The next generation and Labour Party policy
With a second mandate from Labour Party members, Jeremy Corbyn looks set to stay as Labour Leader for the foreseeable future.
Whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda has won him the leadership election, in order to win a general election, the Labour Party’s Leadership needs to respond effectively to the views of the 12 million potential Labour voters in their 20s and early 30s, who are the next generation, now establishing careers and raising families, as they will be shaping the societal and economic landscape of the UK in the next decades to come. What matters to their generation?
- Economic strategy – a safe pair of hands
Only a party that knows exactly how it will reduce the deficit will convince voters. Jeremy Corbyn has laid out his plan for investment and growth but the Labour Party’s leadership must be honest with voters about the need for significant cuts – and explain how this will work as part of an ‘anti-austerity’ budget; they must continue to communicate the direction that Labour policy will now take and where a Labour Government will be making additional savings. A healthy economy needs investment for growth but spiralling costs also need to be controlled; younger voters know this and they want left-wing politicians to be honest about the realities of governing the UK’s economy.
- A change in attitude to UK foreign policy
Jeremy Corbyn has won many younger supporters because of his anti-war stance. For this generation, the Iraq war is one of the first major UK foreign policy decisions that they will have seen for themselves; from its conception, the dodgy dossier, through to the Commons votes, the campaigns, the tragedy of government scientist David Kelly’s death, and eventually the damning Chilcott report.
Overwhelmingly feelings in the UK about foreign policy have been shaped by watching news reports from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and seeing with horror the most recent spiral of violence in the Middle East. There is a growing desire across the country and particularly from the younger generation, (which is vocalised in the growing membership of groups such as Stop-the War-Coalition), for a more measured approach to involvement in conflicts overseas.
In the past it has often been seen as ’anti-establishment’ to vote against a Government’s motion to go to war; however the size of Jeremy Corbyn’s majority is a reflection of how unified young Labour voters are now in their growing unhappiness about the UK’s role in Iraq and Syria and indeed this is a view increasing shared by voters as a whole across the country.
- Greater protection and support for the NHS
The pantomime of the new junior doctors’ contract shenanigans and moves such as the removal of nursing bursaries, have demonstrated clearly to younger voters that the Conservatives are not committed to supporting and protecting the NHS. Voters can see that the Government’s proposed goal of an improved 7 day-a-week NHS, is not compatible with a reduction in pay and an increase in contracted hours for junior doctors.
Younger voters overwhelmingly want the Parliamentary Labour Party to spell this out, in Parliament and to the media, in demonstrating their support for striking doctors and in planning a different course of action for a future Labour Government; crucially all voters want to see NHS policy decisions that work long-term.
- Support for the most vulnerable
Harsh reductions in state aid for the most vulnerable by the Conservatives, such as the introduction of the bedroom tax (when the social housing stock is not sufficient enough for people to move into smaller properties) are demonstrative of the mis-prioritising of the last Conservative Government. Repeated changes to universal credit have caused confusion and unhappiness for those reliant on help from the state and have had the reverse effect of that intended, which was to simplify the benefits system. The Labour Party needs to continue to demonstrate how it will actively work to improve conditions for the most vulnerable and how a Labour Government will afford to sustain an effective welfare system.
- A strong relationship with the EU (and the rest of the world)
Most people under the age of 35 voted to remain in the European Union. Whilst there is clearly division in the Labour Party about the result of the referendum, the priority should now be in uniting over the direction that we would like to see the renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the European Union take. Both remainers and brexiteers are united over many of the problems that currently exist within the European Union – and staying in the single market and working together to insure that the re-negotiation deals effectively with problems such as prohibition of state-aid to support industry, should, as Jeremy Corbyn has said, be the priority.
With the Labour Party’s Leadership unified, ready to deliver, and clear about the direction that future Labour policy will take, they stand a good chance of returning to Government – but they will only achieve this by taking the younger generation with them.