Throughout my time on campus, I’ve consistently been told that students and young people are politically apathetic; that they simply don’t care. Reports suggesting youth turnout of around 70%, not only shows that they do care but also that political parties would be foolish to ignore the needs and concerns of young people.
This high turnout, driven partly by attractive policies including abolishing tuition fees, played a big role in modest Labour gains from the Tories and huge increases in safe seat majorities. Yet with a few more seats, Jeremy Corbyn could have been within touching distance of being first to attempt to pass a Queen’s Speech.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many younger Jewish voters shared the concerns of their communities in Finchley & Golders Green and Hendon, where people were apparently unwilling to back a party led by Jeremy Corbyn. Concerns that still remain about Corbyn’s inability to properly handle issues of antisemitism within his party and his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as campus-specific incidents like allegations of antisemitism in the Oxford University Labour Club in February 2015. Whereas previously young Jews may have been less likely to prioritise antisemitism and parties’ positions on Israel-Palestine, this time it was at the front of many of their minds as they headed to the ballot box.
However, it’s disingenuous to say that antisemitism or Israel-Palestine were the only factors influencing the votes of Jewish students. A pre-election poll of 18-24 year olds placed the NHS (54%) as the most important issue for young people, followed by Brexit (26%), education (22%) and tuition fees (22%). Young people largely voting Remain. Surveys that indicated poor support for Labour amongst the Jewish community still found that support was significantly higher within younger demographics.
For young Jews, the dilemmas will continue. Many still feel uncomfortable with the Labour Party in its current form, as they believe it persists in not fully addressing antisemitism within its ranks. Plenty do not trust the Conservatives on Brexit, the NHS and our economy. Almost all are fed up after seven years of divisiveness and fear-driven politics from too many parties and politicians.
For young people more generally, this should only be the start. There can be no excuse for failing to make your voice heard. We are a force to be reckoned with and it’s time our political parties recognised that. The sooner they do, the sooner we’ll see a society that takes on antisemitism and all prejudice without excuses or equivocation, empowers young people, and allows them to prosper regardless of who you are or where you come from.