Home News ‘The country is falling apart’: Young British voters frustrated

‘The country is falling apart’: Young British voters frustrated

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On a June morning, union flags fluttered in the chilly wind as Liam Kehoe and colleagues struck outside the Royal Liverpool University Hospital to demand better pay for porters, cleaners and catering staff. Their wages have not kept pace with rising prices, and many say they are living paycheck to paycheck.

Mr. Kehoe, 26, who works as a hospital food deliveryman, said he planned to vote for the center-left Labour Party on Thursday, general election day, given the economy and the collapse of the National Health Service.

Thinking of his parents living on salaries earned as nurses and truck drivers, Mr. Kehoe said that after 14 years of Conservative rule, the prospects for young people have become much worse. “If you go back 30 years, it was a little cheaper and life was a little easier,” he said. “Now, it seems like nothing is affordable.”

Polls show that more than half Voters under 35 plan to vote Labour On Thursday, just 27% of voters over 65 said they supported young people. While the divide between the young and old in politics is not new, it has been unusually divided in recent years in Britain, with support for the ruling Conservative Party falling sharply among all but the oldest age groups. Recent polls.

Before 2019, the main factors that influenced whether people voted Conservative or Labour is incomeMolly Bloom, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, a UK research institute, said that recently, “age has replaced class as the determining factor in how people vote.”

The northern city of Liverpool has long been a Labour stronghold with a proud working-class tradition, and many young people say their loyalty to the centre-left party is strengthened by a feeling that the Conservatives have ignored their needs.

Mr. Kehoe and his girlfriend are trying to buy a home. “The housing market is in tatters,” he said. “The whole country is broken because this government works for them and not for us. They don’t care about us little people at the bottom.”

Others expressed broader dissatisfaction with a political system that they felt was not taking their needs into account. Some young people said they would not vote at all, while others cast their ballots for third-party candidates who had little chance of winning their seats but whose ethos was more aligned with theirs.

Experts say much of the political messaging of Britain’s two main parties focuses on the priorities of older generations because they make up a large portion of the electorate, partly due to demographic changes. They are also more likely to vote: about 96% of those over 65 are registered to vote, compared with 60% of 18- to 19-year-olds and 67% of 20- to 44-year-olds. According to 2023 Report of the Electoral Commission.

Despite falling living standards for younger generations, politicians have maintained some policies that support the elderly. For example, the pension “triple lock” system introduced by the Conservative-led government in 2011 ensures that the state retirement income (similar to Social Security in the United States) increases each year by the highest of income growth, inflation, or 2.5%.

Ms Bloom said while age remained the main dividing factor between the two major parties, there was also a split within the younger generations, with Labor polling positively across all generations except millennials who had not graduated from university and those who did not own property.

Ms Bloom said: “The fact is not that they are more likely to vote Conservative; the fact is that they are less likely to vote at all.”

Owen Burrows, 21, a Liverpool hospital porter, said that although this was his first time eligible for a general election, he did not plan to vote.

“I just couldn’t say who I really agreed with, so I didn’t really want to vote,” he said. He remembered feeling “confused” in 2016 when the country voted to leave the European Union.

He said: “Given the current state of the UK and the whole Brexit situation, it feels like everything has gone completely wrong.”

Brexit is a big issue for many people. Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, once a warehouse district, is now a thriving creative industry where young people spend the night on skateboards. The rhythmic roll of the wheels echoes off the brightly painted walls.

One of those skateboarders is Joe McKenna, 26, the first in his family to go to university. He voted for the first time in the Brexit referendum, choosing to remain in the United Kingdom, even though both his parents voted to leave.

“I think that was the first time I noticed there was a divide between my parents and my thinking,” he said. “Now, we don’t really talk about it because it’s happened and I think they know it’s not a good situation. But I don’t blame them.”

He plans to vote for Labour in the upcoming election, given the impact of Brexit.

“I think they are the lesser of two evils,” he said. “A lot of working-class people voted Conservative in the last election because they believed there would be change. Obviously with Brexit, that has swayed a lot of people towards the Conservatives.”

Housing is another focus of discontent, with around 70% of young Britons saying they believe the dream of owning a home has been shattered for many of their generation. According to a study by the Center for Policy Researcha UK research group. The data supports this view: 39% 25 to 34 years old In 2022-23, the proportion of people owning their own home was lower than the peak of 59% in 2000.

Even some young Conservatives, such as Olivia Lever, 24, a founder of the Young Conservatives at Liverpool University, said they felt forgotten in the campaign. Director of “Blue Beyond”is a grassroots group of young Conservatives who say the Conservative Party is not doing enough to meet the needs of young people.

“Within the Conservative Party, there has been a divide for some time between younger members of the party and older members,” she said. “After this election, where is the growth? Where is the housebuilding? Where are the jobs? How do we inspire and empower people?”

Ms. Lever said many young people had “completely lost interest in politics because it’s largely centered around old people.” She pointed to a recent survey her team conducted of young Conservatives asking them to describe the current campaign. Many responded, “Baby boomers.”

At the other end of the political spectrum, young people who identify with the progressive left also say they feel disenfranchised. Last month, a small protest camp emerged at Liverpool University against the conflict in Gaza, inspired by similar demonstrations in the United States.

Students and recent graduates there expressed disappointment that Labour did not immediately call for a ceasefire or condemn Israel’s actions. Aamor Crofts, 21, who is studying wildlife conservation and has been camping here since May, plans to vote for the Green Party or an independent candidate.

“I don’t see any of the major parties that really represent me,” she said. She said young people were having to deal with the consequences of Brexit, economic hardship and soaring house prices. “This is not the country we want to inherit,” she said.

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