The Guardian launched the Y Gen Panel this week inviting people aged 18 to 35 to engage with them to help start a narrative regarding the countries politics.
Here is my application
What is the most important issue facing 18-35 years olds.
Two things face our group more than any other. The first is on everyone’s lips. Housing. We live in a UK now where it’s harder than ever to get on the housing ladder. Borrowing is difficult, student debt is high, there is a shortage of cheap housing and rents are expensive. For those that do get on the ladder the thought of paying off a mortgage well in to retirement with less generous pension pots is a genuinely scary one.
The second issue is more subversive. We are the Internet generation and our propensity to have our whole lives online is being systematically exploited by an over zealous security service. While this supposedly keeps us safe for the moment, it opens the doors to being a weapon in the future that we would be powerless to resist.
What issues most affect your quality of life.
Nowadays, ones quality of life is usually viewed in terms of disposable income. My wife and I set up our home and married when we were 22, we have (just) paid our student debt. We have the dubious luxury of having life insurance set up, mortgage protection insurance and private pensions. In short we are doing our best to be responsible and subscribe to the recommendations available to us. There are many people in our position, people who work hard who believe that the conservative government will support them, people who think that the quality of life is something they earn. I believe the quality of life is determined by ones conscience and the challenges you set yourself. When the government make it harder for the worst off in society to survive never mind challenge themselves its to the detriment of everyone’s quality of life.
What is your greatest worry?
That there is a failure amongst politicians to look beyond their own careers. We live on a planet at risk from our governments agenda of continual economic growth while we miss every climate change target ever set. While every election is fought on economic grounds alone, the long term future looks dimmer. Increasingly Orwellian surveillance powers epitomise short term gain without regard for the long term dangers.
What are you optimistic about?
In the short term that there is a resurgence of interest in left wing politics. For a long time the fringes of politics were dominated by the right and the parties in power were only marginally more centrist. Our generation have never really experienced “the left”. Most of our political knowledge starts at Thatcher. There is a sense that the older generations are taking us aside, sitting us on their knee and shaking their heads in disapproval. I don’t think we will take a blind bit of notice.
I consider myself lucky. I am 31, married, a home owner and shortly expecting my first child. Both me and my wife are educated and debt free. We know even amongst our friends that we are a rarity. All things going well we will have paid off our mortgage before we are 50, but for many of our friends who have only got on the housing ladder in the last few years, the future is less positive. My wife is a teacher and we remark almost daily on how our education system is designed for government pleasing headlines rather than giving children the skills to survive. Our child’s future is our priority and I wonder whether our education system is fit for purpose.
What’s the one change that would benefit your life?
Free money for people with my name? Changes need to be made to benefit the most in need and the largest sections of society. Positive housing policies, climate change commitments, human rights protections, guaranteed legal aid, education being seen as a important for its own sake and not just as a means of producing a productive population. Any of those things would benefit me.
Would you be interested in taking part in a guardian panel and why
During the last election I became increasingly involved in politics. I joined a political party, manage their social media for our constituency and started a blog. I am hugely passionate about both learning about what is possible when people meet and debate and actually helping and striving to make a difference. At university I studied philosophy where my overriding lesson was that thoughts only have real meaning when they are put in to actions which is where politics is a natural progression. Being involved in a panel, helping to represent my generation would be something I would embrace with both hands. Every generation gets one chance to make a difference and this could be one of mine.
The innovation that has to happen (which I feel has started to happen) is issues need to cease being debated on the governments terms. When we talk about trident for example, the narrative needs to be not “would you launch it” or the economic pros or cons, but that we should be leading the way in the nuclear disarmament pledges every nuclear power has agreed to in principle. Education needs to be sold as a right of passage that will inform and help shape children in the adults they want to be, rather than slavishly tracking data and league tables. The truth of secrets kept for ‘security reasons’ needs to be told. It’s not endangering us, it endangering the publics trust in the security services. Something of a catch 22.
All young people want is hope. They don’t necessarily need inspiring, or patronising or engaging in an innovative way. They just want to feel less marginalised, more relevant and most importantly….. Heard.