Students AFFECT elections, and some of you don’t like it

Green Dad is right, my last post should have read “Students affect elections, housing and jobs” and not “Students effect …”. Shows you what a superior private education learned me!

In the responses received to this post I sense, if I am brave enough to suggest it, a bit of hypocracy from Momma Grizzly. She writes: “Regarding students having the ability to vote back “home” and in their university town, I find this to be extremely unfair. Why should one group have the chance to vote twice?”. She then says that “When I was a student, I could vote in Brighton & Hove and I could also vote in Belfast.” But did the Grizzly One exercise her two votes that she now denounces? I suspect someone with her passing interest in politics might, just might, have used both her votes.

Matt Dent, who left a comment at 6.46am (can he genuinely be a student? He may have just got home) did exercise his right to vote early and often: “I did indeed exercise my right to vote both here in Brighton and back at “home”. This was for a simple reason- I feel I have a stake in both places, and in what happens in both places. And I think that’s entirely right. Frankly, I don’t feel any less of a member of the community than a non-student resident of Brighton. I live here, I pay rent, I shop in the local shops. The fact that I may leave after I’ve finished studying is irrelevant. Looking at it from the other direction, I’m guaranteed to be here for at least three years. If I leave after that, how am I any different to a non-student leaving Brighton. Should they too be denied the right to vote if they’re going to be living here less than the full four-year electoral cycle? I hope that sounds as ridiculous to everyone else as it does to me.”

Caroline Penn (who always speaks sense) writes: “I would guess most of the contributors got involved in politics at a relatively young age. If we can engage with students now, hopefully we will be encouraging a new generation of activists.  I genuinely feel a sense of sadness for students today. Cameron’s generation received grants, tax breaks for parent contributions and even housing benefit. I do question whether my friends & I would have gone to university today had fees been introduced. The recession of the early 90s and student loan debts were bad enough.  The impact of tuition fees may well change the type of student coming to Brighton. The natural conclusion of such a regressive policy may well led to a university education becoming the preserve of the rich. It is possible that the changing student demographic may well impact on city politics.”

Another regular commentator, Paul Perrin, opens up an interesting dimension on the student debate: “Students interests are likely to be quite distinct to those of other residents – how many have kids in schools here? elderly relatives dependent on care here? will be around to care about the outcome of planning decisions made to day that may happen in a decade? But then neither do many residents for all sorts of reasons – and they get to vote…  It is a flaw in our electoral system that diverse issues get batched up in to ill-fitting party manifestos – i.e. there is no reason some ones view on (say) public transport should dictate their view on almost any other subject – but you only vote for a clunky package of policies. Until that is fixed, we are stuck with what we have.  The biggest potential injustice in this is (of course) who ends up paying for the decisions made by those elected…  Then again the people who are students now are going to paying back the debts being run up now (the governments and their own) for the rest of their lives…”  Of course students, being younger than Paul and your Aged Blogger, will be living with the consequences of this government’s policies far longer than us.

Zombie recognises that the 40,000 students “certainly affect elections in Brighton.  I think it right that they do since they are here. What is a problem is possible multi voting if they have more than one residence. Up to the 70s business owners had a vote for the council separate from their residence and thus could vote twice. There were more than 1000 business voters in the then St Nicholas Ward alone. This democratic deficit was abolished for its unfairness. No-one should vote more than once even if legally registered for more than one place.”

Zombie points to a “domocratic deficit”: “A further problem arises if you get a high concentration of students tacked on to otherwise distinct residential areas(such as with H & S in Brighton). You can get a democratic deficit if high turnout at the Uni polling station overturns what would have ben the result in the residential areas (it happened this year). I would rather se a mini- Uni ward created with one elected member than that situation though the blame really lies at the foot of the boundary comissioners.”

The reality about students is that for three or four (or in some cases, more) years they are Brighton and Hove residents.  The Tories seem to have an issue with this (not Grizzly, though). It might be the case that with the trebling of tuition fees, after the backlash has subsided, students may well come from richer backgrounds, and they might be more Conservative in views. But I don’t think the Tories will ever be able to attract the university vote, and that the Greens will continue to capture the imagination of students who will continue to be more idealistic that my friend Paul Perrin or this Aged Blogger.

I’m off to do lines, 100 of them: “Students AFFECT elections, housing and jobs”, “Students AFFECT elections, housing and jobs”, “Students AFFECT elections, housing and jobs”, “Students AFFECT elections, ……”

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31 Responses

  1. I’m a student. I vote only in my registered ward. A sense of pride. And my labour candidate was useless at uni…

  2. Would it be churlish of me to point out that it should be “hypocrisy” in the second paragraph, not “hypocracy”?

    As for the idea of mini “university wards”, mooted by Zombie, I’m fairly sure they used to exist, didn’t they?

