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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

“Spreadsheet Phil” fails to excel – millennials give their views on the Tory budget 2017

23 November 2017
The Tory budget was a blatant attempt to woo young voters, did it work? Political Editor Matt Mathers discusses

“I was pretty sceptical in the run up to the budget and I’m certainly not impressed now it has been delivered” says Sarah, a 20 year old living in London.

“I think the chancellor’s announcements on the housebuilding project and the introduction of a 26-30 railcard in particular were part of a strategy by the Tories to win back younger voters. I would have liked to have seen more action on tax avoidance as well as an increase in corporation tax,” she added.

On Wednesday Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond delivered his autumn budget, which contained a number of policies that appeared to benefit the younger generation. Hammond or, “Spreadsheet Phil” as he is known to his colleagues, announced that the Government plans to pump £5 billion into building 300,000 homes annually, abolish stamp duty for first time buyers as well as plans to introduce a 26-30 year old railcard, entitling holders to one third off rail journeys.

It was only last month that Theresa May’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme was slammed by economists for focusing on demand rather than supply, as well as predominantly benefitting the wealthy. So have the Tories had a change of heart when it comes to defending the interests of us millennials?

Successive Conservative led governments have increased tuition fees and abolished maintenance grants, affecting the most socio-economically challenged students. Productivity levels continue to struggle while the economy is projected to stagnate. Could it be that the Tories realise that their brand has become toxic and that they are failing to disseminate their message to today’s youth?

“Why would you support capitalism if you had no prospect of owning any capital?” said George Freeman, in the aftermath of the general election result earlier this year. The former chair of the Conservative Party policy forum, who resigned on Tuesday, was attempting to make sense of his party’s inability to attract younger voters at the June poll. And he was right to be concerned – the Tories were trounced when it came to ballots cast by those under the age of 45.

They faired particularly poorly with the youngest voters, with Labour hoovering up 60 per cent of 18-24 year olds votes. Traditionally the Tories have struggled with the youth vote but this was a particularly bad performance. The nature of the loss left former cabinet minister David Willets urging Theresa May to tackle the challenges faced by the squeezed generation, saying “the worst case scenario is, we lose the support of the younger generation, and don’t regain it.”

So is this latest attempt by the Government to curry favour with the ‘squeezed generation’ having any impact? I asked young people in London if they had been convinced.

“The railcard and housing announcements are shallow attempts by the Government to win over the younger generation. I think they have finally woken up to the ticking time bomb of UK demographics. But these announcements don’t go far enough – what good is abolishing stamp duty to someone who can’t even afford to save for a deposit to buy a house in the first place?” says Laurie, a 26 year old south Londoner.

With Theresa May in what seems like a perpetual state of chaos over Brexit and party infighting, Labour has been making significant gains on economic credibility and public opinion. In a recent poll, YouGov asked: “If there were a general election held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?” Labour outscored the Conservatives by 43 per cent to 40 per cent. But recent events both at home and abroad have shown that our politics is becoming increasingly volatile, therefore any such poll should be treated with extreme caution.

With Labour surging in the polls, has Wednesday’s budget done enough to convince young voters to jump ship? “They [the Tories] aren’t going the right way about it if they want to recapture the youth vote,” says Joe, a 21 year old living in south London. “As a Labour member I would like to see more visible spending on the NHS and schools rather than token gestures such as railcards. There was nothing on part-time or zero-hour contracts – issues that affect me directly,” he added.

Millennials are often portrayed as the lazy generation who only have their self-interests at heart, so surely the announcements from the chancellor on Wednesday will have struck a chord with young people looking to ‘get on’ and improve their lives? “Wednesday’s budget was a desperate attempt by the Tories to win back the young people that they have been alienating for years”, said Emile, a student living in East London.

“Although our generation will struggle to buy houses, most of us will still have a roof over our heads. As students in particular we need to realise that we possess a certain amount of privilege. Homelessness in the UK is an epidemic and I think this Government should be focusing on getting people off the streets instead of young people into the ballot box, just to further their own electoral interests. I welcome Hammond’s pledge to halve homelessness by 2022 but I find it troubling that it was his predecessor’s austerity policies that are at the root of the problem,” he added.

Both Labour and Conservative governments have failed to build enough houses over successive parliaments, contributing to both homelessness and rising prices. “We’ve heard it all before on housing, haven’t we?” said Danielle, a 29 year old living in north London. “Hammond’s promise to build 300,000 homes per year doesn’t fill me with confidence considering that housebuilding under the Tories since 2010 has fallen to its lowest peacetime levels. As someone who is at that age where I need to start thinking about settling down, unfortunately my future looks as uncertain as ever.”


Words: Matt Mathers @MattEm90
Image: Emma Tyrrell