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Fuming over Brexit, youth help swing UK vote

  • Published at 12:45 pm June 9th, 2017
Fuming over Brexit, youth help swing UK vote

A surge in youth turnout fuelled by last year's shock Brexit vote played a pivotal role in stripping British Prime Minister Theresa May of her parliamentary majority, observers said Friday.

An energising campaign by Labour's firebrand leader Jeremy Corbyn and simmering anger among many voters over uncertain plans to leave the European Union sent young Britons streaming to the ballot box.

Corbyn, a 68-year-old staunch leftist, harnessed popular anti-establishment sentiment to lead Labour to beat expectations and gain an estimated 29 seats in the House of Commons.

After a campaign marked by rallies that had the buoyant mood of music festivals, Corbyn said his success was built on hope for change.

"Politics isn't going back into the box where it was before," he told cheering supporters.

"What's happened is people have said they've had quite enough of austerity politics... and not giving our young people a chance they deserve in our society."

Some 56% of under-35s voted, according to an exit poll for NME magazine, which recently splashed Corbyn's face across its cover.

They showed overwhelming support for Labour, at 60%, with 36% of them being first-time voters, according to the survey among 1,354 voters.

Half cited Brexit as the "main factor" in their decision to cast a ballot.

While an official breakdown of voting patterns was still outstanding, official data showed a spike in both youth registrations ahead of the vote as well as turnout in districts with large numbers of younger voters on election day.

By contrast, only 45% of British voters aged 18 to 34 voted in 2015, compared to 84% of over-55s, which the OECD has called the biggest gap in the Western world. A year later, a failure to drum up the youth vote was blamed for turning the Brexit referendum in Leave's favour.

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