During the second Tory leadership debate last night, Boris Johnson said: “The public will look on at us with guaranteed mystification”. For once, it’s hard to argue with one of Johnson’s assessments, but perhaps not for the reason he thinks. The public were indeed perplexed watching the remaining Tory contenders battle it out on live TV, because the vast majority of us will not be able to vote in this contest.
When the Tories call our country a democracy, despite our next prime minister not being democratically elected and therefore having no mandate to govern, we’re definitely mystified. When many of the hopefuls (except Rory Stewart) promised that they would create a low tax utopia if they were elected, without any plan or indication of how they plan to finance this, we were mystified yet again.
We were mystified when Jeremy Hunt claimed that he did not condone racist statements, but said he “150 per cent” agreed with the “sentiment” behind a tweet by far-right activist Katie Hopkins. The tweet, which referred to London as “Londonistan”, was retweeted by the president of the United States (the one who called white supremacists “very fine people”).
The British public and especially young people like me are already sick of this contest. We know where these men’s priorities lie, and it’s certainly not with us. Sajid Javid delivered a heartfelt message about how his immigrant parents brought him in times of hardship. Based on his story, he stressed the need for compassion within society. This is all well and good, but given his ruthless approach to the case of Shamima Begum, it’s hard to take him seriously.
In a night of question dodging, 15 year-old Erin asked the candidates if they would introduce a law that would bind us to having zero net carbon emissions by 2025. In response, Hunt forgot what the question was, Javid went on a tangent about his daughter and Johnson and Gove gave a vague lecture about how they care for the younger generation.
But the last time I checked, the changes Gove implemented as Education Secretary were hugely detrimental to teenagers across the country. State schools now have to sit the new GCSEs, which have a large portion of A-level content in them and an incredibly tough grading system. This makes it even harder for children from state schools to access the top grades, while private schools largely keep the old system and therefore sit easier exams.
Michael Gove, we can see right through your facade. I have seen people run out of the new GCSEs and A levels crying and having panic attacks. In the lead up to the exams this pressure is even worse. I’ve seen the mental health of my friends deteriorate before my eyes as a result of the changes that you implemented.
It is glaringly obvious to anyone my age that the leadership hopefuls lack empathy. Rory Stewart is celebrated for displaying the bare minimum of decency and I find it scary that this is our reaction to something that should be taking for granted. All Stewart has done is just shown a tiny bit of humanity and we’ve become so scarily conditioned to callous, narcissistic behaviour from those in political discourse that we welcome it.
Watching Boris Johnson try to align himself with young people last night was almost entertaining. But even stranger was the spectacle of watching these men discuss fixing things their party broke in the first place. Hunt – the longest serving health minister since the creation of the NHS – told us he will “fix” the NHS. Gove boasted of potential new funding for schools, but just a few years ago advocated for turning struggling schools into academies.
As a young person watching last night’s debate, I was more disheartened than ever about the state of our country. The lack of direction the next prime minister will have is extremely apparent, and their baseless utopian plans coupled with the potentially devastating economic effects of Brexit spell disaster.
With leaders so determined to conceal their true interests and look out for themselves above all, young people will continue to pay the price for their narcissism and empty promises.
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