Generation why?

First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.

From the top positions in society… right across the board… the highest earners, the ones with money and power, those setting your wages (while cushioning their own), steering your department, leading from the top…

Old, often overweight, unattractive (save silver foxes like Lib Dem Chris Huhne) men.

The average age of an MP is 50, and for most big jobs- think chief exec- you’ve got to have enough “experience” to merit the six-figure salary. Well, you’ve probably got less skills than a GCSE in IT for those trusty powerpoints.

Only 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in 2005, and according to a report from the Electoral Commission last week, more than half of 18 to 24-year-olds are not currently registered to vote.

This will be the first general election I and around 3.5 million other people aged 18-23 will be able to vote in. So, before I sign guys, why should I pick you?

With duck houses, moats and an all-round gloomy financial situation, it is hard to place our trust in such a shady, oft incompetent bunch. Especially when the only thing we have in common with them is that we both wear clothes.

But the Question Time event hosted by the Student Left Network here at UCLan on 5th March was a refreshing change to being dictated to by the dictators.

So, on arguably the issue of the decade for young people, that of tuition fees, what did the three main parties have to say?

Possibly most interesting was the claim made by Mark Jewell from the Liberal Democrats that, if they were to gain power, they would scrap tuition fees within two terms.

Free fees often sounds outmoded, most students accept that they will leave university with a mountain of debt. So is this just an empty policy aimed at setting them apart?

Both Labour and the Conservatives said that this would mean that not everyone who wanted to would go to university, why squash people’s aspirations?

But, Mr Jewell backed up his party’s policy by saying that everyone should have the option, but better provision should be made for people wanting to go into other, wholly worthwhile professions that don’t require university education.

The North West of England makes the highest contribution to the UK’s manufacturing industry. Skilled jobs, but probably not skills best acquired in a classroom.

With less people going to uni, as in the old days of free education, fees could be covered by taxes, and only those who wanted and needed to go should go. Simples?

Mark Hendrick, the incumbent Labour MP spoke of the millions invested in education since New Labour came to power in 1997, aided by a sheet of education facts.

But he was challenged on the Labour party’s “arbitrary” goal of sending 50 per cent of young people to university. On the face of it, yes, you’d expect half of people to do this, but do they really need to? And, as Nerissa Warner-O’Neill for the Conservatives pointed out- what about the 51st person?

She also said the Conservatives would be waiting for the outcome of Labour’s higher education funding review. Which, without representation from the National Union of Students, the biggest union in the country representing young people, the advice is likely to be proceed with caps off.

As someone who has been to two universities, studying two different things, I can only say that first time around, I probably wasn’t prepared for what university would be like. But there wasn’t any talk of compulsory gap year volunteering, an idea that has been touted, but without an ingenious funding model, is unlikely to come from the public pocket, which already has a massive hole in it.

Maybe tuition fees will be your Iraq War. Maybe you’ve got an idea you can pitch to your MP. “Single issues” are the explanation for people not engaging with politics in the traditional party sense.

So not that Labour’s move from socialist to “New Right” and Cameron’s Conservative yet hoodie huggers have anything to do with it? Young people aren’t the only people that don’t vote.

Check out First Time Voters Question Time on the BBC or on IPlayer, hosted by mum and child-friendly Dermot O’Leary. The fact that ‘Adults’ Question Time isn’t speaking to people is a question in itself, and the cool, torn graphics are vaguely insulting to your intelligence.

But, ultimately, you have to do your research, see through the spin and make up your own mind.

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