The Speaker
Thursday, 22 February 2024 – 03:17
Alex Mays, Leader of the Breakthrough Party

In my adult life all I’ve really known is a world in crisis

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

A financial crash in 2008, 13 years of austerity, Brexit, a global pandemic and the climate emergency has politicised me, like it has done millions of other young people (I’m 32, so I’d just about consider myself ‘young’).

But young people remain under-represented in politics, ridiculed by the political and media establishment and ultimately, thrown under the bus.

Successive neoliberal governments have pushed our generation into economic insecurity, meaning we now face the longest squeeze in living standards since the Napoleonic Wars.

A lack of affordable housing has created a housing crisis. Home ownership among young people has plummeted, meaning we’ve been driven into an exploitative private rental sector where you have to use a third of your salary to pay off your landlord’s mortgage instead of your own. This is hitting our pay-packets harder than taxes.

There’s a shortage of secure, well-paid jobs, with many young people being pushed into the gig economy and zero-hours contracts.

University fees and student debt are at an all-time high, with the average student having loans of £45,000 to pay off by the time they graduate.

Youth services have seen a 71% slash in funding since 2010, with many young people unable to access them in their community.

At 16 you’re able to work full-time or join the army, but not allowed the basic right to vote.

And even if you’re over 18 you feel compelled to vote for the least worst option under an archaic First Past The Post system, which leaves us with the political duopoly of red and blue and a vote that doesn’t really matter.

And who can forget the existential threat of climate change? There is no global leadership in tackling it and despite the rhetoric, the COP summits are not providing the radical interventions we so desperately need to save our futures.

These things are ultimately what pushed me to launch the Breakthrough Party back in January 2021, to create a new home for those who’ve been abandoned by our politicians.

We want to empower, organise and educate, but also provide hope of a society and planet that works for people, not profit.

We recognise that the time for tinkering around the edges of our failed system is over. We need radical, systemic change to meet the multiple crises and challenges of the 21st century and young people agree.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) found that 67% of young people want to live under a socialist economic system instead of a capitalist one.

John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times found that unlike previous generations, millennials aren’t getting more right-wing as they get older (and Gen Z are on course to be even more progressive).

That’s why we fight for a £16 minimum wage, regardless of age or type of employment.

A ban on zero-hour contracts and unpaid internships, and protect apprentices from exploitation.

We need to create a housing system that meets young people’s needs, meaning rent controls and a social house building project which hasn’t been seen since the end of the Second World War.

We believe education should be a right, not a privilege, that’s why we would abolish tuition fees and scrap student debt.

We will rebuild our youth services, to ensure that every young person access to local, high-quality youth work.

Not only does the voting age need to be reduced to 16, but we need proportional representation to make votes matter.

And the climate crisis. At home, we need to nationalise our energy sector and expand the production of renewables, while halting all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels.

Globally, we need to work collaboratively with other nations to create and implement a Green New Deal, to help us hit net zero as soon as humanly possible.

People will ask: “How will you afford to do this?” But my question to them would be: “How can we afford not to?”

Since the start of the COVID pandemic billionaire’s wealth grew over £100,000,000 during the pandemic and in 2022, the richest 177 people in Britain added an extra £55,000,000,000 to their fortunes.

Their combined wealth now stands at £653,000,000,000.

Asking them to pay a wealth tax on these profits to help those who need it most shouldn’t be seen as radical, but it’s something that has been totally ignored by both Labour and the Conservatives.

And then there’s the waste. The Tories wasted nearly £100 billion during the pandemic, including £37 billion on a failed test and trace system and billions given to their mates for PPE which didn’t work.

The money exists, they just lack the political will to use it.

So, what does the future hold?

It’s predicted that young people will cast more votes than boomers in the next general election. After years of being considered an electoral afterthought, our votes will soon hold the balance of power, meaning, without drastic changes to their policy both Labour and the Conservatives could be consigned to political obscurity. A gap exists in the political landscape for a Party that fights for the interests of young people and we at Breakthrough hope to fill that void.

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