by Robyn Banks
In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.
There is a lot of fear about the morning of June 9th. Will we wake up to a Tory super-majority that will see them stay in charge for the next 15 years? To a renewed age of cuts that hurt the poorest and most vulnerable in society, that disembowel the education system from primary to higher, and that destroy the environmental protections (or ‘Green Crap’) that will ensure that we have a safer and more secure future for our world? Or will the sun rise on something else? With the polls getting closer and closer, a miraculous Labour Party win isn’t off the table just yet.
But it won’t happen without people going out to vote and, more importantly, going out to vote progressive.
I was lucky enough to attend a free event in London entitled Building a Progressive Future. It was hosted by Compass, one of the main organisations working to organise Progressive Alliances between political parties. The idea is that parties should stand aside for other parties in certain seats to ensure that the most popular left candidates have the best shot at stopping Tory MPs from winning. The left can’t win this election without working together. Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, spoke at the event, as did Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry from the Greens and a whole host of others that support the idea.
As a student I have the choice of where I vote. I can cast my ballot either where I attend university in Norwich South, where we have a hard working Labour MP, or in Havant, a Tory safe seat, where my family is based. But I also have another choice. I can either vote for the party I most agree with and would most like to see in government, or I can vote for the party that’s best placed to keep a seat from the Tories. More than in any recent election, every voter must face this choice between a preferential vote and a tactical one on June 8th.
Students in Higher Education are faced with rising fees, course cuts, and a broad push for the further marketisation of education to make universities back into places for a select few who can afford to attend. And this will only get worse if the Tories win with the majority that they expect. They will continue with their cuts and further marketisation as well as their attacks on international students in their rush to appeal to voters leaving the sinking ship that is UKIP.
I don’t know a single student who supports any of this. But I know many that have campaigned heavily against every draconian education policy. This election is the chance to make sure that this ideology is kicked into the long grass and replaced with ideas of free education for all, not just for the elite, and of a system that isn’t just after our fees but looks to further our chances in life and expand minds.
If we hold our noses and make the difficult choice, we can change the outcome of this election
The best way to achieve this is by thinking tactically about how we can vote. We know that most 18-24 year-olds support Labour but some, like myself, prefer other parties like the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats. Whilst both of these parties offer a different future from Britain from the main two, the realistic chances of them winning an outright majority are slim. This is why, despite years or campaigning for the Greens, this year I will be voting for Clive Lewis. Not because I’ve turned my back on the party – I’m remaining a member of and I will continue to support the Greens – it’s because I believe that the choice facing every student is far too great to stick to tribalism. I would encourage others to do the same.
It’s not easy voting for someone from another party that doesn’t necessarily agree with your own views on a number of issues but, this time around, it’s the right thing to do. A glance at the the 2015 election results for the constituency you’re in will tell you who’s best placed to beat the Tories (alternatively check here). If we hold our noses and make the difficult choice, we can change the outcome of this election.
I know that the future of Higher Education is frightening. It is under continued attack from the right and will continue to be for as long as they have power. But it doesn’t have to be this way. On June the 8th, vote for the progressive party most able to stop the Tories. Vote to make a better future for us all.
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