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, ……”

Students effect elections, housing and jobs

Since the local elections there has been much comment about the influence of students on the election. In wards like Hollingdean and Stanmer, the Greens were able to organise the student vote, winning two seats from Labour.

Some have commented that it isn’t right that students who are temporary residents in the City can vote in their home town and in Brighton and Hove. In particular some say that it is wrong that the student vote in 2011 will effect how the City is run well after this generation of students have moved on.

My view is that a lively student population enriches the City, and of course they should be allowed to vote. Part of the problem for the old parties is that they have neglected student voters for many years. Caroline Lucas (thanks to the efforts of Allie Cannell) was able to draw on the student vote, ensuring her election.

Nancy Platts, in an interesting post on the blog Southern Front, comments that it is Labour’s lack of vision damaged her electoral chances against Caroline Lucas: “Brighton is a university town with a history of political activism, especially at Sussex University. Student numbers can swing an election in Brighton and tuition fees were a gift to the Greens. How hard can it be to decide where to place your cross on election day when there are three political positions presented; higher tuition fees from the Tories, a free university education from the Greens or, well, er…a ‘review’ from Labour. Did we forget how to do politics – why would any student vote for a review? The Greens consistently targeted the student vote and increased turnout from the universities.” Her post is well worth a read.

Caroline Penn says that she has “nothing against students. I’m sure most of us here were students once. It’s wrong to blame them as you say for many of the issues that have arisen. While friends have had issues with student parties, a more responsible landlord (and better university liaison) should deal with that.”

Craig Turton comments on the impact of students on the local employment market: “Between Brighton and Sussex universities we have one of the largest rates of post graduate student settlement anywhere outside of London but in a relatively small geographical area. This can be beneficial for employers (ie; a virtually permanent pool of highly educated workers) but can equally create problems (ie; competition from graduates leaves local people with few or no educational qualifications at a disadvantage even for jobs not requiring a degree. Without wishing to appear facetious, we probably have the most over qualified call centre workers and bar staff in England).”

Students are a fact of life, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Where have I heard that before? They student body causes problems, enriches our community, puts huge pressure on housing, and creates unfair competition in the jobs market. But Brighton wouldn’t be Brighton without the students. If you don’t like them, move to Worthing!