The momentum of the General Election campaign as it narrows in the final two days was scrutinised during a two-hour Be The Change event at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) today.
A panel of DMU academics focused on several key aspects of the campaign and answered questions from an audience of staff and students.
The discussion, held inside the Leicester Castle Business School, is the third Be The Change event held by DMU leading up to Thursday’s General Election.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard chaired the discussion. On the panel alongside him were Dr Sally Ruane (Deputy Director Health Policy Research Unit), Jonathan Davies (Professor of Critical Policy Studies and Director of the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity), Chris Goldsmith (Senior Lecturer in International Relations) and Alistair Jones (Principal Lecturer in Politics and Public Policy).
They broadly felt Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had enjoyed a successful campaign while Prime Minister Theresa May had seen the ‘gloss’ taken off her leadership, partly following the responses to the London Bridge terrorism attack.
“For me, she has not managed to blossom at this final stage as a leader in the way she had hoped,” said Dr Ruane.
Students in the audience were divided on whether there will be a high turnout in Thursday’s General Election among the under-30s generation, something which the panel identified might swing the result towards Labour gaining a hung Parliament.
Mr Jones believes Thursday’s weather may well affect the turnout, as well as which party proves better organised at mobilising its supporters at grassroots level in certain key constituencies.
Labour’s pledge to earmark £11.2 billion to fund the axing of the university tuition fees system caused some debate, including from DMU officers who questioned how it could be actioned within the timeframe.
Mr Goldsmith said: “I’ve never really been in favour of tuition fees. I’ve seen it as a tax on learning. But for some institutions this pledge could mean significant changes, including in the approach to student recruitment.
“Whether Labour could deliver such a policy by September, I am sceptical.”
Forecasting a Tory majority of 55, Professor Shellard wound up the Be The Change 3 event by challenging the rest of the panel, and the audience, to predict the General Election outcome.
Mr Jones said the higher the turnout the closer it will be to a hung Parliament and forecast a Tory majority of only 10 to 20 seats. He suggested that would be seen by the Tories as a failure and might lead them to “put the knife in” on the Prime Minister.
Dr Ruane agreed Mrs May’s majority might be limited to several dozen seats but Mr Goldsmith, who highlighted significant regional variances as creating high unpredictability, believes she will increase her majority but only to 40, not the landslide once predicted.
Professor Davies urged people to continue to be politically active right until polling day, saying the pollsters could still be wrong, and opted for a hung Parliament.
Afterwards Mr Jones added: “The engagement of the audience was brilliant, particularly from the students, and they made some profound statements.
“It was great to see how interested they were in politics even though most of the audience were not politics students.
“It shows how Be The Change has a been a very good concept and something which we can build on in the future.
“As far as the election is concerned, what it boils down to is there are 650 individual elections going on around the country which makes it very difficult to predict overall.”
Posted on Tuesday 6th June 2017