Must Politics Really Be This Uninspiring?

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Keir Starmer has confirmed that Labour will not be enacting their former flagship £28bn-per-annum green investment budget should they become the governing party at the next General Election. 

This move should not come as much of a surprise to anyone; since becoming Labour leader, Starmer has walked back on many of the policy promises made during his leadership campaign. Nonetheless, this most recent decision may leave young voters feeling abandoned, alienated and unrepresented. Polling has found that young people as a demographic are particularly concerned about climate change — and it’s not hard to see why. As clearly as we’re already seeing the effects of climate change, far greater climate catastrophe could strike the world in years to come. It is the future of young people, more than that of any other demographic, which hangs in the balance. It is the youth of today and their offspring who will live most of their lives in the unstable world with which we are threatened, should politicians not immediately take robust action.

Labour’s most recent U-turn is only the most recent of its ilk. As a young person considering the profiles of both major UK parties, it all seems to amount to such an enormous ‘so what?’. The Tories are reviled at the moment by the majority of the British public, but especially (as ever) by young people. The latest YouGov voting intention poll finds their support at a measly 5% among 18-24 year olds. While Keir Starmer’s party continues to garner far greater youth support than their rivals, it feels difficult to muster any real enthusiasm for them. It has been nine months since Labour ditched their long-held promise to abolish University tuition fees if elected. And as Rishi Sunak’s Tories launch possibly the greatest offensive on trans rights this century, Labour have offered relatively mild opposition at crucial points. In January 2023, Starmer whipped his MPs to abstain as the government vetoed a landmark SNP bill on gender recognition in Scotland, despite the bill having already been passed by Holyrood. YouGov data has found that young people are more progressive across the board on trans rights than their elders. The government has dragged the issue into a wider culture war, with Rishi Sunak recently using transphobic jibes to mock Labour in parliament. Perhaps such antics succeed in cowing Keir Starmer and his party against their better principles. 

As well as Starmer’s milquetoast-ness on specific issues, there’s also a general drabness about his plan (or lack thereof) for a Labour government, felt particularly keenly among younger voters. YouGov data from October 2023 showed that 45% of 18-24 year olds believe it is unclear what Keir Starmer stands for, compared to only 23% who believe that it is clear. Many of the promises made on the ‘Missions’ page of Labour’s website are blurry or just plain uninspiring, sometimes echoing Conservative talking points. They term their own fiscal policy as ‘modern supply-side economics’, going on to describe it in fairly nebulous terms while citing conversations with ‘leading CEOs’. Their plan to revive high streets, meanwhile, is termed as ‘Community Right To Buy’, recalling Margaret Thatcher’s Right To Buy scheme. After fourteen years of the Tories, does this really excite anyone?

Admittedly, it’s unlikely that any of this really matters to either Sunak or Starmer. In the most recent YouGov voting intention poll, Labour thrash the Tories by a staggering 23%, while OddsChecker gives odds of 2/17 that Labour will win the most seats at the next General Election. That said, Keir Starmer himself appears deeply unpopular. YouGov polls have found respondents to see Starmer as ‘weak’, ‘untrustworthy’ and ‘indecisive’, with 47% saying that he is doing badly as Labour Leader compared to only 35% who say he is doing well. The data indicates that people’s enthusiasm is not for a Labour government so much as for an end to our current Tory government.

Marina Purkiss, the political commentator featured on Sky News and LBC, recently took to Twitter (or X, whatever) to urge young people to ‘take an interest and vote for [their] future’. It’s an admirable, well-intentioned call to arms — but if that’s going to happen, shouldn’t someone first give us a future to vote for?

Photo taken by Jude Lince