressed an audience of Government & Politics students. The layout of the evening involved a prepared four-minute speech about each of their party’s policies, followed by questions from the floor. It was interesting to see how certain issues that occur in politics in the ‘real world’ readily affected voters in our own mock election, such as the increasingly personal nature of politics or general indifference.
Before this, candidates were encouraged to campaign around the school to win votes and over the week before the debate. In this period, various leaders visited houses, put up posters and even made Facebook groups; the latter proving very effective.
In terms of the speeches themselves, Labour, led by Will went for the tactic of seamlessly avoiding to discuss Labour’s relatively radical policies. He instead attacked the opposition through jocular verbal insults, with a focus towards the Conservatives lead by Tim Lam, which proved successful in distracting the audience from Labour’s nationalisation of major industries and their intention to raise incorporation tax by more than one third. While entertaining, I thought this almost too effective as it completely changed the tone of the evening, with an emphasis on personal and comedic one liners rather than the politics itself.
Zander and Misha leading the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats maintained a strong political focus throughout each of their speeches. Zander highlighted how the Green Party was the only party tackling the gender pay-gap while Misha shed light on the Lib Dems’ often unacknowledged party policies including their offer of a second EU referendum after the terms of Brexit have been decided.
Questions from the floor followed from the speeches. These concentrated on central topics such as terrorism and immigration. Tim definitely had the most questions directed at him, as leader of the Conservatives. These ranged from querying how reducing immigration would actually minimise the chances of terror attacks if the terrorists were ‘home-grown’, as well as how replacing the Human Rights Act with a ‘British Bill of Rights’ would facilitate arresting and convicting terrorists more effectively. Undeniably, these were important issues to raise. However, it meant that the other parties had far fewer questions directed at them, with surprisingly little mention of Brexit and the NHS.
The result of the mock election surprised many – we had our very own hung parliament with a fraction of the vote between Labour (33%), and the Tories (32%). Unfortunately, like UK politics itself, I gathered a considerable proportion of the electorate (the overall turnout was 58%) made their decisions based on who the leader was, rather than the policies. In the future, I hope the Charterhouse mock election can prove that young voters are not necessarily apathetic and disinterested.
- Labour 33% – Ukip 17%
- Conservatives 32% – Green 5%
- Liberal Democrats 13%
By Romilly Cotta