Nicholas Mazzei is a former Army Officer who now works for BT.
“Yeah I did; he was gonna write off my student loan. Come on!”
These were the words of a 25-year-old voter who text me early this morning, who had always voted Conservative and, up until the campaign began 5 weeks ago, was anti-Corbyn.
If you want to understand why the youth vote surged for Corbyn, I want you to read that line and look at the offer the Conservatives have made to the youth of Britain from our own manifesto. From this 25-year old’s own words, “the Conservatives have done nothing to reach out to those under-35”.
Now while most us would agree that the promises of wiping out debts and free university education by Labour were dangerous, unaffordable policies, we need to remember that the youth of the UK have been lumped with endless debts, rising costs in homes and education, and lower potential of earnings.
Much like in the US election, where voters turned out for Trump’s pro-employment message, youth voters in the UK turned out for a party which actually addressed their concerns.
Youth voters have finally figured out that if they turn out and vote, they can impact a national election. We ignore them at our peril. Below are three recommendations to address their concerns and in the process plan for the Conservatives to retake our majority.
Brexit and immigration: The tone of hard Brexit has not gone down well with young people (and, I’d argue, with people generally). The assumption that all those who voted leave are all strong Brexiteers has been shown to be a poor assumption. Young people voted overwhelmingly for remain and aren’t likely to change their mind. Corbyn’s ability to dodge the question on his view on Brexit and the result he truly desires, means he’s snapped up the remain vote.
The negative and hostile language to the EU and the upcoming negotiations needs to be changed, and our views on freedom of movement and single market should be softened.
Cost of higher education: The UK has the highest average tuition fees in the world, second only to the USA (which is at around £5300 a year compared to £6,000 in the UK). We cannot lump all this debt on to young people. Education in general needs more investment and should be protected at all costs.
We also need to change people’s views on apprenticeships, making it a more attractive option. We need to promote technical routes of education, rather than sending young people to pointless, wasteful degrees for simply a piece of paper. This could mean the UK no longer funds lower quality universities, or funds only degrees which are of economic value.
Taxation and property: We’ve done a brilliant job in reducing the amount of tax the lowest earners pay, but the system simply does not address the unfairness of wealth being hoarded by older people, or both those in the finance sector who get paid by bonuses only.
It’s unfair for those on £100,000 a year (and more) to be able to use clever techniques to avoid tax. Similarly, the ability for many, many older people to people huge numbers of investment properties with sky high rents, generates anger in Britain’s youth. Addressing youth access to affordable starter homes is a critical issue.
I’ve said many a time that one day, the youth of Britain are going to realise the power in their vote when they turn out in large numbers. They’re just beginning now to figure it out, and now they’ll be seeing that they have the ability to strip the older generation of the many benefits they have enjoyed at the cost of Britain’s youth.
In order to build a fairer society for young and old, the Conservatives need to address the concerns of the under-35s, or forever be out of the reach of a majority.