Education and cost of living top priorities for Nottingham's first time voters ahead of general election

With polling stations open from 7am tomorrow morning [Thursday July 4], many voters will be going to the ballot box for the first time. More than 2.9 million voter registration applications were made after the election was called, and a quarter of these were people aged under 25.

We have been asking young people voting for the first time what they think about the election and our leaders as part of our 5000 voices project. Hannah, 18, has just finished her A-Levels at Bluecoat Sixth Form. She is intending to attend university in Scotland next year. For Hannah, the most important issue is education.

She said: “My biggest issue is education, and particularly secondary education. Things like the curriculum… I guess standards of schools, and teaching staff… the fact that teaching staff are not supported as well as they could be.”

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Hinna Salim, 18, is also a Bluecoat Sixth Form student, hoping to attend university next year. For Hinna, the cost-of-living crisis is critical, particularly for young people.

She said: “I know a lot of people at uni in their first or second years, and they seem to be really struggling with rent and things, so that’s also concerning.”

Peter Jones, 21, is a university student in Nottingham. He believes public infrastructure is a key issue, with many services seeming to be crumbling.

He said: “Roads, transport, everything is underdeveloped. Driving to work is hard because the roads are so poor. And the cost of transport and cost of living generally is making it hard to live here. It’s cheaper to catch a flight than a train.”

There seemed to be a shared negative view of the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The problem of attracting younger voters nationwide has been a long-term issue for the Conservative Party, and the young people of Nottingham are no different.

Hannah, 18, believes the PM has become overwhelmed and lost in the campaign. Hinna, 18, holds a similar view.

She said: “I definitely think that he is very intelligent, but I think that he has kind of lost himself in the campaign, and it is showing that he is in the deep end now. His nerves about the election are really showing.”

Jolene Klein is a 22-year-old charity worker living in Nottingham. She admits she is not Mr Sunak’s biggest fan.

She added: “I don’t think he’s done an awful lot for the country. The background he is from makes it hard for him to empathise with the average person here in the UK.”

There isn’t an overwhelming support for Starmer personally, however the view is shared amongst these first-time voters that he would likely make a better Prime Minister than Rishi Sunak. Hannah said: “I think maybe he’s not used all the skills he could have … he talks about being a lawyer quite a lot, but maybe that’s not come across as well as it could have.

“I would say he seems more competent than the current Prime Minister.” Jolene said she believed the Labour Party as a whole is the best option for the UK.

She added: “I think they have more of an interest in the people.” In a similar sense to Rishi Sunak, Hinna believes Sir Keir’s personality has become lost in the campaign.

She said: “He seems very vague, and he doesn’t seem so sure of himself. I think he doesn’t do his party justice necessarily when it comes to explaining policies. I don’t think he’s addressing things from the right point of view.”

With the campaign in its final week, some voters have said they've changed their mind due to the voters if anything has happened over the course of the campaign that has changed their minds on how to vote.

Peter said: “Yes. I was initially looking at Labour. With Corbyn, his stance on students resonated. Now, with things much more towards the right, I’m not sure who to vote for.”

Hinna admitted that her views prior to the election campaigns had actually been reinforced rather than changed. She said: “I think I’m looking at minor parties, just as I was before. Simply because during the campaign, neither of the major parties have shone out to me or justified why they should have my vote. I think minor parties have done a better job of that.”

Finally, we ask: “What are the important issues that haven’t been addressed by the political parties in this election campaign?”

Hannah said she believed the fallout of Brexit hasn’t been discussed enough. She added: “I would also say women’s rights, you know the Conservatives are suggesting that we’ll leave the European Court of Human Rights … and the impact that could have on all sort of minority rights … I think is dangerous.”

Hinna added that she believes the parties have been silent on the issues facing young people. She remarked: “During the TV debates and everything, young people are always asking: what are you going to do for us? And I don’t think I’ve ever heard an answer that satisfies me.

The General Election takes place tomorrow (Thursday, July 4), with polling stations open from 7am until 10pm.