The UK Politics of Death

Article by Daniel Clemence

Does politics go with Halloween? For most people outside of politics, there would be sighs of despair. However, there are major considerations about such a claim. The real political analysis of Halloween wouldn’t be the political allegiances of trick-or-treaters (they are too young to vote) but rather a macabre subject: death.  Which political party does the grim reaper favour? Is the grim reaper an eternal Tory or perhaps a fiery-red Labourite?

There is a way to analyse the effect of mortality rates on UK elections. The way we do this is by looking at the projected mortality rate given by the ONS in the UK over a 5-year period. This can be done by looking at the death rate at the given year and multiplying it by 5, so it can give the potential effect in a UK general election. Given that around 80% of deaths are above the ages of 60, it is, therefore, looking at these ages. When calculating, from 2017 election statistics, it is possible to predict how these voters would have voted in the 2017 election and therefore calculate the potential voter loss in 2022. In 2016, there were 443,000 people who died over the age of 60. If the mortality rate stayed the same for over 60s for a five-year period, we could project around 2,350,000 million people would die. Voters older than 60 had a turnout of around 80.3% in the 2017 general election, meaning roughly 1,892,000 voters would have died in a 5 year period. Given the breakdown of voters, around 63% of voters aged over 60 voted Conservative, so it is possible to project that over a five-year period, 1,191,000 Conservative voters would have died. In contrast to this, given that only 23% of over 60s voted Labour at the last general election, around 435,000 Labour voters would have died also.

What is the electoral effect of the grim reaper? Assuming that there are no new voters in a 5-year period, the Labour party’s votes would reduce from roughly 12.9 million to around 12.5 million votes. The Tories on the other hand, would lose close to 1.2 million voters and would go from roughly 13.6 million to 12.4 million, meaning Labour would have the larger vote share. It appears that the grim reaper is a strong Labour supporter! We could go further than this in and calculate the number of projected new voters who were too young to vote at the last election but able to in 2022. There were roughly 4 million (3.9 million) people too young to vote in 2017 but would be able to in 2022. Given that 18-25-year-old voters had a turnout of around 58%, we would forecast that there would be around 2.9 million voters. Of them, around 1.4 million would vote Labour, 460,000 would vote Tory. Adding these new figures, we could forecast the Conservatives to have around 12,800,000 votes versus Labour having 13,900,000 votes. Labour would be able to form a government, but not necessarily have a majority.

These projections are highly changeable. For example, if mortality rate increases, the effects on a five-year election could be even more extreme. On the other hand, it is very possible that younger people may not vote Labour in so larger numbers as the last general election. Voters may also change their mind of who they would vote for. What it does show is that over a long period of time, if current projections of voting continue, the Labour Party has a significant demographic advantage over the Tories.

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