The main parties’ manifestoes that will be drawn up just before next May’s general election will all differ in content. But, almost certainly, there will be some consistent themes: stimulating economic growth, cutting the deficit and encouraging future investment into Britain. From a young person’s point of view, there are certain policy areas that I would like to see addressed in 2015’s batch of manifestoes, some of which might even sway young people in a particular party’s direction.
On the relevant areas of schools policy and universities policy, there are certain initiatives currently being promoted by the main parties that, in my view, would appeal to next year’s first time voters. No repayment of university loans until an individual reaches a certain annual income is something that many would support, and further investment into the National Scholarship Programme, to support the less privileged through their university life, are good examples.
Also, the promotion of alternative education paths post-18, such as apprenticeships, is essential for many young people for whom university life may not hold much appeal. Expanding apprenticeships could be achieved by giving companies grants to create, or expand their existing, apprenticeship programmes. In schools, the policies of changing the national curriculum to give relevance to today’s diverse society and encouraging the top graduates from universities to look at teaching as potential career path to boost standards, are both policies which look promising.
How parties address the perceptions held about young people within our communities is also of importance to young voters. Some of the prevailing stereotypes held about the young of today need to be forgotten. This could be addressed through working to improve relations between young people and the policy service, and ensuring that the main parties are actively engaging with people between the ages of around 13-21 as this is the age bracket where political assumptions and loyalties are made.
The development of the Youth Parliament must be looked at, with the Parliament much more widely publicised to encourage greater levels of participation A general encouragement of the young, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds and women, to take an interest in politics and to engage with political matters will make it easier for the future government to tackle issues concerning the younger generations.
One of the most pressing issues facing young people today is the level of youth unemployment, a problem which can be tackled if the right measures are put in place before young adults leave school. Work experience should be strongly encouraged in every school, particularly those near to leaving age. This would hopefully breed a slight understanding of what life is like outside of the school “bubble” and make young people realise if they are cut out for that line of work or not. Youth employment schemes also deserve more support, and those leaving university without vocational degrees also need to be helped as they move into the world of work.
More widely, welfare reform, including capping benefits so that those in employment will always be earning more than those claiming Jobseekers Allowance, will also encourage more young people to start working life. However, those who have children at a young age should be supported further, particularly if both of the parents are working, through financial assistance with school meals or clothing, for example.
As each of the parties chase after the youth vote over the next ten months, they might also want to consider a number of other policies that would potentially inspire the loyalties of new voters. One such example is improving the funding of less traditional sports, such as disabled sports: a wise investment for the future as more and more young disabled people look to get involved in sport as part of the Paralympic legacy.
On the whole, the young people who these policies are aimed at are probably seen as a minor and slightly irrelevant part of the overall electorate by some. However, bearing in mind these are the people that will be the next generation of party leaders, cabinet ministers and Prime Ministers, targeting this group is something that the Mssrs. Cameron, Miliband and Clegg may want to take a close look at.
This blog was written by Charlie Toyne-Sewell during his internship at Newgate Communications.