As a graduate who relied heavily on student grants to survive university, I’m struggling to understand the absurdity of Tory thinking today, as the government sneakily tries to transfer these into repayable loans. Yes, the proposals will offer students access to more money to live off during university (I survived perfectly well on the grant amount, despite the fact that I had/have an unstoppable spending problem), but it will saddle students already on the brink with debt that totters into the tens of thousands of pounds – and undoubtedly discourage poorer students from seeking out further education altogether.
The current grants provide the optimum amount – just enough to live off and have some disposable income, but not enough to justify a spending spree every Saturday and five nights out a week. Increasing this amount is unnecessary, and turning into a repayable loan is absurd.
Why is this happening? We might well wonder. Why are they doing this to their young supporters, in addition to voting down a bill that ensured all private landlords had to ensure that properties were fit for human habitation?
Simply, inevitably: because the youth vote didn’t support them as much as they would have liked. The student vote swayed largely towards the left (for example, student publication The Tab endorsed Labour), and even student voting levels were down in the last general election. Conversely, the older generation are lavishing in their sensible choice of vote: they endorsed the Conservatives, therefore they gain from the Conservatives.
From the perspective of a former student who did not sway to the left during my time in education, and relied on student grants to pay for vital things such as food, water and rent (how very Bullingdon Club of me), I find this rather troubling.
George Osborne is alienating future voters for himself – he is alienating the voters who could conceivably back him if he was the chosen successor to Cameron, which is hotly tipped to be the case. Osborne is actively causing his own future voting deficit as these individuals will feel as though they were let down as they were trying to get on the employment or housing ladder, and now feel no affinity with the party.
These older generation voters are not going to live forever, and they will be replaced by a generation who won’t be quick to remember how hard they were penalised while they followed Tory encouragement to be ‘strivers’. The Conservatives are betraying the voters who bought into their idea of ‘hard work pays’: yes, hard work does pay, but it doesn’t really count when a large chunk of that pay is going to pay off debts that you shouldn’t really be saddled with if you are from a family that isn’t particularly well-off. It turns out that being a Tory does work for you – so long as you’re upper middle class in the first place.
With no coherent message or strong leader in the Opposition, it’s hard to see where young professionals like myself are left to turn. No wonder a substantial amount of them have turned to the radical left in search of a ‘new politics’ – advocates for young people are at an all-time political low.
Oh, how I miss the coalition.
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