Generation Anxiety

Everything’s our fault, right? Whether it’s the fact we’re too lazy, too liberal, too promiscuous, or like one article I saw, not all of us youths have seen a cow, we’re constantly at fault it seems. I don’t like the idea of such distinct groups e.g. Millennials, Y, Z – so I’ll band us together for this one piece. Those between let’s say, 16 and 35, seem to bear the brunt of the bad news, and it’s no surprise that cases of mental health illnesses, including anxiety, are on the rise.

Is Anxiety new? Of course not. So why does it feel new? Why is it that anxiety is only now being recognised as a serious illness and divided into the subsets that it deserves? Like other mental health problems such as depression and eating disorders, anxiety is simply now more talked about, more open, and in times of such turmoil and stress, it’s arguably more severe. 21% of people rate their levels of anxiety at 6 or above, and the consensus is that anywhere between 10-30% of adults suffer, or are likely to suffer from anxiety at some point.

I’m not as open with anxiety in the same way as I am with my depression, and I suppose that’s because of the anxiety itself in a way. Many of us experience anxious feelings in some way, whether it’s simply difficulty concentrating or a full-blown panic attack, and it’s most definitely on the rise amongst young people. Rachael Dove highlights this, saying that 57% of female university students experienced episodes of overwhelming anxiety, and it reflects the issues many young people have in what is essentially the most important periods of their lives.

We know what older people will say, “Oh it’s technology, social media, they need to get off their phones”. Is it really that simple? There’s evidence for and against that statement. As highlighted here, four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, with Instagram the most damaging. Of all the main social media websites, only YouTube was judged to have a positive effect on young people. Why is that?

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This is Not a Game, The Single Market Must Now be Fought For!

The idea that anyone can tell us what a Leave vote represented is folly. The referendum was based upon our continued membership of the European Union, not upon what the terms of a theoretical exit would be. The idea that the 52% voted to take us out the single market, the customs union, and out of entities such as the European Court of Justice is ridiculous. Yet that is the drivel being spouted, not only by the Tories but by senior members of the Labour Party. There is no precedent for our exit from the EU whatsoever.

Because of this, Brexit is an absolute shambles. The government have absolutely no clue what they are doing and contradict each other one day to the next, and so do the opposition. The only party with clarity on these issues are the EU, and they will be licking their lips at the prospect of two years of discussions with David Davis. With a hung parliament, and the government lacking their own majority to enforce such a hard Brexit, the Labour front bench could play a divisive role in the future of our relations with the EU, and whether we stay within the single market. But alas, they are now standing back. As Rob Francis puts it quite simply, Labour and Corbyn should be leading, not following.

Labour’s stance on Brexit is, let’s face it, is anybody’s guess. Last Sunday on Andrew Marr, Jeremy Corbyn said that a Labour government would leave the single market because it is dependent on membership of the EU, which is both wrong, and harmful. Norway is one example of a country who are not in the EU but have full membership within the single market, and Corbyn knows this. By Wednesday, his Chancellor said the opposite, then Dianne Abbott mimicked this before Barry Gardiner said that we should leave both the single market and the customs union!

I do understand the arguments behind Labour not landing on one concrete position regarding Brexit, as the party hopes to capitalise on a changing public mood and Tory mistakes. But there are times when national interest comes first. Leaving the single market would be catastrophic for the UK’s economy, and even if Brexit led to a Labour government, leaving the single market would make it even harder and more treacherous for Labour to meet their manifesto spending pledges. The IFS has forecast that leaving the single market for a free trade agreement could cause a £31bn hit to the public finances, extending austerity even further.

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Abolishing Tuition Fees is Wrong, But Wise for Corbyn and Labour

During an election where the Tories wanted talk of policy to be non-existent, and leadership to be scrutinised by the public, it was two policies that ultimately set the tone for the exit poll. One being the so called ‘Dementia Tax’, and the other being Labour’s pledge to abolish University tuition fees, something which was popular with younger voters. Tuition fees were actually introduced by Labour back in 1998 – although they had been on the cards for years, and were introduced a much lower cost than we see now. It was the coalition government of 2010 that tripled fees to 9k a year, and it was the Tory government of 2015 that decided to remove this cap, and scrap maintenance grants for students.

