Don't Just Vote: Swing the Vote

This whole election now comes down to youth turnout. That means we're going to have to do more today than put an X in a box.

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08 June 2017, 5:15am

Fifty days ago, Theresa May called an early election, a tactical ploy to shore up her majority and defer the next general election until long after Brexit and its potential fallout. She was praised, even by neutrals and the left, for her ruthless tactical play. She had exposed a weak Labour party, struggling in the polls and unable to pick a position on Brexit without alienating a huge section of their base.

Things didn't quite go to plan; the Tories' initial desire to have an election that was just about Brexit and boring leadership didn't work out. May was quickly exposed, U-turning on key proposals and unable to move beyond a few tired slogans.

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn has surprised people, running a disciplined and energetic campaign which broadened the national debate. He did all the things that political operatives assumed would be a disaster. He used a totally different political playbook. He gave a speech about the links between terrorism and foreign policy – saying something that was unsayable. He opted for mass rallies in Labour strongholds rather than tightly choreographed photo opportunities. Under his leadership the Labour party has attempted to navigate a nuanced course on Brexit, eschewing the opportunity to be the party of "soft Brexit". At the same time as Blairite spin doctors were turning blue in newspaper comment sections, the polls started to narrow at a rate of knots. The Brexit election became the Corbyn election: everything he did, good or bad, became news.

Neither party could have predicted the two horrifying terror attacks that disrupted what was already a short election period. Who knows what direction the election would have taken, had the past two weeks not been dominated by stories of terror and questions for the leaders about security and policing. An election that was all about Brexit is now predominantly about terror.

As the campaign draws to a close, the polls differ wildly. The Tories are predicted to have anything from a 12-point lead to being neck-and-neck with Labour.

So why don't the polls agree with each other? Because evert pundit and psephologist agrees that this election now comes down to one thing: youth turnout.

If, as has happened in the last three general elections, youth turnout hovers somewhere around the 40 percent mark, then the Tories will likely sweep to a landslide victory. They'll get a majority of as many as 100 seats.

If young people come out to vote – as they sort of did in the EU referendum (around 65 percent turnout) – we could be headed toward a hung parliament, Theresa May's resignation and, just possibly, a country led by Jeremy Corbyn.

How you vote is up to you. But it's not enough just to vote today. You need to do more. Wear a voting sticker, wear a voting T-shirt, wear a snapback with your favoured party's logo stretched across the fabric. Think patiently about why you're voting the way you are, and then post a personal message to tell others to do the same on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. If you're heading to work or university, make voting the only thing you talk about. Buy anyone who's voted for the first time a drink, then get them to do the same to someone else. That's just a start.

Today is a day to talk to strangers. If you see another young person in the street, stop them, say hello, ask them if they've already voted and, if they haven't, let them know why they should. Have a conversation, be impassioned, talk from the heart. Don't wait for them to come to you – go to shopping centres, hang outside colleges, find the people who are going to make a difference. Make today the day you speak to ten new people.

If you're an old person, it's OK to drag a student by the ear to a polling both while regaling them with stories about what things were like in the 80s. If you're too young to vote, you're still allowed to convince your parents to, or to push your older mates kicking and screaming to the polling station.

There is no such thing as not being into politics. If you care whether child refugees are given shelter in this country. If you care that women don't earn as much as men. If you've ever been arrested for possession. If you don't understand why you pay tax on everything you earn, but Caffé Nero didn't pay a penny of corporation tax last year, then you care about politics and you care what happens tomorrow. That means you have to take this vote into your own hands. Go vote, then swing the vote.