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York gears up for Christmas general election

With York Central likely to be a comfortable Labour hold, the real fight has begun between the three main parties for York Outer.

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Image Credit: Patrick O'Donnell

FOR THE THIRD time in just four years, Britain is set to head to the polls for a general election on Thursday 12 December 2019. It will be joined by thousands of students from across York, many of whom will be voting for the first time.

The election has been called by Boris Johnson in the midst of Parliamentary deadlock, which saw MPs divided over whether to pass the revised Withdrawal Agreement, hold a second referendum over Britain’s membership of the European Union, or for a minority – to leave without a deal.

With the Conservatives seeking a mandate to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and leave by 31 January 2020, the Labour Party proposes an entirely new deal, safeguarding worker’s rights and environmental protections which would then be put to a People’s Vote.

The Liberal Democrats pledge to revoke Article 50 outright if they are able to secure a majority in Parliament, while the Brexit Party are campaigning to leave the EU without a deal. Nigel Farage has now pledged an electoral pact agreeing not to run in seats currently held by the Conservatives.

Although the Brexit debate will play a key role during the election campaign, key issues around funding for the NHS, police and education are high on the agenda for the main parties, with both Labour and the Conservatives outlining their ambitious spending pledges.

Locally, the debate in York is set to focus on housing affordability, jobs and climate change, while anxieties about fracking on the outskirts of the city remain high. Brexit is undoubtedly a key area of concern for many York voters, in a city which voted nearly 60 per cent to Remain in the EU Referendum.

York has two Parliamentary constituencies, York Central and York Outer, which both elected a Labour and Conservative MP respectively in the 2017 General Election.

Rachael Maskell was elected for a second time in 2017 as the Labour MP for York Central and holds an 18,000 majority – making it one of the strongest safe seats in Yorkshire. The constituency covers York city centre, as well as popular student areas such as Fulford and Tang Hall, meaning most second and third year students are likely to live in York Central.

With the result in York Central likely to be a comfortable Labour hold, the real fight has begun between the three main parties for York Outer.

York Outer is currently held by Julian Sturdy with a smaller majority of 8,000 votes. As well as the surrounding suburbs and villages of York, both Heslington East and West campuses fall under this area, meaning students living on campus could sway the result of the election.

The Liberal Democrats have selected the leader of City of York Council, Keith Aspden, and have entered into an electoral pact with the Green Party, forming a ‘Remain Alliance’ in an attempt to capture York’s large student and Remain vote.

However, the 2017 General Election saw the Liberal Democrats in third place with just 6,000 votes. Completing the candidate list for York Outer is Labour’s Anna Perrett with a commitment to greater investment in the NHS, transport infrastructure, and a final say on the Brexit deal.

Both must overcome Sturdy’s 8,000 strong majority, who backs Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement, as well as protecting York’s green belt and increasing rural connectivity.

At this early stage of the election campaign, it is not clear which party is most likely to win a majority, although Britain Elects data forecasts the Conservatives with 37 per cent - ten points ahead of Labour. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are on 16 per cent, with the Brexit Party down to 10 per cent.

Betting markets’ predictions of Conservative success skyrocketed after Farage’s commitment to not standing in Tory seats, indicating huge public confidence in a Conservative election campaign benefiting from the move. It remains to be seen whether an equally momentous ‘Remain Alliance’ is also possible.

The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday 26 November. With polling day falling within York’s Christmas holidays, students can register to vote at both their home and university addresses, but they can only vote in one place.

The Guardian’s Tactical Voting Guide shows where students’ votes will be most effective. You can find the whole thing at nouse.co.uk/studentvoteguide

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