Ed Milband addresses Labour Party conference, 2012. Photo: Getty
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Labour's young people manifesto keeps the promise of Britain alive

The launch of Labour's groundbreaking young people manifesto today is further evidence of Ed Miliband's determination to put the future of the younger generation at the heart of this election campaign.

The launch of Labour's groundbreaking young people manifesto today is further evidence of Ed Miliband's determination to put the future of the younger generation at the heart of this election campaign.

This generation of young people are energetic, creative and leading a new era of innovation. They believe in personal responsibility but are crying out for a Government which is on their side. They have been abandoned by a Tory party which has nothing to say to young  people and the Lib Dems whose broken promises have not only damaged their own support but massively corroded trust in politicians and the capacity of politics to make a difference. Too many young people are weighed down by debt and held back by insecure work with little prospect of career progression. Home ownership is a distant dream. One young person said to me recently echoing the sentiments of many, "I've worked hard and done everything right, but I'm stuck in a rut and don't feel good about the future."

Labour's manifesto, a Better Future for Young People, addresses these issues with an overriding commitment to restore the promise of Britain that each generation should do better than the last.

It is plan to support for young people pursuing their ambitions and fulfilling their potential –

to give them a stronger voice in shaping the decisions which affect their lives and our democracy.

One of the clearest illustrations of how this government is failing young people is the growing number of careers and professions which are effectively closed shops, only accessible to young people who have significant financial means or family support – “the Bank of Mum and Dad”.  This deeply entrenched unfairness is seen in the internships offered in highly sought-after sectors like the arts, media, fashion and finance, where young people are expected to work unpaid for months at a time. This means those without financial support are locked out of opportunities. It is partially responsible for the alarming stalling of social mobility in Britain, It cannot be in the interests of British business to limit their talent pool now and fail to invest in the next generation of workers.

Building on the excellent work by Labour's Shadow Minister for Universities, Liam Byrne, Ed Miliband is announcing today that an incoming Labour Government will legislate to ensure that anyone undertaking work experience for more than four weeks should be paid at the very least the minimum wage.

We are confident this will be supported by the vast majority of responsible employers, many of whom already do the right thing. As with current legislation governing the minimum wage, people undertaking voluntary work will not be affected.

Labour’s Manifesto for Young People was drawn up after extensive engagement with young people across the country through our Shape Your Future campaign. It addresses many of the issues they tell us are holding them back and making them feel insecure about the future.

 Other measures being announced today include:

  •  Reducing graduate and national debt, by cutting tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 and increasing student maintenance grants by £400
  •  Guaranteeing high quality apprenticeships for all school-leavers that get the grades.
  •  Making work pay by banning exploitative zero-hours contracts, and raising the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 by October 2019.
  •  Investing in the jobs of the future and showing our commitment to climate change by making Britain a world leader in low carbon technology over the next decade, creating a million more green jobs.
  •  Ensuring no young person is left behind, by guaranteeing a paid starter job with training to all those unemployed for more than a year.
  •  Tackling rising housing costs, by building more homes, helping first time buyers and legislating for longer and more affordable tenancies in the private rented sector.
  •  Strengthening the voice of young people by giving 16 and 17 year-olds the right to vote.
  • With polling day three weeks away, Labour is once again challenging conventional wisdom in this election.

We are focusing on the hopes and ambitions of young people, not writing them off as disengaged and disillusioned. By doing so, we are recognising that only by utilising the talents of all young people will Britain succeed in the future. We are backing young Britain but also the parents and grandparents who have devoted their lives to ensuring their children and grandchildren have better life chances than they had.

Labour's young people manifesto can be read in full here.

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Who will win in Copeland? The Labour heartland hangs in the balance

The knife-edge by-election could end 82 years of Labour rule on the West Cumbrian coast.

Fine, relentless drizzle shrouds Whitehaven, a harbour town exposed on the outer edge of Copeland, West Cumbria. It is the most populous part of the coastal north-western constituency, which takes in everything from this old fishing port to Sellafield nuclear power station to England’s tallest mountain Scafell Pike. Sprawling and remote, it protrudes from the heart of the Lake District out into the Irish Sea.

Billy, a 72-year-old Whitehaven resident, is out for a morning walk along the marina with two friends, his woolly-hatted head held high against the whipping rain. He worked down the pit at the Haig Colliery for 27 years until it closed, and now works at Sellafield on contract, where he’s been since the age of 42.

“Whatever happens, a change has got to happen,” he says, hands stuffed into the pockets of his thick fleece. “If I do vote, the Bootle lass talks well for the Tories. They’re the favourites. If me mam heard me saying this now, she’d have battered us!” he laughs. “We were a big Labour family. But their vote has gone. Jeremy Corbyn – what is he?”

The Conservatives have their sights on traditional Labour voters like Billy, who have been returning Labour MPs for 82 years, to make the first government gain in a by-election since 1982.

