Calls for National Service a reminder main parties don't understand young people - Alexander Brown
It has, by any measurement, been a horrible time for young people. Students all over Britain were kept apart from their friends and family during successive lockdowns, told their grades didn’t matter, nor did actually graduating, and were then belched into the working world during a cost-of-living crisis partly created by the Tories making Liz Truss their leader.
Last year one million people under the age of 18 were referred to mental health services for treatment, and the UK has hit a four-decade high for suicide rates among teenagers. All of this is cause for concern, and a normal response would be more funding for mental health services, increased job opportunities, and creating a society where people can flourish regardless of what their parents do.Or, in the case of the right-wing think Onward and Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, it has prompted the suggestion that National Service is the answer, because nothing cheers people up like working compulsorily for the state.
National Service – volunteering, but without the element of choice. Much like capital punishment or privatising the BBC, National Service is one of those mad ideas that comes around every few years like a rash, staining the discourse, but not having enough about it to leave any kind of tangible mark.
Its mere suggestion highlights the complete lack of interest in understanding why young people might be unhappy, and a complete failure to listen.
If young people are “unhappy, unskilled and unmoored”, which party cut university funding, scrapped Erasmus and now tells campuses what to think?
If one in five 18 to 24-year-olds are economically inactive, which party made Truss prime minister because they decided being a patriot was more important than having an economy?
When young people have been priced out of home ownership, which party scrapped house building targets?
When young people, much like Scotland, voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe, which party oversaw the end of freedom of movement and queues at the airport?
As if that wasn’t enough, young people have been saddled with enormous debt, even paying interest on student loans in England, warned they can’t have salaries too high because it will make inflation worse, and told all the things they care about don’t matter.
A overwhelming majority of young people in the UK support trans rights, but have seen this smallest of minorities made a punching bag for ministers hoping to score points by discussing penises.
Around 70 per cent of those aged 16 to 25 are extremely or very worried about climate change, but the UK Government changed the law to limit protesters rights and label campaigners “eco zealots”. Sir Keir Starmer even calls them “selfish”.
I remember speaking to a Tory MP around a year ago who worried his party wasn’t offering anything to young people, but it’s not just that. They don’t listen to them.
For all his flaws, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn inspired young people to care about politics and engage with society. Now, instead of trying to reach out to them once again, Westminster is telling them to care, rather than offering them a reason to.
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