In an election full of nasty shocks for the UK’s governing Conservative Party, none was more surprising than its first defeat in Canterbury since the constituency was created in 1918.
But the story behind the swing to the opposition Labour Party in this quiet corner of England, forever associated with The Canterbury Tales of Middle Ages poet Geoffrey Chaucer, helps explain why the Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority.
Young voters in the historic cathedral and university city appear, like elsewhere, to have taken revenge on Prime Minister Theresa May over what they see as her pursuit of a hard Brexit — a clean break from the European Union’s single market.
“I think it’s a fantastic thing for Britain. I think the mandate for a hard Brexit has disappeared, and I think that is the most important thing to take away from last night,” said English Literature student Alex Solo.
Many turned in frustration in Thursday’s election to the opposition Labour Party which, led by veteran leftist Jeremy Corbyn, favours a “softer” Brexit and has promised an end to austerity and university tuition fees.Edwards Morgan-Jones, Senior Lecturer at Kent University:
“The electorate really expanded in the constituency,” said Edwards Morgan-Jones, Senior Lecturer at Kent University.
“So we had 10 percent more voters than in 2015 and those voters were mainly younger voters and they were really attracted by Labour’s promise to abolish tuition fees.”
Conservative Julian Brazier lost the seat he had held for three decades to Labour’s Rosie Duffield — by 187 votes. He had won the previous election by a huge margin, with 42.9 percent of votes to Labour’s 24.5 percent.
“Everyone who voted Labour did an excellent job. The youth vote was incredible. I’m ecstatic,” said 19-year-old Toby French, who is studying politics and international relations at the University of Kent, which has a Canterbury campus.
He had initially planned to vote Conservative but said he was put off by May’s Brexit plans, what he saw as the party’s arrogance and a feeling he was being taken for granted.
An historic miscalculation by Mrs May. Her mandate destroyed. Her right to open BREXIT negotiations in 10 days time seriously in question.— Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) June 9, 2017
Did the anti-British traitor Teresa May purposefully create this mess in order to derail Brexit? Remember, she campaigned for Remain! pic.twitter.com/ttIWdDMFNR— Mark Collett (@MarkACollett) June 9, 2017