Corbyn’s Labour has had a distinct position on this since day 1; he wants to abolish tuition fees and has also mentioned before, although it’s not policy, that debt for current graduates could also be removed. And one thing it certainly did do, was enthuse younger voters. 16% more 18-25-year olds turned out compared to 2015, and one of the main reasons for this was because of policies they felt they could get behind, this arguably the main one.

There’s no doubt it’s popular, and that is why Labour and Corbyn continue to use it. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right, and it’s clear that abolishing tuition fees would not be a smart move. Firstly, it’s not a cheap pledge. According to Labour’s manifesto, the move would cost £11bn, and if Corbyn were to go ahead with removing debt for graduates, that is estimated to cost up to £100bn, a quite frightening amount. If both Labour and Corbyn are serious about reducing inequality in our society, there are many areas to focus on, and tuition fees are not one.

Let’s not forget also, going to University is a privilege, and should stay that way. Going to University means access to first class lecturers, specialist facilities, and world class resources. Going to university is solely benefitting the student, and is further improving their opportunities from the education they already have. Why shouldn’t students have to pay for this privilege? As highlighted by Hannah Putrus, if you commit to going to higher education, you’re making the conscious decision that the benefits of the degree outweigh the debt that comes with it.

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The Centre Ground is Torn Apart – but Moderates Time Will Come Again

Politics is very fluid, it is ever changing, and it must, as it must ebb and flow along with the public opinion and the Overton window. Traditionally, elections are won in the centre ground, as the party that appeal best to them traditionally gain their majorities. There is a big difference between centrism and the centre ground; both Labour and the Tories have never really been centrist parties, but have both managed to take the centre ground for themselves over the years. There is only one ‘centrist party’ in the UK, and they have only ever been the small party in a coalition.

The spectrum and makeup of UK politics are ever-changing, but arguably over the past 2 years, it has shifted more radically than ever before. The Tories have taken a lurch to the right through Brexit, and since Corbyn’s leadership election victory Labour has moved to the left wing, although their manifesto will have told you another story. The Liberal Democrats have been demolished, and both Labour/Tory moderates find themselves on the fringes of the parties they once commanded. Traditionally, the UK has never strayed too far from the centre ground, but due to the radical paths both main parties are treading, the public is finding itself being pulled in different directions.

Therefore, the UK currently finds itself more divided than ever. The greatest divide right now is between Remainers and Leavers, even within each single party, as the Tories feud on Europe never seems to cease. Through the 2017 election we also now see big divides in age, social class, education levels, towns and cities, globalisation, and liberalism, as one side plucks for May’s Tories, and the other Corbyn’s Labour. Public opinion is shifting at a greater speed than ever before, but it is not simply lurching one way. As the latest BSA findings highlight, on some areas Britain’s opinions are moving to the left, and on others, to the right.

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The Fight for Credibility

Politics these days is far cry from its predecessors. It’s manic, very much in real time, and lacks credibility. For us pragmatic, democratic, centre left or centrist voters, we yearn for the days of strong leaders, real news, and credibility in spades. This week, Theresa May and her minority government lacking any mandate put forward their pledges in the Queens Speech, a thin one at that, and it lacked substance, and a lot of promises from the manifesto released just last month.

The Queens Speech effectively saw the end to the grammar schools debate, the fox hunting farce, the school meals slip up, and showed no clarity on the government’s plan for Brexit. Theresa May is a dead PM walking, simply keeping the seat warm for one of her fellow cabinet members in the next 12-24 months. On the other side of the commons Jeremy Corbyn kept up his momentum from the election by ripping into May’s motley gang, and propelling Labour into slender poll leads this week. This was one of the shortest Queen’s Speeches of all time, and showed the fragility of the Tories position, and the lack of credible leadership they command right now.

