THE BLOG

Missing Inaction: The Politicians of Tomorrow

07/04/2014 15:01 BST | Updated 04/06/2014 10:59 BST

The Government must help reignite the dormant political passion of Britain's youth

Imagine a country where only a certain demographic participates politically, and in return receives favorable policies from the leaders they elect. Meanwhile, the remaining population is left on the outside - some without care, others simply unaware - while they are repeatedly ostracised, burdened and demoralised by the decisions of those above.

An Orwellian monstrosity? No, this description could well be applied to the UK today, where 50+ year olds decide who is elected into government, which in return showers its most valuable electorate with generous policies, disregarding everyone else.

The current coalition government came to power amid record youth unemployment, inheriting a labour market inhibited by skills gaps in key industries - which were under-fed by an archaic education system equipping the UK's young with the wrong skills. Any doubts as to the severity of the malaise should surely have been dismissed by the riots which gripped the country a year into the Coalition's current term.

The government's response? Endless policies that favour the old and ignore the needs of the young. The housing shortage, common knowledge before the Coalition came to power, has been allowed to worsen. The required surge in house building has not materialised resulting in soaring house prices that keep first time buyers off the property ladder, and high rents draining the income of young workers. The beneficiaries? The home owning Baby-Boom generation - milking significant property profits and living on an unblemished green belt which could provide the housing our cities and towns need.

Away from housing - university fees have been raised to £9,000 at most top institutions, meaning anyone with serious aspirations of securing a job in the current market has to take on huge personal debt for the privilege. Meanwhile, the vocational education reforms and apprenticeship infrastructure needed to overturn dependency on university degrees remains largely absent.

Public transport costs have continued to rise at a crippling rate. The young, who are majority users of these services, have been left so soak up the fare rises while elderly rights to free transport have remained untouched.

Young people today can expect the worst prospects of any generation since the Second World War, including one of the lowest levels of social mobility in the developed world.

To maintain the thinnest of veils over this truth, today's politicians have embraced a Machiavellian habit of appearing interested in the wider population. Take George Osborne for example. A week after announcing a budget which overwhelmingly favours pensioners, Osborne casually claimed that he aims to create "full employment" in Britain - no doubt thinking such statements will appease the 920,000 young people still out of work.

Pensioners were most certainly appeased in the budget, their swollen pensions will allow them to invest more of their savings - likely in housing for rent, which will further drive up prices. At the very least income will be locked away in savings, just when the economy needs expenditure (shopping, house building, investment in start-ups) to help maintain the UK's emergence from recession.

The trouble with five-year terms is that no sooner does a government come to power then it has to start consolidating its popularity ahead of the next election. In 2010, only 49 per cent of 18-34 year olds voted in the election, compared to over 70 per cent of over 45s. Herein lies the reason why Britain's young are treated like second-class citizens.

For a supposed flag bearer for global democracy, this is not good enough. The government, if incapable of delivering balanced policies, should make it a priority to boost political interest amongst today's young, even if it ultimately threatens its own grip on power. Introduce politics and current affairs lessons throughout the school curriculum; make political information and discussion forums more readily available through social media channels - including targeted publicity regarding the voting procedure ahead of general elections.

The 2015 election is projected to bring the lowest turn out amongst young people ever in the UK. This will usher in another government elected to serve the rich and the old. Make no mistake - democracy in the UK is under threat.