General Election 2017: First time voters have their say in Deeside

Reporter:

David Humphreys

So today is the day.

After all the bluster, slogans and sound bites, it all comes down to what you do in the polling booth today.

Yesterday I spoke to some voters who despite being eligible to vote previously, felt this time round was the right opportunity to cast their first ballot.

Given that this election, when it was first called on April 18, was dubbed the Brexit election, I sat down with six students who would be taking to the polling station for the very first time.

However, this half dozen new voters did not have the chance to get their say in Britain’s relationship with the European Union and are putting a cross into a box onto a brave new world.

In a rather unscientific focus group, I met with six 18-year-olds at the brand new Deeside 6 campus in Connah’s Quay to chew the fat on what matters for young voters.

Almost all of our panel said university fees was a vote winner and they were impressed by Labour’s move to cut tuition fees.

Charlotte Young, from Connah’s Quay, said: “It’s crazy expensive and the Scottish and Europeans don’t pay for anything.

“Cutting them would level the playing field.

“It could just be another ideology.

“Everyone makes promises they never deliver on.”

Ben Edwards, also of Connah’s Quay, said students at the very least, needed “some form of help.”

The NHS was also a hot topic for our first timers and Emily Morgan, of Connah’s Quay, cited recent events to underline its importance.

She said: “During the recent attacks, we’d have been in a worse position if it wasn’t free at the point of use.”

Ben said: “I don’t want to see it privatised,” while Sean Barnard, of Prestatyn, called for a revamp.

“The NHS needs to be remodelled,” he said.

The cyber attacks recently showed that we’re still using paper notes and Windows XP.

“It’s too inefficient.”

There was also no escaping from the Brexit issue with differing sides on both sides of the sofa.

Sean laid out what he said the UK needed to gain from the impending negotiations.

“It’s important that we get border controls.

“A lot of people voted for that as part of the Leave campaign and if at the least that doesn’t happen it’ll feel like a wasted vote.

“There’s more opportunities outside, we’ll be able to secure more first-language English speaking NHS staff which would bring about a better trained workforce.”

Zhenyu Liu, of Shotton, argued: “There could be an effect around here with job losses, if people are losing them, they’re not getting paid.”

Charlotte added: “We haven’t known what it’s like without the safety mat of the European Union.

“We had the opportunity taken from us and our lives planned for us.”

Our panel of young voters didn’t appear overly keen with the performance of the main party leaders, Prime Minister Theresa May for the Conservatives and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

Ben Edwards, of Connah’s Quay, was particularly dismayed with the Prime Minister so far.

“You can say strong and stable all you want but then she never turned up,” he said.

“You can see right through it, it’s all talk.”

Sean hit back: “Corbyn doesn’t seem like a leader.

“When he speaks publicly, he mumbles a lot.”

He was backed up by Tom Roberts, also from Connah’s Quay, who said: “I don’t think he’d be up to it in the Brexit negotiations.”

Ben said the left-leaning Labour leader had impressed him in the run-up to today’s vote and sparked a mini-debate.

“He’s done better than I thought in March,” he said.

“He seems to have grown more confident in the role.”

Charlotte suggested: “Calling a general election signals she’s not stable where she is.

“I feel like she’s very discriminatory in her policies and appears very negative.”

Ben added: “She talks about Corbyn being bad rather than her own policies.”

Sean said: “She appears more professional,” to which Charlotte hit back: “Actors can do that.”

One thing our voters did agree on was the need for a more younger presence on the stump, following the lead of France, Canada and up until this year, the United States, in the form of Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama.

It was even suggested that David Miliband should have come back to lead Labour, rather than his brother Ed, two years ago.

Now it wouldn’t be a Brexit election without talking about Ukip and Sean delivered a withering put down of the Eurosceptic party.

He said: “They did the job and now (former leader Nigel) Farage has left.

“They were just his band name and now we’re left with the drummer trying to run the show.”

Charlotte bemoaned a lack of “green” policies and said other parties are “put across like a wasted vote” and as if there was “no point voting for them.”

The panel also said they were unsure what Plaid Cymru stood for and said they tended to do better where Welsh was more predominantly spoken.

To close our discussion, I asked the students to describe in one sentence what their first election meant to them.

Tom said: “I can’t complain when things happen if I don’t vote,” while Sean said he wanted “someone to get the best Brexit deal and be strong on terrorism.”

Emily would be “making my opinion heard” and Charlotte wanted to “find the best future.”

Zhenyu harked back to the Labour policy of tuition fees to be cut while Ben wanted “whatever is best for this area”.

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