“The obstacle young people face in fighting for a better future is not people who simply happen to have been born earlier than us, but a system based on constant accumulation of power and wealth by a small elite at the expense of the vast majority of the population .”Ben Hayes
By Ben Hayes, Islington North CLP Youth Officer.
The huge levels of support and engagement seen amongst youth in Britain have been at the heart of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. For a generation who have grown up under the shadow of a series of events which show just how disastrous the status quo has been for millions of people, including austerity measures which have devastated communities across the country at home and the catastrophic war in Iraq abroad, having a Labour Party committed to fundamental change in power is not only desirable but vital to our future.
Few issues demonstrate quite how little the current economic model has to offer young people more than housing. The ever-increasing numbers of people I went to school with who have had to move further and further away from the heart of London are part of a wider national trend- enormous numbers of young people have found themselves at the sharp end of a legacy of neglect towards social housing. In contrast to the Thatcherite promise of this ushering in an era of home ownership, the number of 25-34 year olds on median incomes for their age group who own their home has declined from 65% in 1996 to 27% today. Particularly shockingly, we have witnessed the horrific consequences of the contempt displayed for residents in Grenfell Tower, and under 25s now make up a quarter of Britain’s shamefully high level of people dealing with homelessness. Labour is committed to a vital program of building 100,000 council homes. scrap the government’s absurd definition of ‘affordable’ housing (at times up to 80% of market rents), and invest in funds to ensure everyone is able to live in safe, secure homes.
I was one of many activists who got active in campaigning against the Tory/Lib Dem coalition’s trebling of tuition fees and abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). Labour will not only abolish tuition fees altogether and restore EMA (a vital lifeline for countless further education students at a time when increasing numbers of young people are getting trapped into a bleak cycle), but restore student maintenance grants and establish a National Education Service based on free lifelong learning. This is a much-needed shift away from the trend of education becoming a commodity that customers must put themselves in ever-increasing debt to access, and towards an education system that recognises its role in benefitting our society. And Labour’s manifesto offers hope for the very youngest too- reversing cuts to Sure Start centres, ensuring 30 hours of free childcare is available for all 2-4 year olds, guaranteeing class sizes are capped at 30, and introduce universal free meals at primary schools to tackle the scandal of 2.5 million children all too often going hungry.
It’s little surprise that students and youth have been at the core of the mobilisations demanding action to address climate change and protect the future of our planet. Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution is unique in recognising the scale of the crisis we face and the measures we need to deal with it, first and foremost by dramatically reducing our carbon emissions over the next decade. This process also means creating a million new green jobs, offering hope especially to young people growing up in areas that have seen previous industries decimated and the rise of precarious, low-pay work, Investing in public transport is also a crucial part of this agenda: and once again Labour is leading the way. Proposals to bring down rail season tickets by a third and introduce free travel for under-16s, as well as free council bus services for under 25s, will offer a huge amount of new prospects to millions of young people in the here and now in addition to being a vital part of creating a more sustainable Britain.
Youth should be a time to enjoy exploring new experiences and opportunities to engage with the world around you, and in turn, find out more about the person you are. All too many young people in Britain today are growing up in a society that can often feel isolating and uncaring, with the numbers seeking help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services more than doubling in the last two years, and demand for counseling services at universities being 5 times higher than in 2010 (despite this, it’s estimated one in four have cut or frozen their budgets, leaving students facing waits of up to 3 months to receive support). Labour’s Health Young Minds fund would see £845m invested to start dealing with this, including ensuring access to counselors at all schools.
The party’s commitment to giving young people a platform to flourish and utilise their talents is reflected in the support our vision has received from various cultural figures and through initiatives like Grime4Corbyn. Policies such as the Pupil Arts Premium would guarantee that quality education and opportunities in the arts are available to all, and help to ensure a thriving scene that can bring joy and unforgettable experiences to the lives of millions.
Contrary to the narrative sometimes pushed in sections of the media, both print and online, the obstacle young people face in fighting for a better future is not people who simply happen to have been born earlier than us, but a system based on constant accumulation of power and wealth by a small elite at the expense of the vast majority of the population. The Manifesto for Real Change takes concrete steps towards a better, happier, sustainable future where nobody faces being left behind by economic neglect or because of their ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or disability.
There are various things we can do to make this a reality: in the immediate term please do campaign as much as possible in whatever areas you can, spread the message about what an incredible difference a Labour government could make to your friends, family and on social media, and get active in the wider labour movement in the vital struggles we’ll face whatever the outcome at this election. But there’s one act, that takes a matter of minutes, we can carry out to shape history for the better this Thursday: vote Labour.