A right-wing think tank has faced ridicule after suggesting the Tories will win back the youth vote from Jeremy Corbyn - by cutting taxes on flights to Ibiza.
The free-market Adam Smith Institute (ASI) unveiled a new 12-point “Millennial Manifesto” which claimed the Conservatives would see their vote “soar” if they cut air passenger duty for the under-30s.
The think tank claimed the current levy on flights should be known as “the Ibiza tax” and said that scrapping it for young people would make it easier for those “visiting friends, working, travelling, studying and partying”.
Air passenger duty, which adds £15 to an economy class seat on a flight of less than 2,000 miles, is charged on everyone over 16.
The ASI says that for first class or business class flights of more than 2,000 miles the tax is levied at £150 each way.
Cat Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, was scathing about the plan and said it showed how out of touch conservative policy makers were.
“This is a laughable failure to understand what young people actually care about,” she told HuffPost UK.
“Having spoken to hundreds of young people over this summer I can say that of all their demands from government, from the crisis in mental services to huge personal debts from study, no one has raised Air Passenger Duty with me.
“This is a clear example of conservative circles completely failing to understand young people’s lives. Lives that have been made harder by a politically motivated austerity orchestrated by an out of touch Conservative Government.”
Blogging for HuffPost UK, the think tank’s Matt Kilcoyne said: “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.”
The ASI report warned that the Conservative Party needs to offer younger voters a package of policies to boost incomes and improve their lives or risk losing a whole “generation”.
The policy suggestions which it said “could transform the lives of young Britons” also include:
- the legalisation of recreational drugs including cocaine
- cutting National Insurance for under- 25s from 12% to 8%
- a 50% council tax discount
- a graduate tax to replace student loans.
The think tank also calls for cuts to Green Belt regulations to allow more homes to be built, more status and resources for mental health and easier work visas in “English speaking countries” such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The ASI, whose President Madsen Pirie backed Brexit, said “free movement for under-30s with these countries should be made a priority after Brexit to show young people that a Global Britain can work for them”.
On ‘Generation Rent’, it calls for three-year tenancies but rejects Labour’s calls for tighter regulation and rent controls.
“Rent controls are not the answer. Indeed, they are the opposite of the answer. Unable to charge market rents leads to properties being withdrawn from the market,” the report says.
“And the inability to charge economic rents leads some landlords to economize on repairs and maintenance.”
A massive 66% of under-20s voted for Corbyn in the 2017 election, with unprecedented levels of turnout. Some 60% of all under-40s backed Labour too, but the Tories had four times as many voters over 65 as Labour.
The think tank said that the Tories should “write off young voters as inevitable supporters of Corbyn’s Labour”, adding the policies could “win their votes for many years to come”.
Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said: “It isn’t easy being young in Britain. Houses are mostly unaffordable, rents are high and most high-quality jobs are in the most expensive parts of the country. For all but a very lucky few, times are tough.
“But the Conservatives have ignored this and ignored the concerns of young voters, both neglecting their wellbeing directly and taking positions that are badly out of touch in areas like animal welfare and openness to immigration.”
Madsen Pirie, President of the Institute and author of the manifesto, said: “Older people have done very well from recent governments. And some have suggested that there is now an imbalance. There are many things that governments could do to help young people.
“The Conservatives should look at innovative policies, like reducing the cost of travelling and making it easier to work abroad, to win over young voters.”