Student vote may win seats

February 11, 2005

The Liberal Democrats have issued a "hitlist" of university-dominated constituencies where the student vote alone could win them Parliamentary seats in the expected May general election.

The party claims that Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary and former Education Secretary who introduced top-up fees, and Richard Caborn, the Minister for Sport, are vulnerable to a groundswell of student support for the Lib Dems.

A May election, when students are more likely to vote in their university towns, could also help the party unseat Oliver Letwin, the Conservative Shadow Chancellor, and Tim Collins, Shadow Education Secretary.

Launching the party's "Winning the student vote" campaign at the London School of Economics last week, David Rendel, the higher education spokesman, said he had "the easiest job in British politics", promoting the party's policy to scrap all tuition fees, paid for through an increase in the top rate of income tax.

The Times Higher 's survey of 1,000 students last month gave the Lib Dems 31 per cent of the student vote, compared with 28 per cent for Labour and 16 per cent for the Tories. A Unite/MORI poll put the party at 34 per cent.

Top of the Lib Dems' list of most vulnerable Labour MPs is Valerie Davey, a member of the Commons Education and Skills Select Committee. There are an estimated 19,709 students in the Bristol West constituency, where Ms Davey has a 4,426 majority.

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

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