Many of our readers hadn’t voted before. Then they wiped out Theresa May’s majority
The editor who coordinated The Tab’s election coverage looks back
Most of the post-election commentary has focused on the Tories and Theresa May.
But ask someone under 25 what they think swung the campaign from a 20 point Tory lead to a result which wiped out their majority, and they will likely answer in a different way: Jeremy Corbyn.
A lot of our readers – students and young people across the UK – saw him as a positive agent for change. They liked his hopeful campaign. They voted in what looks like historic numbers. As we put it on Friday morning, it’s the youth wot won it.
I don’t have all the answers by any means. But as the campaign progressed, we and a few other sites with mainly young readers and writers began to see a different electorate, one that the Tory campaign and most of the press weren’t seeing.
A younger, more hopeful, more determined body of voters, many of whom hadn’t voted before and were about to wipe out the Tory parliamentary majority by doing so.
Our reporters across the country covered Corbyn enthusiastically.
While most newspaper columnists – even left-wing ones – wrote the Labour leader off as “unelectable” and “heading for wipe out”, we reported what we saw on the ground: huge turnouts at his rallies; teenagers singing “OH, JEREMY CORBYN” on nights out; student after student saying they were going to cast the first vote of their lives for Labour.
We truly realised the scale of what was happening when Corbyn went to Leeds for a rally in the city’s student mecca, Hyde Park.
In advance it looked like a fairly routine campaign stop. Then we went live on Facebook, and the scene was something out of the 1970s.
Students scaled lampposts and roofs to get a sight of the Labour leader.
Attendance topped out at 3,000 people. Thousands of people were engaging with our live stream and tagging their mates in the comments saying they were going to go along.
Newcastle’s pissing rain couldn’t deter 10,000 people from showing up to a similar event.
Corbyn’s supporters gloried in the contrast between these big rallies and Theresa May’s tiny, tightly controlled campaign stops.
One of them at the Newcastle event told us: “I heard one bloke tell his mate he’d been to a Theresa May rally down south and she didn’t even fill a theatre so to have Corbyn easily fill up in the entire Quayside says a lot.”
When we interviewed the Labour leader, the affability that so many people value in him was on show.
Q: What’s your party trick?
I have a fantastic memory for train routes and times.
Q: Which Harry Potter character do you think you’re most like?
Q: Chips with curry sauce or chips with gravy?
Cheesy chips. But if no cheese is around, I’d go for curry sauce.
Even Corbyn’s own MPs didn’t seem to understand the strength of his appeal to young voters. When The Tab Cardiff interviewed their local Labour candidate Jo Stevens, she was guarded about her leader.
“For the people of Cardiff Central, whether they’re fans of Jeremy Corbyn or they’re not fans of Jeremy Corbyn, it’s not Jeremy’s name on the ballot paper here on the 8th of June,” she told us.
And the ugly veracity with which his supporters attacked their opponents was evidence further.
Now the Conservatives turn to the DUP to prop up their minority. They are a party birthed by a group whose culture is to annually burn bonfires in the streets, and march through Belfast’s Catholic heartlands to provoke response.
They are openly against abortion and gay marriage. They think that Earth is 6,000 years old. And so young Northern Irish prods now prefer to vote Sinn Fein or Green.
England’s youth vote is galvanised, how do you think they feel about that prospect?