Five years ago, a simple promise of tuition fees was enough to catapult the Liberal Democrats from relative outsiders to key players in government.
Now, Labour's potential promise of cutting tuition fees to £6,000 a year just isn't cutting it. What's been striking about the reaction to their considered (but not yet confirmed) plans is the general scepticism- not just from the expected sources. Obviously, university chancellors and the Tories are going to cast doubt on the policy's feasibility, but the lack of engagement from students is deeply noticeable.
As a student, I see the problem of being one of half measures. The Lib Dems set the bar high, and as much as they went back on their word, taking young people's votes and then throwing them down the drain, there is something that can be said for their actions. They went all out, all or nothing, and Labour offering a £3,000 cut just isn't enough. It speaks of mediocrity, of caution; wanting to seem like they care, but worrying about alienating those voters they care about more. What's more concerning is that the party seems to realise this; the man in charge of youth turnout for the party told the New Statesman they need to be "bolder, stronger" when it comes to policies and selling themselves to young people.
In the final countdown to May, this isn't really unusual- for the first time, all the major parties are desperately pursuing the youth vote. Countless polls have screamed how we could decide the election, could swing Clegg's constituency and countless others. The problem is, young people's demands are rising. It is no longer enough to simply make promises then apologise when they don't come to fruition. We want hard facts, proof that we won't be screwed over again by the political elite.
For decades, its been accepted by the media and the establishment that young people just don't care about politics- except the phenomenally high turnout in the Scottish referendum proved the opposite. Although only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted in the last general election, a record 90% of 16-24 registered to vote in Scotland. Isn't it worth asking if maybe the problem isn't with young people, but with parties that fail to adequately represent our interests?
It's all well and good to say young people don't care, that we're apathetic, quote some statistics but in reality this means nothing to me, and nothing to millions of young people in this country. What we want to see is action, a real desire to change things, not just passive statements about the "need for reform." Without the action behind them, such statements might as well be lies.
Young people are setting the bar higher than ever before, and it is time politics leapt up.