This morning, Ed Miliband launched Labour’s first ever “youth manifesto”, with a raft of recent pledges aimed at first-time voters. He would, he promised, cut tuition fees to £6,000 a year, guarantee jobs for unemployed youngsters and crack down on rogue landlords, among other things.
This is hardly a surprising strategy: David Cameron is planning to ride to victory on an OAP’s shiny new mobility scooter, powered by the tears of a thousand young workers who can’t get housing benefits. And so it follows that Ed Miliband is getting the young on side by offering them some policies that make their future seem less bleak while reminding them that they hate Nick Clegg. The thing is, in launching this manifesto, Labour has ignored the relatively small number of young people who are really invested in the party – who knock on doors, send tweets and try to convince their mates to vote Labour. In its supposed attempt to give young people a voice, Labour has silenced its own young members.
In February, Miliband, along with Labour MPs Ivan Lewis and Lisa Nandy, launched a consultation called “#ShapeYourFuture”. They asked young people to come forward and offer ideas for the youth manifesto in an online free-for-all. When Lewis came to address members of Young Labour – the party’s youth wing – last August, he indicated there would be little room for spending commitments or anything that conflicted with existing party policy. That sort of makes you wonder what the point of the consultation really was and how we were really being allowed to “#ShapeOurFutures”.