Copeland has become increasingly marginal, held with just 2,564 votes by former frontbencher Jamie Reed, who resigned from Parliament last December to take a job at the nuclear plant. He triggered a by-election now regarded by all sides as too close to call. “I wouldn’t put a penny on it,” is how one local activist sums up the mood.

There are 10,000 people employed at the Sellafield site, and 21,000 jobs are promised for nearby Moorside – a project to build Europe’s largest nuclear power station now thrown into doubt, with Japanese company Toshiba likely to pull out.

Tories believe Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on nuclear power (he limply conceded it could be part of the “energy mix” recently, but his long prevarication betrayed his scepticism) and opposition to Trident, which is hosted in the neighbouring constituency of Barrow-in-Furness, could put off local employees who usually stick to Labour.

But it’s not that simple. The constituency may rely on nuclear for jobs, but I found a notable lack of affection for the industry. While most see the employment benefits, there is less enthusiasm for Sellafield being part of their home’s identity – particularly in Whitehaven, which houses the majority of employees in the constituency. Also, unions representing Sellafield workers have been in a dispute for months with ministers over pension cut plans.

“I worked at Sellafield for 30 years, and I’m against it,” growls Fred, Billy’s friend, a retiree of the same age who also used to work at the colliery. “Can you see nuclear power as safer than coal?” he asks, wild wiry eyebrows raised. “I’m a pit man; there was just nowhere else to work [when the colliery closed]. The pension scheme used to be second-to-none, now they’re trying to cut it, changing the terms.”

Derek Bone, a 51-year-old who has been a storeman at the plant for 15 years, is equally unconvinced. I meet him walking his dog along the seafront. “This county, Cumbria, Copeland, has always been a nuclear area – whether we like it or don’t,” he says, over the impatient barks of his Yorkshire terrier Milo. “But people say it’s only to do with Copeland. It ain’t. It employs a lot of people in the UK, outside the county – then they’re spending the money back where they’re from, not here.”

Such views might be just enough of a buffer against the damage caused by Corbyn’s nuclear reluctance. But the problem for Labour is that neither Fred nor Derek are particularly bothered about the result. While awareness of the by-election is high, many tell me that they won’t be voting this time. “Jeremy Corbyn says he’s against it [nuclear], now he’s not, and he could change his mind – I don’t believe any of them,” says Malcolm Campbell, a 55-year-old lorry driver who is part of the nuclear supply chain.

Also worrying for Labour is the deprivation in Copeland. Everyone I speak to complains about poor infrastructure, shoddy roads, derelict buildings, and lack of investment. This could punish the party that has been in power locally for so long.

The Tory candidate Trudy Harrison, who grew up in the coastal village of Seascale and now lives in Bootle, at the southern end of the constituency, claims local Labour rule has been ineffective. “We’re isolated, we’re remote, we’ve been forgotten and ignored by Labour for far too long,” she says.

I meet her in the town of Millom, at the southern tip of the constituency – the opposite end to Whitehaven. It centres on a small market square dominated by a smart 19th-century town hall with a mint-green domed clock tower. This is good Tory door-knocking territory; Millom has a Conservative-led town council.

While Harrison’s Labour opponents are relying on their legacy vote to turn out, Harrison is hoping that the same people think it’s time for a change, and can be combined with the existing Tory vote in places like Millom. “After 82 years of Labour rule, this is a huge ask,” she admits.

Another challenge for Harrison is the threat to services at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital. It has been proposed for a downgrade, which would mean those seeking urgent care – including children, stroke sufferers, and those in need of major trauma treatment and maternity care beyond midwifery – would have to travel the 40-mile journey to Carlisle on the notoriously bad A595 road.

Labour is blaming this on Conservative cuts to health spending, and indeed, Theresa May dodged calls to rescue the hospital in her campaign visit last week. “The Lady’s Not For Talking,” was one local paper front page. It also helps that Labour’s candidate, Gillian Troughton, is a St John Ambulance driver, who has driven the dangerous journey on a blue light.

“Seeing the health service having services taken away in the name of centralisation and saving money is just heart-breaking,” she tells me. “People are genuinely frightened . . . If we have a Tory MP, that essentially gives them the green light to say ‘this is OK’.”

But Harrison believes she would be best-placed to reverse the hospital downgrade. “[I] will have the ear of government,” she insists. “I stand the very best chance of making sure we save those essential services.”

Voters are concerned about the hospital, but divided on the idea that a Tory MP would have more power to save it.

“What the Conservatives are doing with the hospitals is disgusting,” a 44-year-old carer from Copeland’s second most-populated town of Egremont tells me. Her partner, Shaun Grant, who works as a labourer, agrees. “You have to travel to Carlisle – it could take one hour 40 minutes; the road is unpredictable.” They will both vote Labour.

Ken, a Conservative voter, counters: “People will lose their lives over it – we need someone in the circle, who can influence the government, to change it. I think the government would reward us for voting Tory.”

Fog engulfs the jagged coastline and rolling hills of Copeland as the sun begins to set on Sunday evening. But for most voters and campaigners here, the dense grey horizon is far clearer than what the result will be after going to the polls on Thursday.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.