This week many of us will vote in the General Election on June 8. We’ve spoken to local Canterbury and Whitstable candidates and politics lecturers about how each party can benefit you, the students.
We’ve asked each candidate to explain what they and their parties will do if elected into power on June 8. This includes Rosie Duffield (Labour), James Flanagan (Liberal Democrats) and Henry Stanton (Green Party).
Sir Julian Brazier (Conservatives) was contacted but declined to comment.
If you missed last weeks Canterbury Hustings, you can read about it here.
Rosie Duffield – Labour
Ms. Duffield and Labour have several ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ pledges for students and young people, including ‘free university tuition fees’.
She said: “Labour believes education should be free and that no one should be put off educating themselves for lack of money or through fear of debt.
“Last year saw the steepest fall in university applications for 30 years, and the average student now starts their working life with debts of around £44,000.”
The Labour party also want to reintroduce maintenance grants as well as tackle home ownership for younger people.
Duffield said it was ‘almost impossible’ for younger people to own a home until they reach their forties, because of deposits.
She added that students looking for their first job are being ‘priced out of the private rental market’ and labelled it ‘unaffordable’.
- Labour will introduce rent controls
- Secure tenancies and new consumer rights for renters
- Will reverse decision to abolish housing benefits for 18-21 year olds
“We need to actively listen to our students (around 40,000) and find out what they need.” Ms. Duffield said, before adding policies such as scrapping letting fees, proper rent controls, local jobs.
She said: “Often students tell us they simply cannot afford to stay in this area after graduating as they can’t afford to live here or find a decent job in the area.”
When asked about the previously mentioned ‘progressive alliance’, Duffield reiterated that Labour is the ‘only possible choice’ to remove the current Conservative MP who has been in place for 30 years.
She said: “In 2015, we had the biggest swing to Labour in the South east.
“No other party comes close to that and the Liberal Democrats came fourth two years ago, after UKIP.
“It should also be noted that the Progressive Alliance organisation recommends that people should vote and campaign for Labour here.
“Lend us your votes and we will un-seat the Tories here.”
James Flanagan – Liberal Democrats
Mr. Flanagan says the Liberal Democrats want to give young people ‘a brighter future in a fairer Britain’, opposed to ‘Theresa Mays mean-spirited Britain’.
He proposes that the Lib Dems will do this with ‘good schools, universities, hospitals and a clean environment’. Their main focuses are:
- Re-introducing maintenance grants for the poorest students.
- Introduce 2/3 bus travel discount for 16-21 year olds
- Helping young people into the rental market by setting up a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.
- Setting up a rent to own scheme, where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in their property, owning it outright after 30 years.
- Reinstating housing benefits for 18-21 year olds.
Health and the Environment:
- Put a penny on income tax to raise £6bn per year to help fund the NHS, social care and mental health.
- Reintroduce bursaries for student nurses.
- Introduce a 12-point plan for mental health, including tackling the growing mental health crisis among children and young people, and ensure timely access to good quality support – we will make mental health education a mandatory part of the national curriculum.
- Locally, the Kent and Canterbury hospital is under threat of losing its services. Later this month, the Urgent Care Centre – which deals with heart attacks and strokes – will be moved to Ashford. The Canterbury district has the second highest population in Kent, and will see another 16,000 homes built here by 2030. It also has one of the highest student to resident ratios of any city or town across the country. A fully resourced, fully supported hospital needs to remain in Canterbury – Liberal Democrats will fight to keep it here.
- Prevent 40,000 deaths a year across the UK with an Air Quality Plan to reduce air pollution, including a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme.
- Set new legally binding targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050.
Mr. Flanagan says the Liberal Democrats will ‘fight against a hard Brexit’.
He said: “We will let the British people have a say on the finals terms of Brexit through a referendum.
“If the people were trusted with departure in June last year, then they should be trusted with the destination.
“We would allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote as well.”
