Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Disenfranchising an entire generation

Labour can’t turn its back on its young voters any longer, and that means coming out for a People’s Vote, writes Joshua Curiel

As an 18-year-old student I think I can speak with some authority on what the young people of this country want – more than anyone in Westminster.

So, what do we want? Well, a vote on the final Brexit deal would be a good start.

A final vote where young people aged 16 and 17 can vote. Let’s make it similar to the Scottish referendum, where young people were included in a decision that would affect their lives the most. Perhaps the greatest mistake in the Brexit referendum was when David Cameron refused to allow 16-year-olds to vote. I was 16 at the time.

At the moment, our future is being decided by a group of people so out-of-touch that they don’t even realise that they are out-of-touch. Theresa May’s desperate attempts to straddle the Westminster divide are riddled with confusion. That a handful of hard-line Brexiteers can so forcefully drive government agenda is a pretty fearful state of affairs. The young of this country, meanwhile, are left in the dark. We have had, up to this point, no say in our own future.

This year, I started university. It is a time to broaden your scope of the world and embrace difference, to meet people from different parts of the country; even different parts of the world. Yet, one can’t help but wonder what the situation at Britain’s universities will be like post-Brexit. Will we have the same numbers of brilliantly skilled foreign students or not? Taking into account the way the Brexit negotiations are going, probably not.

Our universities will be without the European Union’s financial investment and I can’t see how any chancellor will balance the budget so that this doesn’t effect standards. Without a vote on the deal, an entire generation of young people will be irreversibly impacted by Brexit. A thing that they had no say in or, if old enough to vote, didn’t want.

By not facing the fears of young people on Brexit, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn threaten to turn a generation against this country’s two leading parties. A couple of years ago, I saw the Labour party as being a credible opposition to the Conservatives. Now, unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder not see Labour as complicit in this tragedy. Considering that Labour’s relative success in the 2017 general election was largely due to the support of young people, it’s surprising that they’re being so quiet on the matter.

As Brexit continues to leave people uncertain, many in my university look on in horror. It’s our future and yet our hands are tied. Labour has a moral duty to stand up and speak out in favour of a vote on the final deal. Brexit will definitely hit the working-class, minority communities and my fellow university students the hardest. Who speaks for us? Not the Tories, thats for sure, and not even Labour in its current state.

If the public rejected the final deal negotiated by May, it would be reflective of the will of the people, not some metropolitan elites.

In fact, a vote on the deal would be heralded as a truly democratic act. May’s Brexit deal must be put through the toughest test. Not just by parliament, but also by the people.

Our political apparatus must start listening to young people, whether the gatekeepers like it or not.


Joshua Curiel is a writer for Progress


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Joshua Curiel

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