John Harris

Journalist & Author

‘I feel strangely optimistic’: meet the first time voters

More than a million people have registered to vote for the first time on 8 June. We ask new voters how they feel about having their say

On a Wednesday evening in Walsall, near Birmingham, people from a local temple were handing out chips and beans to anyone who was homeless, or hungry, or both. They expected to reach 100 meals within an hour; four years ago, it was more like 20.

In the queue, one twentysomething told me his benefits money had already run out, leaving him penniless until next Monday. I asked him about the election. “I don’t really know about politics, if I’m honest,” he said. “As soon as I hear Brexit, I switch off.” But you’re living out the consequences of politics. “I know,” he replied. “I’m living in poverty. I’m not an idiot. I’m struggling.” He had never voted before, but probably would this time – even if he hadn’t yet chosen a party: “My dad’s saying Conservative, my mum’s saying Labour.”

The referendum is definitely affecting my vote. It was such a shock, like waking up with a very bad hangover

I’m really trying to focus on the policies rather than people

I feel like it’s the old versus the young sometimes, and they’re not voting for what I would want for my future

Related: More than 2.3m people have registered to vote since election was called

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