Today, Labour is launching its ‘Youth Manifesto‘ in Loughborough. The event – which will feature Jeremy Corbyn and Cat Smith, the Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter engagement – aims to highlight the transformational potential of the party’s policies for millions of young people across Britain.
Young people will swing this election – the crisis levels in mental health services, rip-off rents and zero hour jobs, as well as problems like knife crime which are felt particularly by this generation, means that the vilification of Corbyn and his ‘communism’ by the right-wing press falls on deaf ears. Young people in Britain need real change.
If this election was based on the votes of those under 30, Labour would win it in a landslide. But we will only see the fruits of this support if those young people turn out to vote on December 12th.
Despite the hype, some data suggests that the ‘youthquake’ in 2017 was exaggerated and youth turnout did not massively increased from 2015. This is unsurprising – it is no small task to overturn years of voter apathy amongst younger people, and to encourage those on long hours and low wages to be enthused enough to come out to vote when for too long politicians all sounded the same.
2019 could be different. 206,000 people 34 and under registered to vote in one day yesterday, the largest number since the general election was announced. But one third of young people are still yet to register to vote.
For many, the idea that voting in an election could change your life is a hard sell. Britain’s political system doesn’t seem to care greatly about young people’s lives. But this year’s election can be different. While the Liberal Democrat and Tory leaders haven’t even tweeted once about registering to vote, Labour’s efforts at rallies, webinars, videos and social media content will continue full steam ahead until the voter registration deadline on Tuesday.
It is true that young people are not adequately represented in a parliamentary system which decides our life chances, but this is not a young against the old election. The idea that young people are simply naive with an idealistic view of the word, and must become more ‘practical’ and right wing as they get older is flawed. With 1.9 million pensioners living in poverty and escalating social care costs, uniting the younger generation around Labour’s policies is not because we oppose those who are older and need a Labour government just as urgently.
But for a generation that is struggling more economically than any in recent memory, there is a reason to focus on Labour’s promise to fight for the many and not the few. We now have a generation growing up who can expect to be worse off than their parents. Surging housing and rent prices, stagnating wages and rising student debt are just some of the challenges facing young people on a daily basis after a decade of austerity.
Our youth also face newer challenges from cuts to youth services and public services in general, rising levels of knife crime, mental ill health and the failure to fund supports, as well as chronic levels of loneliness.
There is a unique urgency facing this generation to combat climate change and young people are not shying away from the radical solutions that Labour is offering in the form of a Green Industrial Revolution. And after nine years of brutal austerity, they won’t accept tinkering round the edges with measly reforms from the Liberal Democrats or the Greens.
But Labour is not taking the ‘youth vote’ for granted. Our Youth Manifesto is the proof of that. We are not offering simply warm words but a systemic change and policies which will address the scandal of intergenerational inequality.
Labour will increase democratic engagement, extending votes to 16 year olds and ensuring automatic voter registration.
We will end tuition fees, and even more importantly we will tackle student living costs by reinstating maintenance grants and Educational Maintenance Allowance, linking rents to local incomes, introducing free bus travel to under 25s and reducing energy bills.
For those in work, we will ban zero hour contracts, provide good quality climate apprenticeships, green unionised jobs in all regions of the country and a real living wage of £10 an hour which translates to an instant £6,000 pay rise for 16 year olds on the minimum wage.
We will double the annual spending on children and adolescent mental health services, which are burdened with 18-month waiting lists for vulnerable patients in some regions, and encourage a preventative approach to mental health crises by funding 3,500 qualified counsellors to guarantee access to school counsellors.
These are just some of the policies show that a Labour government will benefit a generation in desperate need of change. And, if you’re in the 95% of the population earning under £80,000, it won’t cost you a penny.
It is important for young people to realise that their experiences of age discrimination, mental ill health and debt are not unique and that so many of our generation are not reaching their potential under this Conservative government. Collectively, politicians are ripping off those who work hard. This is a political choice.
If Labour is to stand a chance of forming a government on December 13th, young people will need to mobilise a record level of voter turnout and engagement. People often say that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but this elections offers them the chance to lead today.
With young people at the forefront, Labour’s campaign can change this country, lift people out of poverty, end burning injustices, tackle the climate emergency and improve the lives of millions. Don’t believe the billionaires that say we can’t do it.