For Young People Let Down by Labour, the Greens Offer a Voice of Hope

2014-06-23-YoungGreensprotest-thumbMembers of the Young Green Party out in force at the March Against Austerity on 21st June 2014

The term used by the government to describe young people like me is ‘NEET’ – not in education, employment or training. Official estimates put the total number of 16-24 year-old NEETs at just shy of 1 million, 13.5% of the age group. That’s 1 million young people coming out of university, college, and school with no salary with which to pay off their inordinate debts or pay for household basics.

NEETs like myself feel as though we’re running up against a brick-wall. We have spent fourteen years in education only to enter a job market which doesn’t seem to value anything we have been taught. What few jobs there are for people without a degree or significant specialist training all too often want to see experience in the workplace, something which none of us have because we can’t get into employment to begin with. It’s a vicious, spiralling cycle.

So I find it galling when Labour leader Ed Miliband suggests that the solution is to take away the little money that the young and unemployed have simply because they lack qualifications. His proposal to remove benefits from 18-21 year olds who don’t take-up training towards a Level 3 (equivalent to an A-Level) qualification seems to be premised on the idea that gaining this one qualification will suddenly mean employers will be throwing themselves at our feet – and that we haven’t already been doing our absolute best to find work.

Training is hugely impractical for many people. Without the Educational Maintenance Allowance, a financial lifeline that was previously available to all 16-19 year-olds who were in full-time training or education and had a low household income, training is just a stretch of time in which you have no money coming in. When you’re struggling to put food on the table or pay for a bus trip to the jobcentre, it simply isn’t conceivable that you will sign-up for months of training without an income.

Even if you do take the plunge and attend and complete the course, this isn’t going to change the fact that there is such a desperate shortage of available jobs. Not that Labour seem to care. Ed Miliband’s latest announcement was nothing more than a cynical effort to court Tory voters by appearing “tough” on benefits by pedalling the lazy rhetoric that anyone who is unemployed is in that position by their own volition. I don’t know about you but poverty and financial stress was not the future I’d dreamed of when I was at school. No matter what Labour may say, the number of jobs on offer isn’t suddenly going to rapidly increase just because a few more of us NEETs have attended college and gained an A-Level in English Literature.

The government and opposition’s rhetoric does achieve one thing however: it creates a feeling of complete worthlessness amongst those of us that our out of work. Jobcentres are cold and the process is geared-around finding any job, not one that is meaningful and meets your needs. It’s a box-ticking exercise that takes us nowhere. So long as jobseekers are shifted off JSA for a few months onto a minimum wage part-time job before churning back into the system, government policy can be said to be “working” and George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith can give themselves complementary pats on the back. Whilst NEETs spend each day trawling the internet and newspapers for jobs, sending out as many applications as we can, the message we get back from the government is that we are to blame for our unemployment and inability to take our first step onto the career ladder.

Thankfully, there is an alternative message and approach to the one being put forwards by Ed Miliband. That alternative is a system which is designed to support young people so that they can achieve their ambitions rather than forcing them into a lifetime of low paid work. That’s the vision of the Green Party. It’s why the Greens are committed to making the minimum wage a living wage, so that work pays enough for you to build a life-around and support your own personal development. It’s why we as a party are committed to introducing a Citizen’s Income, separating benefits from means-testing so that work is not a necessity but an enjoyment, or is at least rewarding. It’s why we are committed to the reintroduction of the Educational Maintenance Allowance, the removal of tuition fees, and bringing down other barriers to education.

With Labour joining the Coalition in supporting the propagation of their depressing, victimising message, will you consider the alternative message being offered by the Greens?


Greens call for EU Bank Reform

LambertJeanMEP250Green Party Euro-MP Jean Lambert has hit out at Chancellor George Osborne after he announced plans bypass EU rules designed to criminalise rogue bankers in last Thursday’s annual speech to banking industry chiefs at Mansion House.

Ms Lambert, said we need reforms – but they should be decided at EU level so they encompass banks working in Frankfurt, London, and financial centres across the EU.

She said: “By attempting to introduce reforms to the British banking sector while ruling out any of the common EU reforms designed to tackle the very same problems of fraud and excess, Osborne is sending a clear message to the EU: ‘keep out of the way the UK financial sector does its business’.

This is likely to be disastrous – the financial woes suffered by much of the world were caused as much by a piecemeal approach to banking regulation as they were by the excesses of the industry.

The fact remains that the financial sector is as powerful – and fleet of foot – as most Governments. If we don’t join up regulations across borders, it will always seek to do its business in the most favourable jurisdiction, and that can only be bad for consumers.

It’s also at odds with the views of most people. The Greens have worked hard to shape EU banking regulations: pushing for a Financial Transaction Tax, for example, and a cap on bankers’ bonuses – and these are the reforms most people want to see.”

A message from Caroline Lucas MP

CL Westminster, HDFresh from its success in the European Elections, where we polled over 1.2 million votes, beat the Libdems, and secured a further seat in the European Parliament,  the Green Party is looking ahead with new confidence, bolstered by a rising membership (now 17,000 members, up from 14,000 in January) and renewed enthusiasm!

And our task could scarcely be more urgent.  The Queen’s Speech demonstrated just how dangerous and out of touch this Government is.  Its centrepiece – the Infrastructure Bill – would enshrine the right of fossil fuel companies to frack beneath people’s homes without their consent.  Not only is this an unacceptable violation of homeowners’ rights, it is completely at odds with any kind of leadership on climate change.

The same Bill would see the coalition demolish its own ‘zero carbon’ homes policy, backtracking on its previous pledge to make all new homes carbon-free from 2016.  Instead, developers will be allowed to offset carbon emissions by contributing to ‘carbon abatement schemes’ where homes fail to meet sustainability targets. Smaller developments, of up to 50 homes, could be exempt from zero carbon rules altogether – leaving buyers with fuel-guzzling properties and higher energy bills.

For these reasons – and many more! – I shall be voting against the Government’s new legislative proposals, and putting forward a Green alternative.

Meanwhile, in the House of Lords, Jenny Jones has published a Land Value Taxation Bill, which will help restrict the number of investor owned houses in the UK, making houses more affordable.  We will see if Jenny’s peers can support such a bill…

Our biggest challenge, however, comes in less than a year’s time at the General Election.  Labour have my seat – Brighton Pavilion – in their sights.  It’s number 19 on their national target list, and they’re determined to try to win it back.

In Parliament, I am standing up for a truly public NHS, for urgent action on climate change, challenging austerity, and putting forward positive alternatives like bringing rail back into public ownership.

That’s why it’s vital that we keep a strong Green voice in parliament.

And, just as we did in the European Election, we can overcome big money and negative campaigning with people power.

Caroline Lucas MP