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Oh Snap

What Do Serving Prisoners Think of the Election?

"The Conservatives are the people's party – always have been, always will be."
Protesters outside Brixton Prison on New Year's Eve. Photo: Chris Bethell

Theresa May's decision to call a snap election to be held on the 8th of June has been met with a mixed response: is it a cynical power grab, or the right course of action to provide "strength and stability" during the impending Brexit negotiations? Initial polling suggested a large Conservative majority and a Labour wipeout was the likely outcome. The gap between Conservative and Labour appears to be closing somewhat, however, with May's most recent media appearances coming under increasing scrutiny. I teach at a prison and decided to ask the prisoners in my class who they would be voting for (if they were able to vote, that is).



Anthony, 57, is currently completing a six-month sentence for burglary. He has served a handful of similar sentences over the last 25 years, finding regular employment hard to come by after the factory that had employed him since school was shut during the tail end of Margaret Thatcher's time as prime minister. A lifelong Conservative voter, he is impressed by Theresa May's decision to call an election. "Way I see it is that she knows she's going to win, and by getting a proper majority now she'll be best placed to take us out of the EU," Anthony says. "Even if the remoaners don't like it, it's happening and I can't fucking wait. Proper mustard."

"That mudflap Corbyn"

I know Anthony has previously attributed a lack of suitable jobs being available to his decision to commit crimes. I ask him whether he thinks May and the Tory party can create jobs and prosperity in a post-Brexit Britain. "Of course they can. And you're not going to bully me into saying otherwise either. People – normal working people – have woken up to all this crap in the media. We said no to Clinton, and we'll say no-fucking-thank-you to that mudflap Corbyn as well. It's not about having things handed to you on a plate – ban all benefits, I say – it's about knowing that if you graft you'll always have a chance to do well off your own bat. I've had my ups and downs in life, but the Conservatives are the people's party – always have been, always will be." At this point Anthony is literally banging his fist on the table to emphasise each syllable of every word. As tempting as it is to press him on some of the inconsistencies in his argument, it's clear that he's unsettling some of the more challenging members of the class and I decide it's best to move on.



Baz, 27, has been returned to prison for breaking the terms of his license. Initially sentenced to eight months for selling weed, he broke his curfew and was given additional charges of being drunk and disorderly and resisting arrest. Had he not broken the terms of his license, he would have been out in time to vote in the election. I ask him who he would have voted for. "First off, I don't like any political party – it's all corrupt, going back proper time, hundreds of years. But Corbyn honestly does seem different," Baz says. "Like, he's got the people behind him and suddenly all the media and other politicians are against him? Nah, must mean he's properly onto something." I ask Baz to explain what he thinks a Labour election victory would look like, and specifically how it would be of benefit to him and his family. He has two children with his partner, and the youngest has a heart condition that requires several trips a year to the hospital – something that's causing him a lot of added stress while inside. "Well obviously with Corbyn in charge they won't sell off the NHS. If the Conservative party stay in power long enough they'll be fucking selling it off bit by bit to their mates until it's all gone, earning a nice fat pension on the side. That's just a fact," he says. "And it'll be people like us who'll be fucked. How many ounces would you have to sell to pay for brain surgery? An absolute shit-ton."


Ian, 28, has pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-partner's current boyfriend in a Tesco car park and has been told by his solicitor that he stands a decent chance of walking away from the sentencing without having to serve any more time. In the weeks that I've known Ian, he's given little indication that he has even the remotest interest in politics, which goes some way to explaining my shock when he reveals his voting history. "Lifelong UKIP voter, mate," he says, laughing. It's a strange sounding sentence, the notion of a lifelong UKIP voter somehow being quite hard to fathom, and I ask Ian to qualify it. "My uncle got me into them from when I was I kid, but it was Farage that got me full into them and that. Always do the local council votes, the Euro ones, the general election." I ask Ian what he makes of UKIP's under pressure leader Paul Nuttall. "Right, I'm not saying I'm not going to vote for UKIP, but I'm not sure on this one. Now we're out of the EU, I don't know," he says. "If they'd been coming up with something new to go after then maybe that'd be different. Thing is, Nuttall's been caught chatting shit, making up a load of bollocks about himself. The stuff about Hillsborough was bang out of order, like. If Farage was still in charge, I'd trust him on whatever he said, game on. But I'll have a think this time. Are the Lib Dems still going?" Ian is, I am almost certain, joking.


In total, there are 12 prisoners in my class; we conduct a poll at the end of the session that sees the Conservatives finish on five votes, Labour on four and UKIP on three. Apart from Anthony, I get the impression that any one of them could be swayed in any direction given the right leader put in front of them.

"If people voted for actually what would improve their lives, then not a single one of us in this room would vote for the Tories," says Baz. "The daft thing is, they hate us and we still vote for them. Corbyn gets all this shit for being a nice person, trying to help. He reminds me of my chemistry teacher: proper lovely bloke, and everyone took the piss out of him an' all."