Interviews, Politics, Published Work

Why Voting Should Matter to Young People in 2015 with Rick Edwards

Originally published in OPEN Magazine (April/May 2015 Issue)

Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Kahn once admitted that if a politician has a spare hour during a campaign, a visit to a retirement home will win over calling in at a sixth form. It may seem odd to care more about voters who may not even make the next election, but when you learn that only half of 18 – 25 year olds voted in 2010 (compared to three quarters of those aged 65 plus) it’s not hard to work out why pensions get plumper and tuition fees treble.

This ‘generation gap’ is a seemingly recent development; in 1992 the difference was only 12% between the age groups. Something isn’t right. Are Britain’s youths simply not arsed about political matters? Not according to T4 presenter turned political buff, Rick Edwards.

“The view that young people are lazy and apathetic is, excuse my language, absolute bollocks. I just won’t have it.”

“I so rarely come across anyone that’s like “No, I have no interest in politics at all” –  it’s really rare. So something is going wrong. Is it in school? Is it a lack of political education?

 

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Whatever the cause may be, the BBC Free Speech presenter is on a mission to change things. The None of the Above author wants the under 25s to get to the polling station on May 7th – even if you want to spoil your ballot with an artistically drawn cock and balls.

The 2015 election is shaping up to be a historic one; with more minor parties rising up than ever before. However, it still seems like it’s going to be between two men to be our next leader – current Prime Minister, David Cameron and Labour’s Ed Miliband. While Dave may be reluctant to debate Red Ed one on one, there’s nothing stopping us putting them head to head. We waded through their manifestos to give you a simple, slightly biased, summary of what their parties have to offer.

The Conservative Party

“A Brighter, More Secure Future”

In 2010, the NHS had it’s highest ever public approval ratings. Five years on, it’s the number one election issue. David Cameron may have previously declared it a disgrace that ONE single mother had taken a food parcel off the Salvation Army under a Labour government but since then, he’s come into power and the number of food banks has increased by 700%. The Chancellor’s budget in March claimed that we’re better off than ever, yet almost half of those in poverty live in working households. So you’ve really got to admire the Prime Minister – it takes some confidence to declare you’re still the right man for the job when 5 years of your leadership has plunged millions into poverty.

What have the Tories got up their sleeve then? What are they promising us in exchange for our vote? Let’s have a look.

  • Remember when Cameron and Co decided that paying three grand a year simply wasn’t enough to go to University and watch poorly designed PowerPoint presentations? Well they still stand by their decision to treble tuition fees, pricing working class kids out of further education, but they will ensure that you won’t have to pay back any of that humongous student debt until you’re earning at least £21,000.
  • According to statistics, half of those living on the streets became homeless before the age of 21. So what do the Conservatives propose to do in order to stop this cycle? Axe housing benefit for those aged 18 – 21. The Prime Minister has stated that welfare should no longer be a ‘lifestyle choice’ but hasn’t really addressed the issue of just where do you go if you’re under 21 and don’t have the happy family home he assumes everyone has? Not all are blessed with a mummy and daddy there to loan them a deposit to get on the property ladder, or even help them out with their rent. Rather than taking away free TV licences and bus travel from richer pensioners, yet again working class young people will be the ones to suffer at the hands of a Tory government.
  • They’re a proven failure but a Conservative government promise to open at least 500 more free schools.
  • The ban of Fox Hunting will be repelled. Because of course, reinstating a cruel ‘sport’ to make posh people happy should be at the top of any to do list when tackling the issues facing this country.
  • Tax will only begin once you earn at least £12,400. However, 37.5 hours a week at National Minimum Wage (something David Cameron once voted against) brings you in £12,675 a year so this doesn’t mean much to anyone working full-time.
  • Back in the 80’s, Thatcher seemed to think selling off all the social housing on the cheap was a good idea. She believed that a nation of home owners was key to a successful country. 35 years on and a third of ex council homes are now owned by rich landlords and we’re in the midst of a severe housing crisis. However, this isn’t stopping Thatcherite David Cameron pledging an unabashed extension of the right to buy scheme for 1.3m families in housing association properties. What about the 9m renting in the private sector? Nothing for them. Tough luck.
  • “We will rebalance our economy and build a Northern Powerhouse.” Does anyone actually know what a Northern Powerhouse is? It sounds like how an Apprentice candidate from Blackburn would describe themselves. Whatever it is, the Conservatives are doing their best to try and convince us that they actually care about anywhere North of Birmingham; with promises of better representation across the country – including a Mayor of Manchester.

The Tories may be keen to tell you that we’re better off under them but we’re actually down £1,100 a year since they came into power. By the looks of their manifesto, things can only get worse.

The Labour Party

“Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. This is a plan to reward hard work, share prosperity and build a better Britain.”

Whereas The Conservative manifesto basically acts as an 84 page ‘F**k you’ to anyone under the age of 30, Ed Miliband’s Labour actually seem interested in future generations; even if we don’t vote. You can argue that Red Ed doesn’t seem tough enough to lead the country, but your alternative is a man who is scared to debate a supposedly weak man. The Labour leader may not look attractive while scoffing a bacon butty (who does?) but let’s look at some of his policies and promises, rather than fall for The S*n’s smear campaign:

  • As it stands, you’re more than welcome to start paying tax at the age of 16 but you haven’t got the right to vote on which government gets to spend it. If Labour gets back into power they pledge to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 years of age by 2016.
  • Iain Duncan Smith wants to rebrand brand evil, exploitive zero hour contracts. Fine – Ed Miliband will ban them. And the minimum wage will rise to £8 an hour by October 2019. Still not enough, but much better than the Tories’ insulting 20p hike in this year’s budget.
  • Unpaid internships favour kids from middle class backgrounds. Sure, working for free for six months will probably help you break into the industry but you usually need to make sure your parents are rich enough to have you live at home rent free while you complete it. By banning them, Labour will even the playing field up a little bit.
  • “The Bedroom Tax is cruel and we will abolish it.” *solidarity fist emoji*
  • Our parents all seemed to have bought houses for the price of a Freddo. Those days are over – we’re Generation Rent. That housing crisis I mentioned earlier, well Labour are looking at building more homes, tackling exploitive private landlords and help give renters more protection and rights.
  • Fairer tax rules under Labour. The Tories may think you should be financially rewarded for making your friend and family sit through a wedding, but Ed promises to scrap the date Marriage Tax Allowance. Getting rid of the insulting tax break for wedded couples (nothing for single parent households or widows etc) will make way for the introduction of a lower 10p starting rate of tax. They’ll also abolish Non Dom status – an old-fashioned rule that helps multi-millionaires dodge paying their share of income tax.
  • While David Cameron says dated, sexist stuff like “calm down, dear” when a woman dares to speak, Labour seem to have cottoned on to the fact that females actually make up quite a lot of the electoral and should probably be treated like equal citizens. They want to give more money to refuges and Rape Crisis Centres, create better access for women to get legal aid in cases of domestic violence and ‘appoint a commissioner to set minimum standards to tackle domestic and sexual violence.’

And there we have it. People may want to argue that there is no difference between the two main parties, that they’re all as bad as each other, but as you can probably now tell, when it comes to what they pledge to do for young people, there really is. Just remember, the smallest differences tend to be the ones that make the biggest impact on the vulnerable.

VOTE.

To keep up to date with Election Day, search #ElectionDay on Twitter.

See also: A Biased Guide to the UK Parties & Who to Vote For

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