Losing elections is costing us our future

We lost the 2017 General election just like we lost the Brexit referendum and the 2015 General election before that. Each time our generation expressed a clear preference and each time the opposing side won. 

Our generation may be the first in over a hundred years to earn less than the generation before us.

 The most surprising that about that prediction is, well, how unsurprising it is. We began our careers as austerity, the most gratuitously disastrous economic policy choice for over a century, was being implemented. It led to a reduction in the incomes of all working people but it hit young people the hardest. Since the financial crisis, us young adults (22- 30 year olds) have seen our incomes fall by 7%, whereas those aged between 31 and 59 have seen their incomes return to the same level as in 2007, and those above 60 saw their incomes actually rise by 11%.

 This is the lot us millennials must bear. We are used to getting a bad deal from a Government whose policies are designed to cost us the most whilst older generations are protected. It’s not just that we face a lifetime of lower incomes  - across the board, our lives will neither be as stable nor as secure as it was for the post-war generations before us. 

 Older generations did not have to pay university tuition fees and some of them paid nothing at all for their degrees. Since those halcyon days, the price of a university education has risen exponentially for today’s students. When you factor in living costs and the exorbitant interest rate applied to student debt, a degree can now cost up to £100,000. That leaves young people today with a grim choice: Do they want to take on that amount of debt or do they want to risk being left permanently behind their peers who choose to enter the educational arms race?

 Most of us can also forget about buying a house right now without help from Mum and Dad. Instead, we have to pay extortionate amounts in rent for a house whose value has almost trebled in real terms over the past 40 years. When we hear that our parents were able to purchase a house in their twenties that cost around £75,000 in today’s prices, it doesn’t just sound like something from another time, it sounds like something from another planet.

 These are the hallmarks of the insecure future that now lies before us: low incomes, mountains of student debt and house prices so high that they are not so much out of reach as they are out of sight.

 It’s important to understand why our generation’s outlook is so bleak. It is not some unfortunate quirk of fate that has led us to this point. It is the product of a cynical electoral strategy employed by the Conservatives to help them win elections. The Conservatives have consciously chosen to favour the old (and punish the young) because pensioners vote in much greater numbers than we do. In 2015, over 70% of pensioners turned out whilst only around 40% of under-25s did. Even with the reported surge in youth turnout at the recent election, the turnout gap between under 25s and retirees was still around 15 percentage points.

 

The Conservatives have made sure that pensioners have been rewarded handsomely for turning up on election day and those non-working pensioners have, in turn, rewarded a Conservative party that has done so much to support them. Between 2010 and 2015, non-pensioner households with children lost, on average, over £1,000 a year due to the Conservatives’ decisions on taxation and spending whereas pensioners lost almost nothing. Over 60% of those pensioners would then go on to vote for the Conservatives at the 2017 General Election. It’s the quintessential political quid pro quo.

 The only reason this electoral strategy can work is because us millennials don’t turn up on Election Day to the same extent retirees do and, consequently, we keep losing elections. 

And each loss has cost us dearly: tuition fees have trebled, working age social security payments have been cut and Brexit is already starting to damage our livelihoods. We simply cannot afford to keep losing elections like this; it has cost us too much already.

 

Jeevun Sandher is a member of the Young Fabians and you can follow him on Twitter @JeevunSandher

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