When an election is called with just over 50 days for all parties to plan their election strategies, it’s going to be an interesting time for politics. We’ve seen May try to befriend technology by going on Facebook live, one of the UK’s favourite grime artists big up Jezza himself, and of course a leaked manifesto. It’s been so hectic The writers of the Thick of It would have trouble coming up with a storyline this chaotic. But now that we’re over the initial shock and the Labour manifesto is officially released; what do the policies actually mean for young people?
What has been labelled as a bowl of sugar water for young voters, Corbyn has promised to make higher education free (again). This revolutionary idea that education should be a right and not a privilege has actually divided voters, with some stressing the improbability of the policy due to cost, and others questioning the validity of the policy itself by asking if we going to end up with another Nick Clegg situation. But while it seems a steep ask, surely the question we need to be asking ourselves is why we’re being so sceptical when the Conservatives are literally focusing on bringing back fox hunting? Yes, it might take a while to come into play, and it might not work exactly how we want it to, but surely we should be siding with the party that has young people’s interests at heart instead of ignoring our existence?
Another big part of Labour’s manifesto is creating a new deal for the self-employed, which includes ‘revolutionary’ ideas like giving self-employed people workers rights (shocker) and making it much less difficult to declare yourself. This is more than we can say for May, who continues to shoot herself in the foot by creating policy legislation that will see those in this category being hit harder. The world of work is changing, and young people nowadays, especially those in creative industries are more likely to freelance than our predecessors. As one myself, the loops I had to squirm through to declare myself as self-employed are still cropping up left right and centre, and its dramatically easy to get caught out by the government for not doing it right when it’s such a ballache in the first place to understand. It’s no longer plausible to expect a graduate job with a salary and benefits straight out of University and Labour understands that whereas May is too busy practicing her bugle chant for her first time back on the hunt.
So what about healthcare? Obviously Labour is the better choice when it comes to the NHS – after all it was Labour’s Atlee that created it – but where a lot of us are looking now is attitudes towards mental health. Over the past few years, removing the stigma behind mental health has been edging its way closer and closer to the fore of mainstream policy decisions; and to their credit, May and the conservatives have been putting more money into this sector and focusing on preventative tactics. But we need mental health to be treated the same as any other standard health problem. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, and there needs to be more services available for this. Not just for those who can afford private healthcare, but also those in disadvantaged communities such as LGBT who might not have the first clue what to do when suffering from this. Labour aim to ringfence funding for mental health, meaning the applied funding will be untouchable to other departments and will continue to focus on making help more accessible, not just trying to ‘prevent’ it.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 16, 2017
So how can we afford this? Well, we need to talk about taxes – which is where those already at the top of the earning pile are starting to lose their shit. The left has always been about the redistribution of wealth, and where some of us are freaking out because they ‘want to be earning over 80,000 one day’ that doesn’t mean you necessarily will. In the current economic climate where as a 23-year-old freelance journalist I can barely afford to keep track of my spending and rent a room in a shared house in London, I don’t trick myself into thinking I’m entitled to be in this category. Even if by some miracle I do, the knowledge that my taxes will be fairly distributed into a welfare state that provides free education and healthcare to its citizens doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is those earning a hundred times more than 80,000 are avoiding paying any tax at all, and still living the lavish lifestyle of the British upper classes. Surely those are the ones we should be mad at instead of those on job support benefit or supplementing their paycheck with tax credits?
But why does the Labour manifesto appeal to us as young people? Well back in the day, the parties were very much divided based on class; 90% voted for either Labour or Conservatives and those votes were almost guaranteed based on how much money you earn, but the society we’ve been brought up in is very different. The centralisation of both parties and the way our communities have fundamentally changed means we don’t see the class divide as something so stiff and the world we live in is much more nuanced. Now we’re all pretty stuck in a shitty economy with no jobs and an equally unreachable/reasonable dream of a studio flat with a fair amount of natural light.
But this election is bringing us back to an archaic way of thinking, and while Labour seemingly want to bring us back to the seventies, the Tories would be more content with the middle ages. Their policies are aimed at older voters who have already made their money; they don’t care about the young vote because on the whole, we don’t engage with formal politics. Well June the 8th is the time to change that. Whether Jezza reminds you of your old geography teacher or not, the policies he’s created have at least been moulded with you in mind, whereas I can’t speak for everyone but i don’t have as much of a problem with foxes being alive as those who have multiple wings in their homes seem to.
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Words by Ella Guthrie