Things are not going to get any easier for the government either. They are yet to strike a deal with the DUP, a deal which will further toxify their brand, and this week also saw the beginning of Brexit negotiations, something Labour can exploit. Davies vs Barnier is a David v Goliath situation, if David has his hands tied behind his back, and the lack of brain cells to throw a stone. It’s clear the Tories will cave throughout the talks, and the EU will be free to make a clear example of us. We look set to leave the single market and the customs union, and Labour should be forcing their way through this open goal.

For the first time this week, polls show Britons don’t want a no deal situation, prefer single market access to immigration controls, and even maybe slightly regret their decisions. Labour must capitalise on this, which is what makes McDonnell’s comments so worrying. McDonnell pledged last week to leave the single market, something which will not please many of Labour’s voters who voted this way for a soft Brexit, and who could very easily slip back over to the Liberal Democrats.

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Still a Long Long Way to Go!

It’s no doubt that Thursday night was a very positive night for the Labour Party. When the snap election was called, the Tories were 15-20 points ahead in the polls, and a landslide was on the cards. Even when we all started heading to the polls on Thursday, most were expecting that Theresa May would increase her majority, and Labour would lose seats up and down the country.

Alas, the result was very different, and the likes of YouGov and Survation were proven right. When the exit poll came in, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. When the exit poll came true, I still couldn’t quite believe my eyes. I was one of those expecting at least a 60+ majority for the Conservatives and May, and I was so happy to be proven completely wrong.

I didn’t expect Corbyn to excel like he had throughout the campaign, and I didn’t expect the youth to turnout in the way they did – both are good signs going forward. Especially the fact that young people are turning up to the polling booths, I just hope that they continue to do so, even when the leader isn’t Corbyn. Young people are the reason for Labour’s huge increase in vote share, and they must stay if Labour are going to continue to move forward.

What truly does worry me, is that so many on the left, and so many in the Labour Party seem to be viewing Thursday night as some sort of victory. Yes, the results were better than expected, but let’s stick to the facts. The Tories won; they have the most votes, the most seats, and they are once again back in Number 10, albeit propped up by the DUP. Labour still lost. And there is a still a long way to go if Labour wants to get back into power.

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Time to Think the Unthinkable?

We are now less than a week away from heading to the polling booths, and suddenly, we seem to have an actual contest on our hands. Over the past month, the Tories lead has collapsed. Their average polling lead has fallen from 16% in early April, to just 5.3% now, and YouGov has even gone as far to predict a possible hung parliament at this stage. Britain Elects, who use the polls of polls average, have the Tories increasing their majority to roughly 70, but this is still a long way off the 150+ majority we looked to be heading towards just a few weeks ago. The question many are asking, could Corbyn do it?

One of the main reasons for the turn in fortunes has been both parties’ campaign performances, which like the poll turn, looked highly unlikely a few weeks ago. It’s clear that May’s campaign has damaged her reputation among the public, and the Conservative’s campaign has been to put it frank, shocking. From the lack of costings in the published manifesto, to the dreaded ‘Dementia Tax’, and the refusal to turn up at the recent live television debates, May’s impregnable brand has taken a big hit. For the first time since she took office, more Britons are dissatisfied (50%) than satisfied with her performance as PM (43%), although she does still hold a sizable lead in popularity over Corbyn.

On the other hand, Corbyn’s popularity is on the rise. Last month roughly 15% thought he’d make a better PM than May, this has grown to roughly 35% now. Whether it’s a heck of a lot of media training, unity across the Labour Party, or a willingness to adapt, it has brought improvements. Corbyn and Labour have had a positive campaign so far, although they have been given a helping hand by May and the Tories. Corbyn has shown in the past that it’s within election campaigns he seems to shine brightest, and his performances in debates has shown huge advances.

Another positive for Labour has been their manifesto. As I stated previously here, Labour’s manifesto policies have received widespread support from the public. 58% support re-nationalising the railways, water companies, and other utilities, 61% support the increase in minimum wage, 52% support increasing the top rate of tax, 64% back abolishing zero-hour contracts, 53% want universal free school meals for primary school students, and 59% back better rent control. But the truth of the matter is, we’ve seen this all before. We’ve seen much of these election signs before.

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