Flanagan feels it is ‘incredibly important’ to give the British people a final say on the Brexit deal as any future relationship with the EU will ‘affect younger generations for decades to come’.
Henry Stanton – Green Party
“The Green Party has placed young people at the heart of it’s campaign”, said Canterbury and Whitstable candidate, Henry Stanton, who also believes they are ‘unrepresented’ in politics.
Their student focuses are:
- Protect young people’s housing needs by reinstating housing benefit for under-21s, stop Local Authorities declaring young people “intentionally homeless”, and invest in community house-building projects to provide affordable, secure housing options for young people.
- Restore the Education Maintenance Allowance
- Scrap age-related wage bands of the minimum wage and raise it to a living wage level
- Scrap tuition fees and restore living grants
- Guarantee the rights of young people to study, work, live and travel in the EU
- Provide more funding for sexual health awareness campaigns and sexual health clinics
- Remove VAT from sanitary products
- Lower the voting age to 16
- Give mental health parity with physical health – “As a teacher, I know that mental health in young people is becoming an increasing cause for concern.”
Mr. Stanton said it is ‘well known that Canterbury is one of the most expensive cities in the UK for student accommodation’. Henry would like to see more accommodation built behind the University of Kent, ‘allowing easy access to University facilities’.
The Green Party candidate added that ‘greater regulation of landlords and HMO’s’, to ensure a highger quality of accommodation.
He said: “Too often landlords are gettig away with letting sub-standard accommodation to students.”
The Green Party, similar to the Liberal Democrats are committed to a second referendum, with the option to remain in the EU.
Mr. Stanton believes until a deal is made between the UK government and the EU, it’s hard to tell how students and universities will be affected.
He added that it would become harder for to obtain a student visa to come and study in Canterbury from abroard under a Conservative government.
He said: “They have pledged to reuduce immigration to under 100,000 and they insist that this number includes international students.
“There are 127,000 students in the UK, so it’s hard not to see, that obtaining a student visa to stuy in Canterbury will become very difficult.”
Mr Stanton pointed out that the Green Party previously tried ‘very hard’ to get a progressive alliance candidate fo Canterbury, but Labour and Lib Dems ‘refused’.
He said: “As a result, there is not tactical vote available – it requires all the votes of Labour, Lib Dems and the Green together in order to beat the Conservative candidate here.
“I would encourage readers to vote with their hearts, vote Green and help us build a significant Green presence in Canterbury.”
Amelia Hatfield, Noora Virtanen, Jack Brookes and Christian Turner are part of the ‘Centre for European Studies’ (CEFEUS) team at Canterbury Christ Church and have answered some questions about the some party policies.
Q: How has each party pledged to improve students lives, such as scraping tuition fees?
A: The Labour Party and Green Party plan to scrap tuition fees. However, this is quite unrealisitc.
The Conservatives has focused on impact related funding which would provide continuation to the current system.
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to protect Erasmus+ and other EU-funded schemes, therefore, ensuring student mobility and increased opportunities. It is a realistic policy.
Q: Who out of the candidates has a better track record of voting to help students?
A: On a local level it is likely to be James Flanagan who has focused on especially Higher Education and engaging local government.
Q: Is it possible for a tactical vote?
A: A tactical vote is possible as it seems that Labour has a better opportunity to do well, people who are liberally minded are likely to vote tactically.
Q: How has each party proposed to help students find jobs after University?
A: The Conservatives have highlighted the importance of appenticeships for a long time now.
The Labour Party has focused by scrapping tuition fees and introducing bursaries on creating a non-debt based student body which would mean they are positives rather than negatives to the economy.
The Lib Dems are not clear enough on this. By doing this, they missed an opportunity to appeal to the demographic of the generation of the broken promise of scrapping tuition fees.
Q: Will any party lower the voting ages?
A: SNP, Liberal Democrats and Green Party suggested lowering the voting age to 16. This is a good idea because most young people are well informed and lowering the age would encourage particpation.
If you want to find out more about the candidates and manifesto, click the links below: