Young people, especially those of us that are students, have often been the target of governmental policies that have drastically decreased our life chances and future prosperity. During the coalition government from 2010-2015, and the Conservative government that followed, we saw: the trebling of tuition fees to £9000 a year, the scrapping of the maintenance grants for university students following the much earlier EMA abolition, and a handful of other austerity measures that have disproportionately fallen on young people. We also have an ever-growing mental health crisis which has been linked to the financial troubles that students face.
It’s easy to see why many young people feel disenfranchised from politics . Until recently there had been a lack of hope that any party could stop this attack on young people, but this all changed when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in September 2015.
While there are clear distinctions between Labour and Conservative policy that make it clear Labour is the party of young people, there’s something strange and encouraging about seeing the leader of the opposition, a man in his late 60’s himself, championing the rights of young people to receive as many opportunities as our older counterparts.
Corbyn has spoken out against the discrepancy in pay between 18-21-year olds and over 21’s, saying 'young people don't get youth discounts when they buy things in the shops or when they pay their rents. Their costs of living are the same. They should get the same rate for the same job.'
On the other hand, senior Conservatives, like Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock, have attempted to justify the inequality in minimum wage by claiming that young people are not as productive as those over 21 . Hancock claimed that 'anybody who has employed people knows that younger people, especially in their first jobs, are not as productive, on average.' This feels like a kick in the teeth to many young people who, in the sectors of work which often pay minimum wage such as retail, are just as productive in their jobs as those over 21. So, did young people finally grow tired of such stark inequality being exacerbated by our government?
Early turnout figures would have us believe so. Ipsos MORI have claimed that 18-24 turnout was roughly 54%, the highest in 25 years, up 11% from the general election just two years ago. With roughly 67% of those voters supporting Labour, it is clear the effect Jeremy Corbyn has had on young people. Students especially were a strong driving force behind the semi-victory that Labour achieved, the most notable victory being Labour candidate Jared O’Mara beating out former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg for the Sheffield Hallam constituency. This is a seat with a high student population still angered by the Lib Dem’s abandonment of their flagship policy in the 2010 election of abolishing student tuition fees. Young people channelled their anger, which is often mistaken for apathy, and helped achieve something that Theresa May’s government thought was impossible.
One of the most fascinating developments from the snap general election, was the website ge2017.com, which created a tool to show students where their vote was the most effective. For example, a student living in Preston, a safe Labour seat with a majority of 12,000, may feel like their vote was irrelevant in such a constituency. However, if their home constituency is somewhere like Crewe & Nantwich, with a Conservative majority of just 3,620, the tool allows you to see that your vote would be more useful there.
Creator Matt Morley estimated that over 32,000 people used the tool in the first four days of its launch. It is unlikely such a clever tactical voting aide did not have an impact on Labour’s victory in key marginal seats such as Derby North, Halifax, Crewe and Nantwich, or even in seats such as Canterbury, viewed as a Conservative stronghold, which had never had a Labour MP in its history as a constituency.
However, even with the historic victories that Labour achieved in the 2017 general election, we still woke up to a minority Conservative government, which has since been propped up by the hard-right Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. In doing so, the government is now the clear opposition of what the young people of this country voted and fought for, and it is hard not to feel dismayed at the aftermath of the general election. But in the uncertain times that we find ourselves in, it is hard to know what is around the corner. So, don’t mourn. Organise.