In my mind, the most depressing thing about the lie being sold by the Labour Party to young people is that I just know they will buy it. To them it is far too convincing a sheep for it ever to conceal a hungry wolf.
The inevitable straying towards a more Left-wing economic consensus, which of course poses as socialism but in reality is nothing more than state capitalism with a sprinkling of nationalised industries, cannot be stopped. I have written at this blog about some of the reasons for this noticeable political shift. Rising debts on a wide range of fronts, the 2008 financial meltdown, substantial wealth inequality and incidents such as those at Grenfell Tower are all contributing to it.
The transition that public opinion is currently undertaking has been demonstrated by formidable polling trends, conducted by serious social scientists and credible agencies. They note significant levels of support not only for state intervention in the economy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but also for mass renationalisation. And not just in the sectors where such a structure of ownership is customary.
Much of the Left-wing tendencies being displaying in Britain come from those who are vulnerable and over-exposed to Leftist thought. They are the young, who go to schools riddled with Left-leaning teachers and text books, in an educational establishment which is structured according to Left-wing doctrine. Our school system, comprehensive and egalitarian, emphasises the importance of such things as equality and diversity, has almost completely shredded Christianity of its institutional primacy, teaches (without conclusive proof) that climate change is man-made and that crime is caused most fundamentally by social deprivation.
And the national composition of schools reflects these attitudes. We have, according to this House of Commons briefing paper: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01398/SN01398.pdf, just 163 grammar schools left in Britain. Most are comprehensive and pretend to be non-selective, but never mind the fact that the best of these schools almost always select by wealth.
Naive to the problems induced by Left-wing politics and dissuaded from engaging in any deviating or independent thought, the young are particularly susceptible to being taken in by the ideas and policy proposals of Marxist populists like Jeremy Corbyn. The former are magnetised by the latter, and the latter rely on the former for electoral support.
The problem, though, is that a trap has been set. A trap which I believe lots of young people (whether they are eligible to vote or not) will fall into. The lie being sold to them has arrived in the form of a seductive package comprising of free tuition, a ban on allegedly exploitative zero-hour contracts and now, rather more intriguingly, a living wage extension of £10 per hour to 16 year old workers. On paper, these promises are more than a little appealing. They promise a world in which the young are debtless, secure in employment and have more money than they know how to spend. Or rather, this is what the Labour Party will have them believe, in exchange for a cross on the ballot paper.
Quite how a person concerned with mounting public and private debt can justify voting for the current Labour programme is bizarre in itself, but that is perhaps an issue for another day. What matters is how we convey the message that these policies are not in the interest of those most supportive of them. The message itself is easily conducted, but the problem is in de-sheltering our target audience and allowing them to hear it.
Tuition fees plugged massive shortfalls in per student government funding, according to a longitudinal study published by Russell Group. A Sutton Trust report entitled Access in Scotland showed that where they are implemented, the proportion of disadvantaged students attending university actually increases. (The same research emphasised the trend by comparing results in England with those in Northern Ireland, where tuition is charged but remains slightly cheaper. The report showed that as fees increase, the percentage of poorer students attending university remains on the incline) Furthermore, scrapping fees is an elitist proposal which sees non-graduates, who earn on average £9,500 less in their careers according to the Centre for Policy Studies, subsidise those who will go on to earn more, and also sees poorer working people pay for the degrees of richer students who can pay without assistance.
Zero-hour contracts, which I admit are not ideal for everybody, are useful for young people who live at home or study. They provide extra income as well as skills and experience in the workplace. Students will in many cases appreciate the flexibility of a zero-hour contract, especially when trying to fit work in and around their academic timetable. The answer to the question ‘Are zero-hour contracts good?’ remains: they are good when the alternative is unemployment. It is best to encourage work where work is possible.
As for the extension of the £10 National Living Wage to 16 year olds, I have never heard of anything so utterly bizarre and economically illiterate. I have spoken out against plans to raise the minimum wage here (remember that ‘living wage’ is a propaganda term) and stand by what I have written. If employers are forced to employ the youngest in the labour market on parity with those older, better skilled and more experienced, the young will be discriminated against. After all, why would any sane employer favour the services of a 16 year old if he can pay an older worker with a more impressive CV the same amount?
The young in Britain need to be presented with an alternative to massive state intervention (we have been trained to call this socialism, when it really isn’t). But for that to happen, we require substantive institutional change within an educational establishment hell-bent on passing on Left-wing values. Massive changes to school curriculums could well be needed, and I am not necessarily proposing we turn them into hard Right party manifestos either.
Mr Corbyn’s goodie-bag of treats is not a serious attempt at quashing growing intergenerational inequalities. But by the time Left-wing students realise a trap has been set, it may be too late.