    I’m a bit mystified by people having a problem with the student section of the population. I can get my head around the “one person, one vote” arguments, but complaining that they unduly influence the elections seems bananas. I could make the same complaint that high house prices in my “home” area mean a high number of natural Tory voters, who distort the electorate. It would be just as bananas. You take the electorate as you find them, and if you can’t convince them, you need to look at why, not moan that the electorate are wrong.

    • Mathew,
      There used to be university parliamentary constituencies whose voters were graduates thereof until these were abolished in the early 1950s, presumably because their existence went against the one person one vote principle.,

      As for a Uni ward there are ones elsewhere(Lancaster?)but there has never been one in B & H. The Greens have rightly for housing reasons this week supported a planning application for 180 new housing units at Sussex, thus adding 180 voters to the Uni polling station. More halls at both universities at Falmer should create a situation where a new university ward is feasible. More voters there otherwise adds to a situation of town v gown if residential areas are outvoted by being attached.

      Boundary Commisssioners claim to use criteria for boundaries based on community. If you look at B & H that is nuts(Goldsmid runs from Seven Dials to beyond the old Goldstone Ground, H & S is Coldean, Bates,Hollingdean and the Uni).

      Students that are not equal citizens in B& H would be unthinkable. B & H is a young persons place. People of my age (65) if they do not like that can move out.
      But students should be integrated as part of communities, or where they are not as in the Uni pollijng station’s area be a distinct community of their own.

      • Well, Sussex Uni are planning an expansion of on-campus accomodation, so I certainly think that a Universities ward could be a possibility. The question is whether the Green administration would want to take such a self-limiting step. I have my doubts, but I certainly think it would be a good, progressive move.

      • I resent the suggest that Polling Stations had anything to do with halls of residence vote. Everybody voted for it.

        As it happens, and as I said, I was dismayed that the ecological standing of the buildings was far from good enough. It would be some consolation if the University’s next “masterplan” envisaged the fitting of panels to all those roofs. If universities are now meant to be in the business of coining it in, what better way to make a start on that.

    • Do you think there are any considerations regarding the fact student households/premises don’t pay any community charge? So will not be making that contribution towards paying for any services they may vote to support?

      • I’d say there is certainly a case to argue that students should have to pay some sort of community charge. I’d be provisionally (i.e. without having looked at it in any great detail) in favour of a reduced student rate of council tax, with the amount based on the individual student’s means (or potentially parental means, in the same vein as the calculation of student loans?).

  3. I have been reflecting, during the day, on an extraordinary internal Council e mail system in which thsi morning Tony Janio, a Councillor in Hangleton, asserted that I am not a Normal Person and am incomprehensible.

    I rather feel that the Polling Stations in Hove Town Hall and Hove Library, along with some of those elsewhere, made it clear that I can put a point or two across.

    Even so, as I did after the bizarre time when Cllr Smith challenged me to a duel, I have now realised that my time is best spent on the doorsteps and not in such fora as that Council internal system and such public ones as this, and this is my last post here.

    There’s work to be done. Four years can go by quickly.

    • If the email related in anyway to on-line activities I really think you should make a stand and make a point of it. Sure, don’t do it at the expense of other activities, but there are many politicians who seem to think the ‘political class’ should be remote, superior and aloof, and would be happy to bully others into being so too.

    • Chris – fair point about there being work to be done, but I hope that you will reconsider this being your last post. Paul Perrin’s point is a good one about the pressure that exists to conform to certain norms of behaviour in office – at the very least, this ought to be questioned, and you’d be a good person to do that.

      • Thanks, Clive, and I had indeed thought that Paul Perrin made a good point. What’s more, one of the Tories later today suggested that one should take it as a compliment to be insulted as Abnormal by Tony Janio.

        That Tory suggested that if one happens to tap the “reply all” button, there will be wild responses.

        I have always thought that the Tories go wrong by thinking that those who settle by the sea fit into some sort of orthodox inland nature. There is something about the shore that brings out maverick spirits.

        It’s all made me certain that the Greens will gain a Hangleton seat next time. The annual migratory figures are very interesting.

    • Don’t go Christopher. We need you.

  4. Councillor Janio’s colleague Dawn Barnett has been pursuing an interesting ‘attack dog’ line, according to yesterday’s Argus (so that’s a pretty big ‘according to’. as these things go).

    She has advised a group of travellers who have pitched up in her ward to make for Green-held wards, specifically Queens Park and Brunswick and Adelaide. She did so (according to Argus) on a pretence of friendship that was, by her own admission (as reported by the Argus), not genuine.

