• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Young voters lament lack of options

Government data last year showed that renters and young people were among the worst-affected by the cost-of-living crisis

Supporters carry placards during British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Melksham Town F.C. for a Conservative general election campaign event in Melksham, Britain, June 7, 2024. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Pool

By: Shajil Kumar

Many young voters in the UK’s upcoming general election have lived under a Conservative government for most of their lives, with the ruling party having been in power since 2010.

Gen Z voters – those born after 1997 – only made up nine per cent of the electorate last time round in 2019.

But they make up around 15 per cent this year, according to the National Centre for Social Research, and want to hold the government to account.

Housing crisis

Kevin Patel, 26, has been hit by soaring rental prices in London, where he is a postgraduate student, and still lives with his parents.

“With the way it’s looking like, I genuinely don’t know how long I’ll have to wait before I can actually afford my own place”, he told AFP.

In the last few years, a housing shortage and landlords passing on increased costs such as higher energy prices and mortgages have hiked up rent.

Government data last year showed that renters and young people were among the worst-affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

Patel, who is historically a Labour voter, said he will likely be voting Labour again, because the party has “better plans” to deal with the rental crisis.

But he is still afraid that neither of the main parties will address the issues. Asked how he feels about his vote, he said: “Cynical, but with a layer of hope underneath.”

Social care

Holly Cobb, 21, is a first-time voter from Cambridgeshire in eastern England.

“Since turning 18, I’ve lived through quite a few different prime ministers. But this is the first time I can actually vote for one,” she said.

Top of her wish-list is an increase in allowances for carers like her and fixing the social care system, which lawmakers have warned is enduring “chronic underfunding”.

According to a YouGov poll, health is the second-most important issue for voters aged 18-24 after the economy.

Cobb said she was considering voting for the Liberal Democrats because of its leader Ed Davey’s promise to make carers a political priority.

Brexit, decided in a 2016 referendum before she could vote, will also be on the agenda for Cobb, who studies French at university.

“I’m so sad about the fact that we don’t really have free movement anymore. It’s something that I’d like to look out for when I’m voting.”

Arts funding

Josh Saunders, 24, a student at the Guildhall School of Music in London, works at a bar four nights a week to pay for university.

Earlier this year, the government announced cuts in funding for creative courses at universities.

Saunders said students not on scholarships at Guildhall are struggling to get by with minimum wage jobs.

He said he did not feel represented by either Labour, who he voted for in 2019, or the Tories but would back Labour this time round because of Keir Starmer’s promise to boost the minimum wage.

“I will be voting for him solely on the fact that I want to make this life in the arts easier for myself,” he added.

Gaza

Sawen Ali, 24, also voted Labour in 2019 but will not be repeating it this year.

Ali cites the party’s treatment of its members on the left and its stance on Israel’s war in Gaza, including suspending some members who voted for a ceasefire in Gaza last November.

“It makes me feel sick that Labour takes a vote like mine for granted, purely because I’m young, or I’m a person of colour”, says Ali, who is a masters student at Cambridge University.

Amie Kirby is a recent graduate from a working-class background. Living in Salford in Manchester, north England, Kirby has struggled with cuts to welfare payments for disabled people.

She said her vote was based on Tory and Labour policies on Gaza and other issues including immigration and gender identity.

“Culture wars” attacks on migrants or trans people feel “completely out of touch with my generation”, said Kirby, who was raised as a Labour voter but is now “torn”.

“I think part of me wants to vote Green, part of me wants to spoil my ballot,” she confessed.

Ali said she will be spoiling her ballot and in doing so hopes it will give all parties pause for thought about future policies.

“I was always of the opinion that you should vote, always vote, and that is still the thing that’s motivating to even go and spoil my ballot,” she added. (AFP)

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