London Student

Students could prove vital in defending one of the UK’s most marginal Labour seats

The student vote alone could defend or overturn a small Labour majority in a West London constituency in the Snap General Election, figures suggest.

In the ultra-marginal seat of Ealing Central and Acton, students from Imperial College London outnumber Labour MP Rupa Huq’s small majority of 274 votes.

The College’s figures show that in 2015, over 300 students from the university lived in the constituency, which is the seventh most marginal in the UK.

With the opening of new student accommodation in Woodward Hall, North Acton, in late 2015, this number is set to have risen significantly since Imperial’s calculations at the time of the last general election. There are up to 690 beds available in the new residence.

Polling shows that Ukip voters across the country are turning to the Conservatives in large numbers for the June 8 General Election. In Ealing Central and Acton, 1,926 votes were cast for Ukip in 2015, meaning that Huq could lose her seat if these voters switch to Tory candidate Joy Morrissey.

HEPI polling shows that 55% of students intend to vote Labour in the upcoming poll. Should they turn out for Huq in these kinds of numbers it could go a long way to securing her seat.

These figures follow number-crunching by Novara Media suggesting that 32 of Labour’s 57 marginal seats can be held if the party can hold position and improve turnout among 18-25-year-olds. This includes Ealing Central and Acton, as well as Wes Streeting’s Ilford North and Karen Buck’s Westminster North constituencies.

The Novara article also suggests that 12 marginally-held Conservative seats could fall to Labour or the Liberal Democrats if the youth vote is strong enough.

In Ealing Central and Acton, the number of students eligible to vote in the area may turn out not to have a huge effect on the result. Many Imperial College London students living in the constituency will not be eligible to vote; 67% of Imperial’s new admissions came from outside the UK in 2015-16. Equally, a poll earlier this month showed that only 25% of students were planning to vote in their university constituency.

Imperial students campaign for Rupa Huq. Pic: Tom Rivlin

However Abhijay Sood, the incoming chair of Imperial College Labour, explained how the society is campaigning in the constituency, meaning students will impact politics in the area in more ways than just voting.

He said: “In Ealing Central and Acton, we’ve been driving voter registration and door knocking to get Rupa Huq re-elected. The choice in Acton is between an American pro-Brexit Tory and a PhD lecturer from the local area, who campaigned heavily to remain. The nature of our electoral system means third parties don’t have a chance.”

Voter registration closes at 11.59pm on Monday, 22 May 2017, and takes five minutes. Register now at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

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