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This Government Is Hammering Young People - Because It Can Get Away With It

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I am a student - obviously, this is the Students page. As a student living in the UK in 2013, I have to pay over three thousand pounds a year for my university education; I have friends who are paying closer to nine thousand. Why is higher education so expensive? Well, the government has to find money from somewhere.

When I leave university, I will try to get a job. Should I fail, I may not be able to claim unemployment benefit or housing benefit, despite being (hypothetically) in dire financial straits. Why are under-25s being threatened with the withdrawal of critical benefits if they can't find a job in today's marketplace? Well, the government has to find money from somewhere.
Say I did manage to get a job. Chances are it would be very low-paid; perhaps it would be some sort of entry-level internship. I'd be hovering around the minimum wage - £6.31 an hour - in all likelihood. Any chance of a living wage, so that anyone in work is paid enough to reap decent rewards from what they do? Sorry - the government can't afford to risk alienating big business.

Suppose I managed to scrape together enough money - through hard work and repeated, irritating requests for a promotion - to try to get hold of a property of my own. They're pretty expensive these days, what with that property bubble that Help to Buy is busy fuelling. Any chance of the government making a big investment in affordable social housing for young people instead? Nope - can't find the money for that, sorry.

Here I am, though, in my property. It's a two-bedroomed place, despite the fact that there's just me living in it - can't find anything smaller than that. I'll have to pay the bedroom tax, then, if I'm in social housing. Why? Well, the government can't have properties under-occupied. Unless you're a pensioner, of course.

So what can I do to get ahead? Well, I can get married - that'll net me a couple of hundred quid. Excellent!

You don't have to look too hard at this government's policies - across the board - to see a pattern emerge. What this government has done, in almost all policy areas, is target young people, making them pay more for education, reducing the benefits which they can claim, making it harder for them to earn a decent living or find a decent home. It seems to have become cold, unarguable fact, overnight, that young people must pay through the nose to get a degree, work for next to nothing when they get their first proper job, and then shell out a fortune for any sort of house or flat. Go back a generation and this just wasn't the case. The people who govern us, for the first time in an age, can be said to have grown up with more advantages and opportunities than those who find themselves entering the world of higher education and employment today.

The Conservative party has always been the party favoured by the elderly and the well-off, but it seems that they have mutated into being the party which represents these groups, and these alone. There is a long history of working-class, social mobility, One Nation Conservatism, right the way through to John Major. You'd be hard pressed to find much of it these days. Robert Halfon, the Tory from Harlow who wants the 10p tax band back, and Hexham's Guy Opperman, who favours the living wage, are examples, but they're few and far between. Today's average Conservative MP is rabidly pro-business, anti-benefits, and seem to have the interests of only an ever-shrinking corner of the south-east at heart.

Why is this? Part of it is ideological - the Conservatives returned at the 2010 election seem to be more overtly Thatcherite and right-wing than those who came before. However, a lot of it may be down to electoral calculation. The Tories know that the elderly vote, and vote in greater proportions than any other age group. 76% of over-65s turned up at the ballot box in 2010 - compare that to 44% of 18-24s. And those over-65s went for the Conservatives over Labour by 15 points (44%-31%, with 16% going for the Liberal Democrats). Maximising the grey vote could well be a winning strategy for the Tories. And why risk upsetting that political apple-cart, when you can milk valuable tax revenues from the people who probably aren't predisposed to liking your party anyway, and when they're so apathetic they won't be able to kick you out of office?
If this is behind their policy-making, however, it won't work forever, and it might not even do them any favours for 2015. A closer look at the polling shows this. 30% of the 18-24s who voted in 2010 went for the Tories. You'd expect that number to plummet next time around, and you'd also guess that this generation - with access to more politics and more information than any which went before - might manage to find their way to the polling station a little better.

Furthermore - will the parents of the children whose futures are being destroyed by this government think so positively about the party that's doing the damage? And, most worryingly of all for the Conservatives - those kids are going to get older, and they're going to replace those elderly voters sooner rather than later. If Cameron and his colleagues continue to hammer anyone without a blue-rinse or a pension fund, then they're going to get soundly and heartily rejected by the voters of tomorrow - not just in 2015, but for many years to come, as sweet revenge for the spiteful decimation of the opportunities and helping-hands that past generations took for granted.