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We demand!

With the election in overdrive, British youth are in revolt. Here’s what this generation needs from our leaders

With the party leaders’ debate lined up tonight and all seven leaders of the major political parties swotting up on their pettiest point-scoring agendas and prepared quips, it’s easy to forget that this election is actually all about what you want. Some big-hitters, like the skyrocketing price of living and tuition fees, have only been pushed on to the agenda by the work of tireless activists and campaigners. Others, such as the slow creep of xenophobia and the shutting down of the country’s clubs, have been ignored completely by all the main parties. So we’ve written our own political manifesto as an antidote to the same old tired soundbites – here’s our eight-point vision for politics today, along with where each party stands on the issue. 

What do we want? Change. When do we want it? Yesterday. When are we going to do something about it? Right now.

Set education free

UK university graduates are now saddled with more student debt than their American counterparts, which means that we will grow up living and working in the shadow of debt. That’s an unacceptable burden on an entire generation of young people – especially when you consider that the politicians gunning for your votes probably got their degree at no cost. Higher education must be free, and the next government has an obligation to ensure that young people will graduate with the best possible future ahead of them, not a mountain of debt.

What the Tories will do: Haven’t said a word about tuition fees, although they have committed to building another 500 free schools in England by 2020. Which is super-helpful, assuming you’re currently a pre-schooler who lives in England. Under a new postgrad scheme, masters students under 30 will be able to fund their courses up to £10,000.

What Labour will do: Tuition fees will be slashed from £9,000 per year to £6,000. Ed Miliband says that this promise is not up for grabs in the inevitable slippery backroom deal-breaking that will occur post-election.

What the Lib Dems will do: Increase the number of apprenticeships by giving employers 200,000 grants to hire apprentices. They’ll also make it easier to transfer between higher education institutions thanks to a credits scheme. Danny Alexander said that his party could not rule out a potential tuition fees increase.

What the Greens will do: Scrap all tuition fees for everyone. The party plans to fund higher education through a Citizens’ Income instead. They’ll also reintroduce student grants to cover living costs.

What UKIP will do: Get rid of tuition fees for high-achieving students taking STEM (science, medicine, tech, engineering and maths) subjects, as long as they work in the UK for five years after they graduate. Students from the EU will also be forced to pay the same student fees as international students.

Fight for diversity

All the major political parties are trying to outdo each other on just how xenophobic, ‘hardline’ or just plain patronising they can be about immigrants, Muslims and just about every other marginalised community. But this country wouldn’t be the same without diversity and the tolerance that makes it possible. We want the next government to stop poisonous anti-immigrant rhetoric in its tracks, curb the growing rise of the right, kill off Islamophobic groups like Pegida, end forced deportations and close inhumane detention centres like Yarl’s Wood.

What the Tories will do: Not much, unfortunately – they’re still riding that anti-immigrant train for all it’s worth. They’ve committed to cutting net migration to 100,000. EU migrants will also see their benefits curtailed.

What Labour will do: Labour have fallen prey to xenophobia, too – the party has promised that it will ensure migrants will not be able to claim benefits for at least two years, although it has not committed to a cap on the number of migrants.

What the Lib Dems will do: Nick Clegg said last year that his party was never going to mimic the “scaremongering” and “immigrant-bashing” of UKIP and others. But they want to impose a limit of six months on universal credit payments to migrants – and applicants will only be able to claim them after their first six months in the country.

What the Greens will do: People who have lived illegally in the country will be able to remain in the country, similar to the amnesty offered by Obama to illegal immigrants in the US. The party also says that its migration policy would not “discriminate directly on grounds of race, colour, religion, political belief, disability, sex or sexual orientation.”

What UKIP will do: What won’t they do? They’ll leave the EU, for one. A tough, Australian-style points system will be introduced, which will only allow in migrants with the skills needed to work in the UK. Migrants will also only be eligible for benefits and to use the NHS if they’ve been paying tax and national insurance for five years.

Total gender equality now

The UK isn’t short on strong and accomplished women – after all, we’re the place that produced PJ Harvey, FKA twigs and Vivienne Westwood – but we have a lot to do better as a nation. Men still earn 17.5 per cent more than women, and eight out of ten MPs are men. But the gender gap extends way beyond equal pay and political representation. From sexism in the creative industries and lack of support for victims of sexual assault to misogynist internet trolls, women are still being silenced and harassed.

