Cat Smith MP: Our politics is failing young people - it is vital they continue to make their voices heard to shape the future of this country
Writing on International Youth Day, Cat Smith MP writes that we have a generation that wants a fairer society, but instead of being supported and valued, young people have be have been disproportionately hit by austerity and had their voices ignored by this government.
Happy International Youth Day. Today is an opportunity for us all to celebrate young people’s achievements and shine a light on how politics is failing them.
We now have a generation of young people growing up who can expect to be worse off than their parents. Surging housing prices, stagnating wages, rising student debt – the idea of generational progress has ground to a halt. Today’s youth also face new challenges, from rising levels of knife crime, mental ill-health, and chronic levels of loneliness.
Yet young people have not been deterred. It’s hard not to be inspired by this socially conscious generation. There are increasing numbers of young people volunteering, they’re taking to the streets and leading the climate strikes, and they’re using social media to influence positive change.
We have a generation that wants a fairer society, but instead of being supported and valued, young people have be have been disproportionately hit by austerity and had their voices ignored by this government.
This is why Labour’s 2017 general election campaign resonated so much with young voters. We made politics relevant to their everyday lives and offered hope for a decent future. We took our message directly to young people resulting in 2 million young people registering to vote and youth turnout increased by 15% since 2015. We also witnessed a huge swing towards Labour, with 63% of young people voting Labour.
You would have expected that the last general election would have serve as a wakeup call to Conservative Party. However, the Tories have continued to disregard young people’s needs, whilst Labour has been developing policies that will transform the country and radically change young people’s lives.
The great legacy of the next Labour government will be the creation of a National Education Service that will remove the corporations from the classroom and the campus. We will also double the number of apprenticeships at NVQ Level 3 and ensure all apprenticeships are of good quality.
We will ensure workers are rewarded for their work, not their age, and introduce a £10 per hour Real Living Wage for everyone from the age of 16. We’ll tackle the climate crisis and ensure ensure climate change is on the curriculum, to develop young people’s understanding of the science and impact of climate change and prepare young people for the green jobs of the future.
Labour’s New Deal for first-time buyers will help more young people afford a home of their own, with ‘first dibs’ for local people on homes and 100,000 low-cost FirstBuy homes, discounted so mortgage costs are linked to a third of local average incomes. Finally, we will introduce properly-funded youth service backed with new legislation, guaranteeing high-quality youth work in every community. Ultimately we will ensure young people are safe and secure in the modern world, treated fairly, supported in the present, and ambitious for their future.
With a possible snap general election looming in autumn, it is vital that young people continue to make their voices heard to shape the future of this country. A strong youth voting bloc would be a force to be reckoned with and that starts with young people getting your names on the electoral register.
Political engagement is not just about voting. It’s about empowering young people to take part in political processes, such as government consultations and parliamentary outreach programmes, and providing the structures and spaces for young people to participate, such as local youth councils, campaigning organisations, and parliamentary committees. By involving young people in decisions that affect their lives we will create a society that works for the many, not the few.
The next Labour government will give young people the deal they deserve through ensuring that they are heard in the political processes and implementing policies that have a tangible and positive impact on their everyday lives.
You can register to vote on the government’s website
Cat Smith is Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood.