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From Housing To Cheaper Flights: What The Tories Must Do To Win Millennial Votes

24/08/2017 08:12 | Updated 24 August 2017
ADRIAN DENNIS via Getty Images

Today around three-quarters of a million 16-year olds will find out results to their GCSE exams. A-level options, university courses, even the beginnings of whole careers can hinge on a series of numbers down a sheet a paper that represents the culmination of two years hard work.

Yet while it seems like this is one of the most important factors in how they will do in life, the world of opportunities is still heavily shaped by forces outside of their immediate control. Today we at the Adam Smith Institute publish a series of twelve policy suggestions that we believe could transform the fortunes of Britain's young. They should be done because they're right to do - but it wouldn't hurt the Tories to think about their self-interest and how to pick up some of the youth vote.

Take the style of university course that these GCSE leavers may soon be applying to. With our state controlled system courses are almost concrete set as lasting three years. At the moment only 14 universities offer courses that last two years. Money for our universities comes mostly from central government (with the exception of just five private universities) and they are heavily incentivised by this funding stream to only offer courses that keep students enrolled for longer. But the longer that students are at university, the longer they're racking up debts despite their ability to earn money being heavily constrained. This could, and should, change. Students should have a greater set of choices of course lengths and the government should encourage that diversity when it provides taxpayer funds.

Once they're out of university, young people face a whole raft of new problems. High house prices, with low availability and a cut-throat rental market, make young life in urban areas precarious. The Tories should make new legal vehicles for three and five-year rents and provide stability to young tenants and landlords. They should also show that they are serious on housing across the country, especially in London. Allowing denser streets, making planning permits more easily transferrable, and devolving power over planning to city-regions would help kickstart a housebuilding revolution.

Higher costs and lower expectations led the youth vote to abandon the Conservatives at the last election. But young people are not everywhere so keen to look to leftist leaders like Jeremy Corbyn. In Germany young voters are flocking Chancellor Angela Merkel. She's been in power for 12 years, is called Mutti (or 'mum' in northern German), yet she is the preferred candidate for Chancellor of 57% of 18-24 year olds there. Mrs Merkel has done this by pursuing policy on areas that young people care about, including inculcating a liberal global outlook as she lead Germany to support an influx of refugees.

Britain's Conservatives could show that they're internationalist relatively easily. By seeking to continue to have the freest possible movement with the European Union they could show young people they care about their future job prospects. But they should go further and get reciprocal working rights for young Britons to work in countries where they time-and-again say they want to live and work - Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the USA. Global Britain cannot afford to be an empty phrase harking back to an idealised past but a promise to the next generation.

And when young people go abroad we shouldn't be hitting them with punitive taxes. If you want to travel abroad in order to study, work or even party in Ibiza, the government should not be adding a hefty penalty. Conservatives should be shouting with adulation at young people getting out into the world and should make it as easy as possible. Raising the Air Passenger Duty exemption to thirty (from 16 as it is now) wouldn't cost the treasury too much but would be noticeable for young people on tight budgets, showing that the government is on their side.

As young people across the country open those examination results, they'll see a verdict on the work that they've put in over the past two years. In two years more, they will be of voting age, and it won't be long before they get to cast their verdict on British politicians. If the Tories want that to be a good thing for them, they'd better start showing they're taking young people's concerns seriously.

Matt Kilcoyne is the Head of Communications at the Adam Smith Institute. The free-market thinktank's latest paper - A Millennial Manifesto - is released today.

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