There is a tragedy unfolding in the current recession. It is the prospect of a lost generation of young people, unable to secure University places and unable to find work. Most politicians are not talking about it. After all in recent elections only a small proportion of people under 25 years old have voted, so there may not be many votes in taking up their cause.
What may shock you is that nationwide 40% of unemployment is accounted for by young people aged 16-24 years. If current trends continue as many as 1 in 4 young people could be out of work by the end of the year.
For all those people of older generations who are now considering voting in a new Tory government I would ask you to cast your minds back to 1979, the last time there was a change in government to the Tories. Mass unemployment amongst young people was one consequence of the policies that followed, with a lifelong impact on vast numbers. I hope that we do not see such a scenario again.
I have worked with young people almost all my working life and my organisation works to a mission statement that aims to ‘Empower young people to fulfil their God-given potential’. Whether or not people have our faith-based ethos everyone can surely agree that our society is enriched by unlocking the potential of the young, rather than letting them languish on benefits.
I welcome the policy proposals of Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, launched last week. He calls it a ‘Lifeboat for the lost generation’. It is a set of crisis management measures funded by reversing the cut in VAT from the end of this month. It includes some great ideas such as paid internships for young people, fully-funded adult apprenticeships for those over 18 years, more university and college places and removing a lot of the crazy rules that stop young people on Job Seekers Allowance from bettering themselves.
The enthusiasm, passion, idealism, talents and inventiveness of youth are greatly needed in an ever more competitive world economic environment. I fear that the economic policies of the Conservative Party would not release that potential, but instead could see our country return to the dark era of the early 1980s. That is one reason why I am passionate about fighting to win this constituency come the General Election.
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for South West Surrey