What the Tories will do: No mention of tackling sexism in their election promises, although David Cameron did once refuse to wear a “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt. Make of that what you will.

What Labour will do: Labour have made a priority of tackling violence against girls and women. They want to enact the first Victim’s Law to ensure that victims are at the “heart of the justice system” and will appoint a commissioner to handle domestic and sexual violence.

What the Lib Dems will do: The party has already pushed through legislation that forces large businesses to report their gender pay gap. One of its headline policies for women is a promise that working couples can share parental leave equally.

What UKIP will do: MEP Janice Atkinson has said that UKIP would get rid of the minister for women and equalities. Other than that, nada.

Protect our nightlife

Despite the club nights and basements bravely trying to resist the stampede of developers converting the places we form our culture, friendships and memories into luxury flats, there can be no doubt about it: London’s nightlife is under threat.

2014 was a harrowing year for clubs, with a string of venues adored by London’s club scene bulldozed to make way for expensive accommodation for rich people to watch widescreens in.

There must come a point at which we protect the heart of this city and ’fess the fuck up that dancing, drinking, drugs and music are integral to our development as people. We’re human beings, FFS.

Please, protect our nightlife.

What the Tories will do: Well, we’ve all seen Mayor Boris singing “Save Our Soho” and talking about protecting London from the clutches of gentrification, but in league with aggressive property developers, the Conservatives have overseen the ripping down of every joint in the city, to make way for luxury flats. In short, they don’t give a fuck.

What Labour will do: Probably continue in exactly the same vein as the Tories, to be honest. Despite Ed Miliband’s promise to penalise firms which hoard land instead of going ahead with building projects, there’s little evidence that the Labour party would put a stop to the destruction of UK nightlife.

What the Lib Dems will do: No targeted policies. To be honest, none of the major parties are that outspoken about the rapidity with which our late-licence clubs are being torn apart and replaced with bed-by-11, unaffordable flats.

Kick out all homophobic and transphobic violence now

Last summer saw a clubber in Vauxhall sprayed in the eyes with ammonia after his assailant found out he was gay. Later that month, a gay couple were targeted by a gang on Whitechapel Road. In February this year, a man was mugged, kicked and beaten in Kensington while being subjected to homophobic abuse. Reports of transphobic hate crime increased by a shocking 44 per cent last year. 

These depressing incidents serve as a reminder that, while LGBT rights have improved immeasurably, there is still much work to be done in transforming people’s attitudes to members of the gay and transgender community.

We all need to stand up to end violence against LGBT people. There can be no fear held over who you love each time you leave the house. 

Fuck the thugs who think otherwise. 

What the Tories will do: Credit to the Conservatives: they oversaw the legalisation of gay marriage about a year ago. However, they’re quiet on where things go from here.

What Labour will do: Ed’s party want to strengthen laws against transphobic hate crime and appoint an international envoy for LGBT rights, much like Obama did with diplomat Randy Berry (yes, that is his real name). Labour also wants to train teachers to tackle LGBT bullying and make sex education LGBT-inclusive.

What the Lib Dems will do: The Lib Dems are actually making LGBT rights part of their foreign policy, and have pledged to push for decriminalisation in countries where being gay is a crime.

What the Greens will do: In 2015, Natalie Bennett’s party is the one that is most outspoken over LGBT rights. The Greens take on these issues in a more spiritual sense than a legislative one, and discuss the need to respect sexual diversity and confront bigoted barriers. They say: “We support equal rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, to housing, jobs, civil marriage, medical benefits, child custody, and in all areas of activity enjoyed by all citizens.”

What UKIP will do: Not much, as the party is riddled with archaic opinions like “gays have slept with up to 20,000 people” and “Aids is a gay disease” – as said by former deputy leader Lord Monckton. This kind of discriminatory rhetoric seems to lurk just under the surface of the party’s public persona, so it seems like it’d be a tough job to confront those issues as a matter of urgency.

Keep youth alive

£60 million of funding to youth services has been cut and 350 youth clubs have shut down in the last two years. Young people are frequently demonised as lazy and/or dangerous, but they’re still our only hope for the future. Add to that the monumentally depressing state of youth unemployment, and it’s not too rosy a picture for this new lost generation. We’re finding ourselves, thank you very much, but with precious little help from the powers that be. So don’t use young people as a weapon in any political push-and-pull power play, use them for what they are: our future.