    The point she was trying to make was that apparently the Greens have said that travellers have to live somewhere. What exactly her alternative is to this statement of the obvious is she didn’t make clear.

    A week or so ago she was writing to the same local rag to complain about the Green councillors’ failure to attend prayers before the council meetings, as disrespectful of ‘tradition’.

    She says she is ‘not a particularly religious person’ but will do or say anything to get into the local rag and score cheap, nasty points against her political opponents.

    OK, I made the last bit of that up, but none of the rest of it (while repeating the health warning that this has all been culled from the Southampton Argus).

    • It is disappointing that someone would use the council’s internal email to make personal attacks on a fellow councillor. I hope you will treat it with the contempt it deserves Chris and continue to post.

      There has been much discussion in this blog on the affect (effect?) the Green have had on Labour. However, the Greens also took a large share of vote from the Tories. They have finally woken up to the threat several months too late and have resorted to typical “nasty party” tactics. It may play well with the core support, but as we all agree, our city is a bit different.

  5. The incidents you mention show the Tory party as the really Nasty Party-populist baiters of others especially minorities.

    • Absolutely not true that Tories are nasty party, especially to minorities. The Party is full of minorities and LGBT members etc and I have never come across any racist or homophobic comments.

      I am considered an ‘ethnic minority’ (although I find all this multiculturalism deeply patronising and divisive when I was born here in Brighton). I feel very comfortable with the Tory Party, especially the current modern, young, enlightened, inclusive Party . They understand the aspiration and work ethic of the immigrant and many of our voters are (whatever their colour, creed, race or sexual persuation) people who have small businesses- the typical immigrant.

      Travellers have a different lifestyle-their raison d’etre is to travel around and not settle in one place. Perhaps they should have designated sites (like campsites) where they can pitch their caravans. But it should not be at the expense of the amenity of their neighbours, who pay Council Tax. Perhaps the answer is for Travellers to pay some sort of campsite tax to cover the expense of maintaining them to local authorities.

      • What I’d like to know is how the stuff I’ve posted above squares with this ‘modern, young, enlightened, inclusive’ Conservative party that you write about. You’re a bit quiet on that.

        There is an awful lot of history that the party would prefer to forget – Enoch Powell, the Smethwick by-election of 1964, Thatcher’s ‘swamped by an alien tide’ speech, the 94 Tory MPs who voted to keep homosexuality criminalised and Section 28. I could go on.

        I’m not saying all Conservatives are prejudiced, but the list above is pretty inglorious.

  6. Several commentators on this blog (Matthew Dent and the Tory who rather oddly styles him/herself ‘asylum seeker’) seem to be getting close to the dangerous suggestion that only those who pay council tax should benefit from council services, and/or have the right to vote.

    So, I think I should point a few things out with regard to council tax, students and travellers. Firstly, those on a low income receive council tax benefit, which is a full or partial council tax rebate. Secondly, full-time students do not pay council tax, but neither are they eligible for benefits of any kind (unless they have children). If they were made to pay council tax, they would logically also have to be made eligible for benefits, and would therefore not pay council tax anyway. Part-time students (on courses where they are expected to study for under 16 hours per week) already have to pay council tax, and are also eligible for benefits.

    As for travellers, they also already have to pay council tax (if on a sufficient income), although this is of course sometimes hard to enforce if they move around a lot. Finally, I should point out that it is already a key Green Party policy to increase the number of official sites for travellers, something which politicians of other parties have unfortunately usually been opposed to.

    • The government expects students to pay their own tuition fees. So, in principle, why shouldn’t students pay their council tax?

      If university education is now considered a selfish act undertaken purely for personal gain why should local residents subsidise it when general taxpayers don’t?

    • Travellers only pay Council Tax and rent on ‘authorised’ sites. So I agree with the current administration, that we have to find more sites for the genuine travelling community.

      However, the Council should be sensitive in where these sites are located and Traveller children should be encouraged to go to school and engage with the wider community.

  7. Paul – as I just pointed out, council tax is only payable by those on a sufficient income. Full-time students are almost by definition not on a sufficient income, while part-time students, who have the opportunity to earn more, already have to pay council tax. So what exactly are you suggesting, that students should have to take out yet further loans to pay council tax?

    • Actually, this is what I was trying to get at. Council tax exemptions should, if council tax was to be paid by students, also apply. This would, obviously, put the vast majority of students beneath the threshold for paying, and would catch a very few whose income would be above it.

      That way, you’re making students exempt on the same basis as others, not simply due to being a student.

      • Green Dad, Matthew – I understand your points, I was drawing a distinction between those who want to work and those who choose not to work.

