General Election 2019: Everything you need to know

UK voters will be heading back to the polls for the third time in four years as parties across the political spectrum in Westminster look to break the Brexit deadlock. Of course, as with anything Brexit related, there are countless implications, complications and variations that could arise in the near future but I’ll try and break down exactly what you need to know to make an informed decision on who to cast your vote for.

Before you get any further, the first thing you need to do is to register to vote, which you can do here. What should also be of note (as I suspect most of the people reading this will be current students) is that students can register to vote in both their home constituency and in the constituency they are living in whilst at university. So please make use of this fact if you are unlikely to be at home for the election.

Of course, you can only cast your vote in one of the two constituencies, but if you have the option to choose it may be worth a look as to which constituency you feel will have the closest race if you want to maximise your chance of making a difference. It may be a small difference but elections can come down to a few votes on either side more often than you would think!

The next thing you are going to need to do is to check your availability for Thursday the 12th of December, as that is when the election will be held. So, if you already have a busy day planned then make sure that you register in advance for a postal vote, which you can do here, without the need for any specific reason.

After this, your next job is to make sure that every last member of your family and social group are also registered to vote because this will likely be the most important General Election since World War Two. Even if they are “fed up,” as most of us are in truth, with Brexit, this election will have consequences far beyond just Brexit. It’s a “general” election after all. To not make your voice heard on the issues of climate change, wealth inequality, racial/social discrimination and countless other topics would — in my opinion — be absurd.

With this in mind and the formalities out of the way, now comes the big decision: Who to vote for? To be sure this is no easy decision, no matter where your political opinions lie. For those on the left, any of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Labour, Greens or Plaid Cymru could potentially make a sensible choice. And for those on the right, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party may well compete against each other for a similar audience. This is without even mentioning the rapidly deteriorating UKIP party, whose leader Richard Braine, resigned very recently.

However, I would like to highlight one way of deciding who to vote for: Tactical voting. It’s worth recognising here that I do appreciate the hypocrisy of highlighting the many issues that will be affected by the outcome of the next General Election, then just two paragraphs later suggesting that you should become a single-issue voter on Brexit.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with basing your vote around how a given party has pledged to tackle the current climate crisis for but one example. However, whether we like it or not this election will be dominated by Brexit, and I would argue that Brexit will have a massive knock-on effect for how we tackle every other policy issue moving forward. Ultimately, a decision to leave with a deal or one to leave without, or indeed a decision to remain a member of the European Union will undoubtedly have a massive impact on our capacity to tackle climate change, or social injustice or any other policy issue. Not just through economic limitations, but through the details of any new agreements with other nations that may help or hinder progress.

Here is where tactical voting becomes important. In a first past the post system, as we have, the winner is all that matters. A given constituency may vote for parties that want a People’s Vote 60% of the time, but if that vote is split 30-30 between Labour and the Greens, and the other 40% all vote Conservative, then the Conservatives will get the seat. Ideally, this would be solved through proportional representation, but tactical voting will have to do until a time comes when we can even think about radical electoral reforms. And oh how far away a time when the news cycle is not dominated by Brexit seems…

Anyway, the point is, if you care about making your voice heard on Brexit then it a lot of cases it may be wise to vote for a party you do not necessarily support. In some constituencies, the parties are even making that decision for you, as recent weeks have seen Sinn Fein step aside in three Northern Irish constituencies, throwing their support behind a pro-remain candidate instead of their own. Similarly, the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru have confirmed that they will step aside for each other in 60 seats across the country, but this by itself may not be enough.

The main reason is that Labour have refused to join the Remain Alliance owing to the Liberal Democrats’ refusal to support Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. As a result, there will be plenty of seats where the two parties will run against each other, to the benefit of the Conservative candidate. In fact, my own constituency is the perfect example of this scenario.

In 2017 three candidates stood for election in the Morley and Outwood constituency: Andrea Jenkyns, Neil Dawson and Craig Dobson. Andrea Jenkyns won the seat for the Conservatives in 2017 with 50.7% of the vote and Neil Dawson came second for Labour with 46.7% of ballots. As the maths geniuses amongst us might have guessed, Craig Dobson came third with 2.6% for the Liberal Democrats.

I would say it is a fairly safe assumption that if the Liberal Democrat candidate did not stand in that election then most of their votes would go to the Labour candidate owing to the relative closeness of the two parties respective Brexit policies, at least compared to the Conservative proposals. In the instance of Morley and Outwood, this could reduce the Conservative lead from 4% to 1.5% before even a single flier has been posted through a mailbox. But, of course, this is highly unlikely to happen for the reasons I have stated above.

This is where tactical voting comes in. Personally, in an electoral vacuum of sorts, I would either vote for the Liberal Democrats or the Greens. However, given my views on Brexit and the arithmetic surrounding my constituency, it makes much more sense for me to vote for the Labour party. And if enough people follow that same logic in their own constituencies then a much smaller number of votes will be required to remove the Conservatives from power. Even if you have to tick that box whilst holding your nose and you never admit it to anyone else, I promise it will still be much more valuable to the cause of Brexit.

That being said, before you rush off to cast your postal ballot, it is worth looking at what the situation is in your area. In my case, the Labour party makes the most sense, but in others, the Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru may be the best option. So, how can you tell? Well, first of all, you should look up the results of the 2017 General Election in your constituency, that will give you a good idea. Secondly, I would advise you to use sites such as GetVoting, by Best For Britain, which you can find here, or tactical dot vote, which you can find here.

Both of the sites mentioned above have already done the data-crunching for you in order to give you recommendations for how you can make your vote count in the most meaningful way under our current electoral system. Just enter your postcode/constituency and it will provide you with their best recommendation and some of the data behind why they made that choice.

However, with all that in mind, it is worth saying that there is no wrong way to vote, as long as you do! It’s a right that people have fought centuries for so please make use of it, especially in such a consequential election as the one that faces us this Christmas.

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Matthew Hemmins

Second year History/Economics student with a passion for politics and plenty of opinions on a variety of topics!