The General Election is a topic that nearly everyone is talking about, especially as it is nearly 3 weeks away. The 7th of May will decide who will be the next party to govern the country and move into Downing Street. But why is it important for us young people?
It may seem effectively pointless to vote, after all politicians are as bad as one another, right? But no. There is a point to voting. Many students including myself who did vote last year found themselves regrettably taken in by the Liberal Democrats who painted themselves as the “Robin Hood” of the student world, who promised to help give students a brighter future. Fast forward 5 years on, we have university fees at a record high, financial support for students at an all time low and more education budgets slashed, meaning a greatly reduced number of options for those who are leaving school and are looking to enter the job market and also to get further qualifications.
But what are each party promising? There was a televised debate on the 16th of April on BBC1 which saw 5 of the front runners for the General Election, Ed Miliband representing the Labor Party, Nicola Sturgeon representing the SNP, Nigel Farage representing UKIP, Natalie Bennett representing The Green Party and Leanne Wood representing Plaid Cymru. Each party representing and in some cases defending their past and future plans to a carefully selected by the BBC audience of various age groups.
The Prime Minister David Cameron decided not to turn up for the debate; his latest excuse for this and for not accepting the challenge made by Labor Party Leader Ed Milliband to have a one on one debate between them being that “voters knew enough about each of them from watching Prime Minister’s Questions to “get the measure of us”. “We’ve had 146 debates at Prime Minster’s Questions. I think people have seen a lot of those to get the measure of us.
This comment has left the Prime Minister to become the object of online ridicule by politicians from the opposing parties and members of the public who have branded him a “chicken” and a “coward” for not facing his opponents and not allowing Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats to take part; however each party had a representative who commented after debate when reactions were taking place.
The conservatives are however now back in the media having resorted to scare tactics by releasing a poster of a larger Nicola Sturgeon controlling the strings of a puppet version of Ed Miliband, with the slogan: “More taxes, more borrowing, more debt”. At the debate, Nicola and Natalie both said they’d be happy to work with Ed Miliband in forming a coalition of their own, however Ed Miliband denied he’d consider a coalition, stating he was aiming for an overall majority.
There are a few points for voters to consider; as each party releases their manifesto.
The Tories recently released theirs which outlined their plans to increase funding for services through cutting benefits and welfare spending in general by helping more people into work; there is concern for this plan however as many vulnerable people have been forced into a working environment where as a result of their condition they are unable to cope; there is also the risk in by cutting benefits and welfare spending even further than they already are they will increase child poverty in the UK, making things tougher for the upcoming generation.
They have also released plans stating they want to increase free childcare hours to 30 per week for working families, to me a great idea in principle, however they need to also balance this in the childcare staffing ratios, as many staff are having to look after 30 children alone or with a work experience student for nearly 10 hours a day with only an hour’s break (usually less) and are paid normally minimum wage, leaving concern for the standard of care these children will actually receive.
The Conservative’s manifesto also commits to increase spending on the NHS with at least an additional £8 billion above inflation to fund the NHS England’s action plan for the next five years. This sets to promise great things for those in need of care, however considering how many hospitals have declared themselves in crisis due to being unable to cope with the amount of patients they’ve received under the coalition’s regime, lets hope if they do get in again they do it right this time They have also promised 3 million more apprenticeships should they get in for young people, a great option for those who feel a “further education/higher education” environment is not right for them, but will this take away the option to go to university for many? And also replace full time jobs?
The Labor Party’s manifesto has announced plans to increase minimum wage to £8.00 per hour and increase the minimum wage of apprentices, guaranteeing an apprenticeship to any young person who wants one after they leave school and choose not to go onto university, also they have pledged to cut university fees to £6,000 per year, scrap the bedroom tax and zero hours contracts and have a tighter reign on immigration. However whilst these plans are fantastic in principle, how will these plans effect our economy with money being in theory, spent than saved? Ed Miliband has at least admitted that when the Labour Party were in power they made a number of mistakes which he fully intends to rectify if he were to win the election. Only time will tell.
The other parties made similar claims, though Nigel Farage managed to stand out in a somewhat negative way by wanting to leave the EU, making the NHS for “UK born people only” and refusing treatment by others not UK born. Nicola and Leanne also came under fire after being accused by the other three party leaders for only having their country’s interests at heart and not the whole of the UK, meanwhile Natalie was accused of coming up with policies that made no sense, sacrificing the economy of the country at the expense of the environment.
Regardless of who you support or alternatively, who you do not support depending on your voting stance, there will be changes come the 7th of May, hopefully for the better. Love them or hate them, at least one of these 7 people will have a lot of influence over the lives of those in the UK over the next five years.