Leigh Drennan is chair of Unite’s North West Young Members Committee and Vice Chair of Young Labour nationally. He believes the reason young people, who had become disengaged with politics, were suddenly inspired to get out and use their vote in this year’s snap general election, is down something that has been missing from politics and society since the Tories got into power – hope.
“During the snap general election young people voted in droves for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and Labour’s transformational manifesto. And we voted in droves for hope,” he said.
“This Tory government attempts to pit people against each other – public sector against the private sector. They even want to sow division between the young against the old. But young people showed in the huge turnout that we reject these divisions,” he added.
Drennan pointed out that the election lay to waste the myth that young people don’t vote.
“We do and we did because we can see quite clearly that the blame for these divisions lie firmly and squarely on a government, that has imposed an ideological political choice of austerity,” he said.
Young people have been left to shoulder a lifetime burden of debt from tuition fees made worse by the Tories spiteful abolition of the youth maintenance grant.
“The Tories claim they have the highest number of people in work than ever but it’s the work of zero hour contracts where people get to know whether they are working that day – or even the next few hours – from text messages,” said Drennan.
We now have the gig economy, a trendy technological word to cover exploitation, where workers are not even called employees.
“These claims of higher than ever employment figures are bogus. They are a fraud perpetrated on all of us,” he said.
“Well we say that young people deserve security of employment as much as anyone else and they deserve equal rights whether they are working full or part time. We have the same bills and deserve a proper living wage,” he added.
When the pundits and the pollsters ask why young people voted in droves for Jeremy’s Labour Party – this is why.
“At a pre-conference rally on the Level with a turn out in the thousands Jeremy reaffirmed the manifesto commitment to abolish tuition fees and music to our ears he reaffirmed bringing back the maintenance grant,” said Drennan.
Along with bosses that seek to exploit its workers there are landlords who are charging enormous rents following a massive transfer from council provision to private landlords.
When housing isn’t judged on need but on profit a future Labour government has the answer – they will build a million new houses.
“As if young people haven’t been hammered enough youth services are under constant attack. The figures are shocking 600 youth centers have been shut and over 3,000 youth workers have lost their jobs,” said Drennan.
“Conservatives cynically calculate that young people don’t vote for them so they have cut and cut again,” he added.
Government figures show that local authority spending on youth services has fallen by more than a half from £1.2bn in 2010 to just £500m.
Youth services and the youth profession in England are fighting for their very survival.
“My union, Unite, has set out a road map for what the government could do framed around three priorities; the creation of a universal youth service protected in statute, the introduction of a legally protected title for youth workers and a national register so youth workers are given the same status as other sections of the children and young people’s workforce and the reversal of cuts,” said Drennan.
Youth work as a profession has lost the status it had.
“This is why we strongly support the Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers as the quality benchmark to maintain the pay and employment conditions, status and professionalism of youth workers,” he said. During the snap election young people hit the streets, knocked on doors and took to the phones.
“Our vote went up and we took seats from the Conservatives. Theresa May lost the government’s majority and, she lost all her authority, but we must keep the momentum going,” said Drennan.
“We are in permanent campaign mode, because we know that for young people to get the hope they voted for in droves we need a Labour government with a manifesto that restores trust, and gives young people a future they can believe in,” he said.