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Candidates vie for votes in much-watched UK election

Carol Weaver, left, campaigning for a seat in Parliament in the Leicester South constituency. She's a Liberal Democrat. (Anoushka Patel/YJI)

Leicester, United Kingdom – As British voters head to the polls for a Parliamentary election that may bring an end to 14 years of Conservative Party rule, candidates from a range of parties are hoping to make gains.

In the longtime Labor Party constituency of Leicester South, a diverse area with a majority South Asian population, two of the contenders looking for votes are Carol Weaver, a Liberal Democrat, and Ann Green of the British Communist Party.

Both said that between the two major parties, they prefer to see a Labor government take the reins in the United Kingdom.

Green, who has no illusions about the likelihood of winning a seat in Parliament, said that for the tiny Communist Party “the struggle begins on July 5th” to hold the incoming government to account.

Weaver, a former Labor Party member, has a better shot. The Liberal Democrats once came out on top in a by-election for the seat, though Labor has had the upper hand since 1987.

Jonathan Ashworth, who held the seat since 2011, is a shadow cabinet member for Labor and stands to hold a position of some authority in the new government if he is reelected.

Weaver said she switched to the Liberal Democrats, the fourth largest party in the country, because her role model, politician Shirley Williams, jumped ship from Labor to the Lib Dems along with some other senior Labor members.

But Weaver also cited her own beliefs that convinced her to follow suit.

“I say I am a social democrat and a liberal,” she said. “It was certainly values, I think.”

The Lib Dems, once a dominant party in Britain, have seen hard times in recent years. A crushing defeat in 2015 left them with just eight seats in Parliament.

This year, though, they’re hoping for as many as 70 seats, enough to make a difference.

One of their party planks is to let 16- and 17-year-olds vote in future elections.

Weaver said giving the vote to young people will be better for our democracy “because the more they’ll be heard, and the more parties will try to win them over rather than focusing on old people.”

Weaver, who has a doctorate in European security, said she’s always had an internationalist bent – as has her party.

“The Liberal Democrats aren’t just the British party, you know, they have a whole European party,” she said. She said it aims to rejoin the European Union and the single market that the U.K. quit four years ago.

Green, on the other hand, is firmly behind the Brexit policy. She said that following “their laws, not our own laws” was a “really bad” practice.

She said the Communist Party also supports pulling out of NATO and getting rid of the UK’s nuclear weapons.

Green said that it’s possible to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

“I think if we could get together with Putin,” Green said. “I think he wants peace as well.”

In general, though, she said her party bears little resemblance to Putin’s Russia.
“We’re about rights and democracy,” Green said, “so we’re the antithesis of what he [Putin] stands for.”

Green said that she, like many voters, would like to “see a change of direction, not just a change of captain” in the UK.

“But we do want Labor in,” she said, “because we’ve only got 15 or so Communist candidates” across the country “so even if by some miracle, they’re all elected, there’ll still only be 15. Not enough.”

“It has to be Labor, doesn’t it?” Weaver said.

Anoushka Patel is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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