Young people have dropped off the electoral register in their masses. Photo: Getty
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Over 200,000 young people have fallen off the electoral register: time to get them back

It's National Voter Registration Day today and time for the young people hit by the system changes to sign up.

If you’re a parent or grandparent of someone who recently turned 18, or is just about to, you’ll want them to have their say in the future of the country.

Today, make sure they get their right to vote.

Today is National Voter Registration Day, pioneered by the brilliant Bite the Ballot. When the Tories are persistently attacking young people but the number of 18-year-olds registered to vote has almost halved, it’s time to take action.

Young people have dropped off the electoral register in their masses – not by choice, but because the rules have changed. New rules mean parents can’t register their children to vote, while universities and colleges can’t register students in halls of residence. In just one year, over 200,000 young people have disappeared from the electoral register.

That’s a terrifying number. It’s a city the size of Southampton, all left without a vote.

It’s not just 18-year-olds, either. The Electoral Commission says three in 10 people under 25 are missing from the electoral register. Their voices won’t be heard, whatever they have to say.

Often, the way politicians try to get young people involved in politics is to talk about "youth issues". Today, I want to try something different.

In my work as shadow minister for care and older people, I meet lots of young people who really worry about their grandparents or aunts and uncles, and who go out of their way to help out. Just as older people are concerned about younger family members getting a good education, finding a home and getting a decent job, young people want to know that their relatives are being well looked after if they’re sick or frail – be that in their own homes, in a care home or in hospital.

I know many young people do their best to help out with their elderly relatives when they can. So on National Voter Registration Day, if there’s a young person in your family who does something caring, whether it’s a bit of help with chores, volunteering, helping you sort out paperwork, or just phoning for a chat, do something caring for them.

Tell them to get on the computer or get their smartphone out and register to vote here.

It’ll only take five minutes and all they need is their name, address, and National Insurance number. They should have got their NI number at 16, but if they’ve lost or forgotten it, then get them to call 0300 200 3502 to find it.

It’s not difficult to do. Since I started my voter registration campaign in the New Year, I’ve been working with older family members across the country to get their younger relatives online and registering. Thanks to the work of my colleague Ivan Lewis, we’ve registered thousands of young people to vote.

Get a relative on the register today. I doubt you’ll be thanked for keeping on about it, but you’ll have given someone you care about a voice in how our country is run.

Tens of thousands of young people give up their time to help others.

Today, let’s give them a say in their future.

Liz Kendall is the MP for Leicester West and shadow minister for care and older people

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.