An article I have written for the July edition of the Cardiff Times.
Where does the recent election result leave young people? Depending on their political outlook, many were possibly disappointed on the May 8th and arguably, rightly so, but as the political wheels already start turning, nothing can be achieved by looking back in regret. However, we should be very aware that though the Labour Party are still the largest part in Wales after the election, the Conservatives also achieved their highest vote share since 1992, giving them an increased influence.
In the midst of this disappointment, I have come across at least one thing both relatively surprising and positive; a piece on the Telegraph website that recognizes the impact of Conservative policies on social mobility. One of these policies is the proposal to phase out maintenance grants for students from households with less than a £42,000 annual income. These grants are a vital source of income for students whose parents can’t help fund their living costs through the course of their study. Simultaneously, the government spends billions of pounds on working tax credits as a subsidy for employers paying low wages for unskilled work. In this context it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that this will make it harder to combat the, recently reported, approach of top London City firms to apply a poshness test to graduate applicants. If the maintenance grant goes there will be even less bright working class able to graduate and even have the slim chance of passing the poshness test. Young people have already taken the brunt of many of the funding cuts by the government, whether this be the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the increase in university tuition fees, plans to deny housing benefits for under 25 year olds or the closure of vital youth centres.
Perhaps the most significant proposal, in the context of our entire democratic system, is the intention of the Conservative government to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British bill of rights. It is hard to believe that only 15 years ago this was considered a major landmark in the British legal system. Within it, there are many important elements to protect young people and children. Not only does it ensure that all children have access to education, but also, that, they can express their own views and have their own beliefs, that they don’t experience abuse at home, that they aren’t forced to work, that they can freely practice a religion of their choosing, and much more.
Human rights can also provide a vital framework to encourage young people to take part in our democratic society, and to discuss and debate decisions made by public bodies about their lives. We should therefore be concerned about any changes which have an impact on the ability for more young people to get involved in politics or further alienate them from the political process.
Yet, in the midst of these significant concerns one debate outshines them all; that which thousands of young people contributed to, by taking to social media and letting their views heard. For, while there was an absence of a youth voice in the stuffy political debates of Radio 4 and the Financial times etc leading up to the election and concern over the percentage of young people ultimately voting, this debate is something that no election result can take away. It also a human right that we, as young people, should never give up on.