GE19: Where your student vote counts most

Students who live away from home during term time get a choice over where they vote – at home or at university. So, where in London will the student vote matter most?

There’s a General Election on December 12. And there’s some debate over whether the date of the election will lead to a drop in student voter participation as universties close for the Christmas break. But will this make a difference?

In short, it might.

Student marginals matter

Outside of London, well-organised student voter campaigns have bolstered candidates’ majorities, or entirely overturned the status quo. Just two years ago in Canterbury, students deposed Tory MP Sir Julian Brazier, who represented the seat for thirty years, and replaced him with Labour’s Rosie Duffield. The Tories put their losses down to 8,000 new voter registrations in the run-up to the election.

In Bristol West, the NUS also gave a nod to student voters: turnout was up from 72% to 77%. Labour MP Thangham Debbonaire increased his majority by a huge 30%. Cambridge too saw a massive jump in participation from 62% to 72%, and Daniel Zeichner’s majority similarly increased.

So, where are our student marginals in London?

Students protest Boris Johnson’s government in Bloomsbury

London’s student marginals

There are a few seats where the student vote could make or break the result.

Imperial College and the Royal College of Music are on Kensington’s doorstep. In 2017, Emma Dent Coad won the seat by just 20 votes. That’s a tiny majority: one of Imperial’s student halls is in the constituency and that has 96 beds. On this loose comparison alone, an organised student vote campaign could really swing Kensingon. And if neither Labour nor the Conservatives take your fancy, this seat is becoming a three-horse race; Tory defector Sam Gyimah is standing for the Liberal Democrats, and he thinks that he’s in with a chance of winning.

The same can be said for Roehampton students. Putney MP Justine Greening stood down: there’s a clean slate. That means that Labour has a real chance of winning the seat (they were only 1500 votes away in 2017). Only next door, in Richmond Park, the Tories are tussling the Liberal Democrats for pole position: two years ago, there were just 45 votes in it. If you’re a student in either constituency, your vote will make a real difference.

In Uxbridge and South Ruislip, only 5034 votes separated the Tories – that’s Boris Johnson – from the Labour candidate. Brunel boasts that they have nearly 10,000 students. Could students unseat the sitting Prime Minister for the first time ever?

And lastly, if you live near Middlesex University, Hendon is the fourth-most marginal seat in London. With just over 1000 votes between the Tories and Labour in 2017, and with over 23,000 students at Middlesex, Hendon is easily another one to watch this winter.

An anti-Johnson protest outside Senate House last July

London’s top marginals

Your student vote will count most in constituencies which sit at a tipping point. London’s top ten marginals are (from most-least marginal):

  1. Kensington
  2. Richmond Park
  3. Chipping Barnet
  4. Hendon
  5. Carshalton and Wallington
  6. Finchley and Golder’s Green
  7. Putney
  8. Harrow East
  9. Battersea
  10. Chingford and Woodford

You can register to vote online. If you’re a student, you can register at both your home and university addresses, but you can only vote once. If you’re going to be away from university or home on December 12, you can also register for a postal vote using the online form. The deadline to register is November 26.

Photo credits: author.

Will Durrant is London Student’s Features Editor.


Will is London Student's Features Editor (2019-20). He does a history degree at SOAS, and you can find him hiding in a library around Bloomsbury.

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