A quick look at various University of Nottingham (UoN) Facebook pages will tell you that 53 students are part of the University’s Liberal Youth, 271 are members or supporters of Labour, and the Tories have a whopping 449 members on their Facebook page. But everybody knows that Facebook pages are not representative – what if some of these figures are old students who have left, people who have interest in politics but are not active supporters of any party, or simply wrong? Indeed, most people (one can imagine) wouldn’t want to have their political views so easily available in the public domain, even in the relatively carefree university setting.

Indeed, a 2015 study by the High Fliers found that at UoN, the Conservatives and Labour are the two most popular parties, both with 31% of supporters, while the Green Party trails just behind at 29%, the Lib Dems have a very appropriate 6% (aw), and UKIP makes up the final 1%. But what about the other parties? Is 1% of UoN really UKIP supporters? Are only 1% of UoN UKIP supporters?

Once again, despite the safety net of anonymity, some people aren’t always honest when they are being asked about their political leanings. High Fliers’ survey is not necessarily wrong; we just always need to be cautious when looking at statistics of political support.

One thing that cannot be denied is that Nottingham, like many other university cities, has a Labour council. Southampton, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester, as well as many others, fall under this red umbrella, too – but why are so many towns with a significant student population Labour?

“Another thing to consider is that for a long time Labour has been seen as a ‘Tory Lite’ option”

As various great orators including the playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “If you are not a Socialist by the time you are 25, you have no heart. If you are not a Conservative by the time you are 35, you have no head.” Indeed, the BBC found that under-35s tend to vote Labour, and over-35s tend to vote Conservative. Perhaps against-the-grain Socialism is popular with a rebellious student youth, or perhaps the prospect of being in debt and potentially unable to find a job with a decent wage speaks volumes about how students feel they are represented by the Conservative government.

University has always been a place to explore alternative political ideas, and so it is perhaps surprising that the two most popular parties at university just happen to be the two most popular parties nationally. That’s representation.

Another thing to consider is that for a long time Labour has been seen as a ‘Tory Lite’ option, with policies fundamentally similar to those of the Conservatives. Now that the big Socialist JC is in charge, it will be interesting to see how political allegiances shift in our university. After all, a friend of mine from Nottingham Trent once told me, “Uni Of is the uni where all the rich kids go”. Will we see more students switching to the Conservatives? Or more students realising that, now that Labour is different, it is perhaps time we have a Labour government in charge?

Political allegiances shift all the time, and we don’t know how the stats are going to look at the next general election, in 2020. It all depends on how the Tories do in this run. However, whatever changes, one thing’s for sure – politics will always have a place at university, and for the next three years we’ll be caught up in so many political discussions and arguments that many of us are likely to change our viewpoint. As for now, I’m off to the pub – I think my friend is bringing some of his PolSoc mates…

Matteo Everett

Image: Misko via Flickr

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