Irfan is my student. I have known him for three years. He is 21. He did well in his exams and he is graduating in the summer. He has worked hard at school, at university, at home. He has had a lot of part time jobs and drops his sisters at school every morning before coming to class. He is cheeky - with questionable tastes in music.
I worry about him and his colleagues. What will they graduate to? How can I congratulate Irfan on his graduation and wish him a great future and be honest? Irfan was 12 when the financial crisis hit. His dad's business was affected, but the drop in interest rates meant that the family could keep up the mortgage payments on their home. What made things worse was the quiet deterioration of life around them. The small losses, cuts and limitations that slowly changed things. The sense of stagnation.
The nation chose to interpret the financial crisis of 2008 as a failure of the state, rather than a failure of rampant capitalism. The Tories inched ahead with promises to clean up. Clean up what? Not the banking industry and their friends whose risky bets sunk the economy, but clean up the legacy of the post-war welfare settlement. Dealing with vague concepts of state debt became the way to implement a vision of a US-like economy, privately run for those who can afford it. This deregulatory, privatising, austerity-heavy vision was sold to the nation as progress. Most people did not pay much attention. My students often express disinterest in politics, they did not vote in 2015, they did not vote in the Referendum. What does it all mean to them?
Not being interested in the reality around you however does not mean that reality is not interested in you. By the time Irfan got to university, the Tories had dug in and proceeded to win a majority in 2015, to entrench their vision of a bright future for those in the know. For those with the cash to pay for it. Yes, Irfan got to study, yes he was provided with an expensive loan to pay for it. And he succeeded. He stayed awake through my classes on business and company law, he even briefly thought about a master's degree, before realising he could never afford it. And now he is graduating to a country laid to waste by the Tory folly of the EU Referendum.
How am I to wish him well? How am I to look at our graduates lining up to receive their titles and tell them it will all be fine? In an economy that divests, in an environment of uncertainty that has hiring on hold. In an environment where kids like Irfan are looked at with suspicion because of their background, the colour of their skin, their faith? Irfan's family has struggled under the command of the Tories for a long time. Is he now to pay for the mad acts of those who kill in the name of Islam? Is he to be lectured on who he should be and how he should behave by the same people who created an environment where our security is compromised? By the same people who divided the nation last summer with xenophobia and lies?
Should I tell Irfan that it will not be a problem that he is not wealthy? That his dad cannot sort him out with a job? Can I tell him that people will be disinterested in his background? That Brexit will be a success? That he should trust those that are responsible for so much harm for so long to turn things around? That we should trust a 'strong and stable' leader to deliver the best deal for Britain?
No, I will not do that. I cannot lie to those that I have spent three years teaching how to be critical, how to think for themselves. I will not unleash them onto the world on the basis of lies, to a future held hostage by liars. I will not clap away and smile as I am sending my students to ruin.
Irfan has spent so long, struggled so much to get to this point and now he has one chance to take charge of his own future. Irfan on Thursday can put an end to this. He can say no to vague promises of a beautiful future based on lies. He can be instrumental to a real revolution, allow the youth of this country to rise up and build the future they deserve. He gets to vote. He gets to end Brexit, end obsessive austerity, end this nightmarish future.
Young voters have a power in this election they never had before. They can make their future. Irfan and the rest of my students can end May this June.
Irfan is my friend
Irfan is you