What the Tories will do: 18-21-year-olds who have been out of work or education for six months or more will have to do 30 hours of unpaid community work to qualify for benefits. Childless 18-21-year-olds will be barred from claiming housing benefit. The savings from these reforms will be used to fund three million apprenticeships for young people by 2020. 

What Labour will do: The party is proposing a youth jobs guarantee, which promisesa “real, paid starter job” to every 18-24-year-old who has been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more than a year. BUT this is pretty much a job you have to take unless you want to lose your benefits. (It is paid, on the plus side.) Labour would also ban internships lasting longer than four weeks, to stop companies from exploiting their interns. And finally, the biggie: Ed Miliband has promised to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote.

What the Liberal Democrats will do: Introduce a young person’s bus pass that will discount travel by a minimum of two-thirds for 16-21-year-olds. They’ve also got a long-term commitment going to lowering the voting age to 16 or 17.

What the Greens will do: Spend £5bn creating 350,000 training places and opportunities for unemployed young people. They would also create 2,000 young people’s centres to offer kids a place to hang out and get support and information.

What UKIP will do: Other than leaning hard on apprenticeships and allowing students to take an apprenticeship qualification instead of GCSEs? There’s not much about young people in their policies.

Right to protest

Our generation is facing a massive criminalisation regarding our right to protest. Too many of us have been kettled, coralled or held against our will. Too many have been snooped on online. 

The latest anti-democratic indignity? That, as of February 2015, protestors are being asked to pay for the traffic management measures to take to the streets.

So, if you want to tell our leaders that you’re not actually cool with their decision to, say, go to war or charge you £9,000 for an education they got for free, you may well not be able to afford it. Fine, if you’re powerful. Until you realise that the opposite of peaceful, legal protests is not no protests. It’s violent, uncontrollable ones.

What the Tories will do: The Conservatives have plans to limit even further the right to strike, so unions will have less of a chance to make their voices heard.

What Labour will do: When Labour last ruled, they brought in a key anti-protest law. The latest manifesto from Miliband’s mob doesn’t mention much about this, but they at least say that 16 and 17-year-olds will be given the vote.

What the Lib Dems will do: No targeted policies on the right to protest, but they’ve historically been strong on civil liberties.

What the Greens will do: The Greens have the strongest anti-surveillance measures, even pressing for Snowden and other whistleblowers to be granted the right to asylum.

What UKIP will do: Presumably make it harder for Scottish people to chant “Nigel is a bawbag” at Mr Farage wherever he goes.

Let us live 

We all exchange war stories about rodents and evictions with zero hours notice. None of us can even think about owning a house. Ever wondered what it would be like living during an economic disaster? Chances are, you already live in one. Rent rose by nearly five per cent last year. Sharers? You’re likely to be spending an extra £44 a month by this time next year. Which means that, over the next 12 months, your landlord is pocketing the price of a return trip to New York. Thanks again, capitalism!

For every amazing victory by the Focus E15 Mothers, there are a thousand desperate tales of those forced out of their homes and hoods. Let’s make this the generation that gets the places it deserves, rather than the one spitting at the yuppies that snapped up its homes.

Four walls where you sleep, eat, watch Netflix, cuddle bae, and maybe even do some work. It’s a basic necessity, not something we need threatened. 

What the Tories will do: The party that brought in right to buy, unsurprisingly, have a suite of ways to help people buy, and have announced plans for 200,000 new homes for the young. For Generation Rent, however, the message is, “Bonne chance!” – there are no plans to protect renters.

What the Lib Dems will do: Their housebuilding pledge is 300,000 new homes, and not allowing landlords to let poorly insulated houses. So, if renters wouldn’t be comprehensively protected, they will at least be slightly less chilly.

What Labour will do: Labour have matched the Tory pledge to build more homes, but are also committed to long-term tenancy agreements and a cap on rent increases.

What UKIP will do: Proving you can even make the issue of housing a bit racist, UKIP will prioritise social housing for people whose parents were born locally.

What the Greens will do: Greens are the best if you’re a renter. A Green win would mean half a million social rental homes would be built, and empty homes would be brought back into use. Rents would be capped, and longer tenancies agreed.

Fist in header image designed by Kit Mason