With the looming possibility that ‘red Ed’ could actually reach Number Ten, Zak Smith tracks down the young Londoners who could swing the balance – if they make it to the polling booth
The general election is just months away, and with some opinion polls indicating that the Tories have pulled into a four-point lead, I was keen to find out how the yuppies and disenfranchised younger voters of today felt about their choices come 7 May.
With the coalition disliked, but ‘red Ed’ loathed, I wondered, for ambitious twentysomethings in London looking to be the industry leaders of tomorrow, what is the feeling within their industry, and what would swing them?
I met up with Barry, a Cambridge graduate working for a private investment office. ‘Most people say they don’t take Ed seriously at all, although there’s mounting anxiety as the elections draw closer. Ultimately, for people in the financial world, tax is everything, and I want to know that for my hard work and long hours, I can keep as much as possible.’ Conservative through and through then.
I then moved onto Richard Silver, a director at commercial property firm Hatton Real Estate. ‘With regards to Central London, there has been a great wave of optimism in London in recent years and I see this continuing.’
From a residential perspective, however, Richard was not as optimistic. Given the recent stamp duty changes that seem to punitively affect Londoners, he echoed the sentiments of many in the industry: ‘I am deeply concerned about Labour’s proposed mansion tax.’For those in real estate then, there doesn’t seem to be much of a choice to make either.
However, the flipside of all of this is that for many ambitious graduates and twentysomethings in London, even getting to the point at which Labour’s proposed tax kicks in seems light years away, and neither of the two major parties has a plan to tackle living costs and affordable London housing.
The Conservatives blindly encourage foreign money that distorts the capital, at times both ethically and socioeconomically troubling, yet on the other hand Labour seems to be anti-business and relentlessly plays on the politics of envy, bridling even the most left-leaning of London’s next generation. That’s before you even start on the party leadership, who seem so out of touch with this particular demographic it verges on comical.
I spoke with Phil, a privately educated up-and-coming television journalist, who in my eyes represents a large number of ambitious yet disenfranchised Londoners. Not in line for wheeler-dealer property commissions or banker bonuses, nor bequeathed a deposit for a trendy flat in Dalston, the stark reality of a London increasingly disassociated from the one in which he grew up in is more of a concern. Whichever way he votes, Phil’s main concern was that, one day, ‘I hope I can afford a house.’
The problem is that political parties don’t care about the needs and problems of the young – largely because the young don’t vote. According to the League of Young Voters, 44 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted in 2010, whereas 76 per cent of over-65s did. If younger people want a better politics which supports them, they need to get out and vote on 7 May.