In 2005, David Cameron was elected as leader of the Conservatives in the hope that his youthful and moderate image would appeal to younger voters. He promised to put an end to the embarrassing jeering and bellowing at Prime Minister's Questions and to engage young people once again. But since then, things have only gone from bad to worse.
Time and time again we've been told that young people are disinterested in politics, and it's no wonder: with a PM who told an outright lie about tax credits during the election, with Labour backbenchers threatening to rebel against a legitimately elected leader, and with a government that is led by three ex-members of the Bullingdon club, the idea of a healthy democracy, for many young people, is a bit of a joke. And that is precisely why something must be done: because unless we fight for our futures now, then we will have no futures to fight for.
Evidence has repeatedly shown that the young have suffered the most under this government. In March of this year, the Resolution Foundation found that, whilst pensioner households saw their incomes increase by about 10% between 2007 and 2014, working-age households suffered a 4% cut. To make matters worse, 22-29 year-olds saw a 12.5% fall in wages during the coalition years, and under 25s are also not entitled to the new so-called 'national living wage'. Add to this the higher rates of unemployment and underemployment amongst the young, and things are looking pretty bleak. As Angus Hanton, the co-founder of the pressure group Intergenerational Foundation, said: "It's hard to escape the conclusion that the interests of the young are being sacrificed for the comfort of wealthier older people."
But it's not just the working youth that are suffering: a study produced at LSE revealed that the main victims of spending cuts made since 2010 were children and their parents. Osborne's ruthless cuts to welfare, which could now be followed by cuts to child tax credits, will lead to an 80s-style explosion in the number of children in poverty, say the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who also revealed that two thirds of children living in poverty live in working families, revealing the absurdity of the so-called 'work penalty'. Why has a triple lock on child benefit and tax credit not been introduced? Because the Conservatives know that we have an aging population and that young people are apathetic: the old, in their eyes, are more important.
The nonchalant approach to the education system is perhaps the Government's most blatant disregard of the young. The first duty of each generation is to educate the next, and this government is failing drastically. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted, announced last December that standards in secondary schools had dramatically slipped due to poor teaching and leadership standards, undoubtedly due to larger class sizes and a lack of resources.
In addition, continuous rises in University tuition fees (as announced last week) and the scrapping of student grants for the poorest students, will only lead to higher inequality and fewer underprivileged children in higher education. This truly is a national travesty. But there's more: three days ago, the government announced 30% cuts to the Department for Communities and Local Government. These cuts will lead to more playground and youth club closures (or, in the words of the Treasury, "low-value programmes") and to more dangerous environments for our children. Yet again, the youth are suffering the most in austerity Britain.
"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children," as the ancient proverb goes. But, despite the environmental advances made during the coalition, the government plans not only to make onshore wind farms near-impossible to build in England, but also to slash support for solar energy by 87%. The dramatic cuts to "green crap" may not affect traditional Conservative voters, the old and the rich, but they certainly will affect future generations and the youth of today. If Cameron really does want to lead the "greenest government ever," then he'd better do a u-turn quickly.
Before he came into office, Cameron repeatedly emphasized the importance of reducing this country's debt because our children "deserve better". Ironically, though, children and young people have and will suffer the most under the Conservative austerity agenda. And it's not as if Cameron doesn't realize the impact of his cuts: this week, the PM wrote to his local council saying that he is "disappointed" at proposed "cuts to frontline services, from elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums". The hypocrisy is chilling.
So, we young people have got a lot of trouble ahead: but what can we do? A Harvard poll shows that young people automatically feel distrust in political organizations and institutions, and the low voting turnout amongst young people shows our inherent cynicism. But we can't just suffer in silence, because the longer we allow this government to get away with their cuts, the harder it will be to reclaim our futures. If we do not fight today, then we will lose our tomorrows.
The "Climate, Justice and Jobs" march on the 29th of November is our chance to stand up, to unite and to have our say. It doesn't matter whether you support a political party or if you distrust the entire establishment: this is an opportunity to have your concerns heard. This is no longer a partisan issue, this is a crisis, and we must act. You may feel that democracy is failing, but so long as we can protest and demonstrate, then we have the power to change things. Let it be this November that the young people of Britain saved their futures. Let it be this November that change begins.