Editorial: Don’t Be Held Electoral Hostage on July 4

When the choice at this general election is between the Tories and the Red Tories, The Cheese Grater believes that students should vote for an independent or third-party candidate, or better yet, draw a cock and balls on their ballot.


History will remember this Conservative government for its chaos, corruption, and utter contempt for the British people. To leave a country in an objectively worse state after 14 years in power is a truly unforgivable crime, and any sane person would agree that we cannot get rid of them quickly enough. But isn’t it a strange phenomenon that almost no one seems to be passionate or excited about a Labour government, despite the polls predicting a landslide victory months before the election was even announced?

The Labour leader Keir Starmer tells us that ‘Change will only happen if you vote for it.’ And yet, one would be hard-pressed to find a substantive political difference between the two parties, especially when Tory defectors such as Natalie Elphicke are being welcomed with open arms, while Starmer’s relentless purge of the Labour left continues. Nor does it help his case that both parties have been jointly accused by the Institute of Fiscal Studies of a ‘conspiracy of silence’ over tax and public spending. ‘Neither is really addressing the big problems that they’ll face if they win the election,’ said the Director of the IFS Paul Johnson. Indeed, one can hardly expect real change when Labour’s entire pitch is that they will spend almost no money.

Voters should also be under no illusion about the man we’re putting into Downing Street after this Thursday: Sir Keir is an uninspiring, spineless opportunist, who was too afraid to follow through on any of the bold ideas that he had previously proposed, but too happy to throw his friends and colleagues under the bus to win an election. The problem with the Labour leader is that no one really knows what he believes in. Perhaps he’s not too sure himself.

This sad state of affairs places us students – a leading demographic of progressive voices in the UK – in an impossible position. Britain needs Labour to win. Not because it deserves to, but because this country literally cannot afford another five years under the Tories. Starmer knows full well that many young voters are unhappy with his unambitious offering. But he also knows that our worst fear is waking up on Friday to the news that Rishi Sunak is still Prime Minister. Make no mistake that we are being held electoral hostage by a man who is pledging the bare minimum and knows he can get away with it, because ‘the bare minimum’ is something the Conservatives have consistently failed to provide for the past 14 years.

Therefore, in the handful of unfortunate constituencies where the polls are on a knife edge between Labour and the Conservatives, students may be forced to set aside their strong reservations about the Labour leader and lend their support, with the sole objective of putting a conclusive end to the Tories’ long spell in power. In those even more unfortunate constituencies that are leaning towards Reform, the moral imperative to vote Labour there becomes even more stringent. If you can vote in one of these constituencies, you should. After all, the threat of Nigel Farage’s band of fascists is far greater than a mediocre centrist lawyer, whose biggest crime is being boring.

However, for the rest of us in a Labour constituency or a marginal Tory seat predicted to turn heavily red, there really is no good reason why we ought to settle for less when it is clear that Labour is going to win anyway. To put things in perspective, pollsters are predicting a 97% probability of a Labour majority. In these cases, students can, and – The Cheese Grater believes – should, choose to support a more inspiring and principled independent or third-party candidate, or best of all yet (since when else would you get to do this?), draw a massive cock and balls across your ballot.

Some readers may be understandably dismayed at our refusal to tactically endorse the Labour Party as the best chance of wiping the Conservatives from Britain’s electoral map. We argue, however, that this cannot come at the cost of emboldening Starmer and the Labour right. A Labour ‘supermajority’ led by a cabinet of centrists and Blairites, as Tory fearmongers warn, would indeed be a worrying sign for British democracy.

Ultimately, the point of protest voting is not to win but to send a message. Because our electoral system unfairly favours pluralities over majorities, it is almost a statistical inevitability that Labour will win a landslide regardless of which way you personally decide to vote. But this is also why students must turn up to the polling stations this Thursday, because undercutting Labour’s vote share by protest voting sends a clear message to Keir Starmer that he cannot take our support for granted, especially not when his party is consciously choosing to maintain a broken status quo. It also means you can sleep well on Thursday night knowing you did not vote to put a war crime sympathiser in power.

So, while it might not matter whether you vote independent, Green, Liberal Democrat, or even spoil your ballot come Thursday, a sufficiently significant loss of the student vote – provided we turn up to vote in the first place – will give Keir Starmer at least some reason to reevaluate his excessively cautious approach once he starts governing. After 14 years of Tory misrule, Britain deserves more change than the colour of the party in charge. Sir Keir knows this as well as we do. Don’t be held electoral hostage on 4 July and draw a cock and balls on your ballot paper.