        Charging market tuition fees says that students are not a benefit to society, but are perusing their personal financial agendas – which says they are not a special case, but are choosing not to work, so undeserving of public support…

        I think I have made my point (fees were always a slippery slope – and are being ratcheted), and I understand your points.

  8. No, Baps, I am not being hypocritical. I have never broken the rule of one person, one vote. When I am resident in England, I only vote here. If I were in Belfast at the time of elections as a student, I would have voted there, but not at both.

  9. I wanted to return to the point raised about the new student accommodation that was granted permission last week at the Council Planning meeting.

    In the higher education sector, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) are requiring Universities to reduce their carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Continued funding for the University of Sussex will depend on achieving those aims and as someone working in the city in this field, I am aware that this is a major issue and that they are undertaking a great deal of work across their activities to hit their target. This will include looking very closely at whether they can fit solar panels on their buildings. So I would cut them some slack – I’m impressed with what is being achieved on campus, even though I’d be eager to see more!

    • If the targets are 2020 and 2050, then it would make most sense to do nothing until 2019 – and then nothing again until 2049.

      The latest technology will undoubtedly be better than anything currently available and there will be more experience in applying it.

      Students cannot be expected to have their tuition fees diverted away from their own education into generic green taxation – why should the burden fall particularly on them?

      • I have to say that is one of the most cynically depressing replies I’ve seen in a long time. As someone who has grappled with carbon reductions for several years in organisation’s I’ve worked in, I can promise you that getting emissions down is terribly difficult after the low hanging fruit has been picked. A lot of the time it means re-orientating a working culture and modifying individual behaviour – technological magic wands can’t achieve that and it is a terribly irresponsible individual who passes the buck until the last minute.

        And without moaning on about the catastrophic effects of climate change, I would point out that even government is signing up to reducing it’s emissions year on year. These targets allow Universities to gently weather the eventual storms that will occur when resource scarcity or prices hit us, by taking an incremental approach (much of which will reduce costs and waste which would otherwise be laid at the feet of students in even higher tuition fees).

      • Stephen I fail to see how it is cynical to want the best technology at the best price.

        You say “even government is signing up to reducing it’s emissions” I see nothing special in that – it is easy for government to sign up for anything, they can pay by simply taking the money from us. Meanwhile we in the private sector have to find ingenious new ways of creating wealth – to feed the governments insatiable appetite for taxes for it to share among its chosen ones.

        Any shocks over pricing will be due entirely to artificial manipulation of taxation – not to any inherent cost or scarcity of supply. It is already reported that 20% of domestic fuel bills are due entirely to ‘green taxes’. And as it is the poor who already pay the most for their fuel – they will be the ones most put out by this.

  10. Green Dad – What I personally think is that it should be entirely normal for people to enter adult life debt free – student loans are a bad thing and debt is evil.

    But what I am asking is – if university education is now to be considered a financial investment decision by the student (they are choosing not to be available for work now in the expectation of increased income later), on what basis does their liability end with tuition fees? If they pay for their educational services, why not for other public services?

    Having subsidised their living while they are studying shouldn’t local council tax payers get a kick back from their boosted incomes?

    By the way did you know the Student Loans Company has offices in Scotland employing several thousand people? Scotland, where only the English pay tuition fees… There should campaign to get that brought down south – would suit Brighton really well…

  11. The threatened strike in the public sector over pension changes is an opportunity for Labour to re-establish some campaigning credibility despite the government having based changes on the work of an ex Labour minister. It is also a reminder that local politics are in large measure a reflection and a part of something bigger.

    Students therefore are not the be all and end all of political life, even in Brighton.

    The TUSC votes in the 2011 council elections(about half of UKIPs where they stood) shows that public sector pay and conditions affects people significantly.
    At the General Election I helped the Lib Dems in Eastbourne. I had felt Labour couldn’t win in B & H and I didn’t want to help St. Caroline though I regret that Lib Dem ministers seem vociferously pro-Tory on pension changes.
    But Labour needs to be careful it is not just seen as the party for public sector workers. Owning up to complacency over financial services regulation before 2008 and mistakes thereafter(as well as lauding the succeses of intervention) would be a start. Creating a significantly different approach to the deficit as Ed Balls seems to be beginning to do will also help. Yet the government’s policy of separating retail and investment banking is definitely appropriate.

    We live in perilous times. People are going to be in their 40s before getting a home of their own(if at all). They will have to work if they can until they drop. They may lose their job.All this leaves a potential vacuum to fill unless parties committed to peaceful change and democracy can fill it. Hope and prayer may be on the cards!

  12. Are you still alive, Baps?

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