By Luke Cornforth
The shambolic (or genius) leak of the Labour Party’s election manifesto has dominated the political talking points over the last few days. Typically, left wing papers such as the Mirror have backed the manifesto as a compassionate alternative to the conservatives while the Mail branded it a throwback to the 1970s. What is clear however, is that this is one of the most ambitious and transformative agendas proposed by a party in years. The policies are generally popular, with most polls showing support for re-nationalisation of railways, energy and mail, and increased NHS funding. However, the most progressive and exciting aspect of the manifesto, is its firm commitment to investing in the growth of an educated, happy, prosperous and safe future generation.
Young people have been disregarded by politicians for decades, with parties courting the Over 35 vote due to their much larger voter turnout. Their appearance as an unimportant voter group, has meant young people have been sacrificed for the benefit of policies to gain the loyalty of the Over 35s. In this manifesto, Labour has changed the political landscape on this issue. They have comprehensively targeted the Under 35 and student vote. Their policies in this area are exceptional and go a long way to reverse injustices dealt to students via the Coalition Government. Their core higher education policy rests on a return to completely free tuition for higher adult education and a restoration of the Education Maintenance grant that was replaced by loans under the Coalition. These are crucial ideas that will reduce student debt, reduce unhealthy and dangerous stress, decrease the exclusive nature of University and allow students to grow up and attend University without still having to rely on funding from their parents.
In addition to these policies for students, there has been a committal by Labour to a £10/hr minimum wage, an end to exploitative unpaid internships and a ban on unstable zero hours contracts. These will benefit all young people, who upon leaving school, can acquire well paid jobs on stable contracts without having to worry about being outcompeted by people who can afford to do extensive unpaid internships. Further afield from the education or employment polices, plans to re-nationalise the railways will cut the currently ever increasing rail fares saving thousands of pounds for students returning home to see family or when visiting lifelong friends at other universities.
Taxation policy also benefits the Under 35s. These are youngsters who are just starting work or moving up the career ladder. They will enjoy a complete tax freeze as they earn under £80,000 while those setting up new small businesses can benefit from a wealth of support, such as loans from new regional development banks. This will be paid for by an increase in corporation tax for big businesses and a income tax rise for those who have already made a success out of their careers.
As a whole, the movement Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party have created has reached out and engaged the under 35 population. After the Prime Minister called the General election, there was a surge in voter registration of young people, with 390,000 under 25s, 42% of total registrations, signing up as of the 7th May. The policies in this manifesto are a continuation of this theme and his chances on 8th June rely on whether this tactic results in a high youth turnout and Labour vote.
As ever with Labour, their manifesto has been scrutinised economically. Many think the goals are unrealistic and cannot be afforded although Corbyn and his Shadow Cabinet insist they are fully costed. Despite this, it is a breath of fresh air to see young people at the heart of a political party’s policies and signals a change in the times. Under this manifesto, we see a clear theme of investment in the future of this country, providing us with all the tools to flourish as we grow up. This policy has been popular amongst students and under 35s, however the acid test for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party is whether this popularity can translate into votes or whether Corbyn’s dreadful personal approval ratings will see the Conservatives sweep to a large majority and Labour decimated.
Photograph: Andrew Skudder via Flickr