Often we’re told this will be the General Election of health and wealth, with Labour fighting to save the NHS and the Tories vowing to save the economy. By and large, these are issues that effect the elder part of the electorate, and why? Because they turn out to vote.
But it would be stupid to ignore the youth vote. There are around three million young people eligible to vote in May, which could easily swing the election. But in 2010, only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted, and only 29% are certain to vote this year, compared to 72% of those over 65 – according to Lord Ashcroft.
So what have the 5 biggest parties actually promised for the youth?
Labour and Greens have recently announced plans to lower the voting age to 16, something Lib Dems supported in their 2010 manifesto. The Lib Dems have secured £10 million from the Cabinet Office to encourage students to vote. It’s no doubt they want to engage us youth.
The post-grad loans promised by the Tories has won limited support for Cameron and Osbourne, but the lack of definition around the policy has meant this is limited. UKIP hope to reform further education, introducing an option for apprenticeship qualifications at GCSE, which can be continued through to A-level. They’ve also promised to remove tuition fees – but only for certain ‘approved’ degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering and maths, and, only on the condition that students live, work and pay tax in the UK for five years after they complete their degree – aiming to lower the amount of University places, abolishing the target of 50% of school leavers to continue to University. Unsurprisingly, UKIP want students to pay the same student fee rates as international students.
The Green Party have promised double spending on youth services, and would fight to end tuition fees completely similar to elsewhere in Europe. They also plan to reinstate the EMA for 16-18 year olds. Although plans are sketchy, it’s generally believed the Labour will reduce fees to £6,000 a year, and the Tories could allow it to be raised to up to £16,000 a year.
Like UKIP, the Conservatives are also looking to invest in apprenticeships, spending £3 million on apprenticeships for young people by 2020. Labour too have set goals to get more people doing apprenticeships by 2025, such that every firm that wishes to gain a major government contract to offer high-quality apprenticeships.
The Conservatives and Labour have both pledged to reform zero-hour contracts, which could effect a lot of young people. Further, Labour have vowed to ban unpaid internships that last more than four-weeks, meaning they would need to be paid at at least the minimum wage. The Green Party have said they will spend £5bn on creating 350,000 training places, in particular to 700,000 unemployed people and the youth unemployed. Further, they’d make a £10 minimum wage.
The Tories and Lib Dem have also pledged to raise the personal allowance to £12,500 which will help graduates on low salaries, this sounds great, but there are concerns it could favour the wealthy.
The Starter Homes Initiative by the Conservatives could be hugely beneficial, it aims to give 100,00 first-time buyers, who are under 40 the opportunity to buy a new home at a 20% discount.
Lib Dem’s are one of the only parties that have addressed the issue of the rising cost of public transport, offering a young person’s bus pass for 16-21 year olds, meaning fares would be reduced by a minimum of two thirds.
So maybe this won’t be the election of health and wealth after all, and maybe, for the first time in years politicians are listening to 18-24 year olds. This will only happen if you turn out and vote.
Images by Jess Cox.