They are the masters now. Photo:Getty
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2015 was the first election I cared about. It didn't end well

Five years ago, the election was thousands of miles away in both sense. This time, it was up close and personal. The worst thing is, I'm one of the luckier ones.

I woke up on Friday 8 May at about 6.45am in a state of confusion. I had collapsed on the sofa, still in my school uniform, and as I reached for my phone to check Twitter, I prayed that the exit polls would be wrong. I prayed that my favourite female MPs, the likes of Lynne Featherstone and Jane Ellison who have supported my work to end female genital mutilation (FGM) had kept their seats. I prayed that Nigel Farage would resign and Nick Clegg wouldn’t lose his seat. (Don’t judge – I have a soft spot for him). Most of all, I prayed that the Conservatives would not win the 326 seats they needed in the House of Commons that would lead to a full-blown Tory government for the next five years.

It was all wishful thinking. To my horror, the Conservatives had already won 240 seats with 118 seats to go, many of which could be won by them.. And by the time my afternoon lessons were over, David Cameron had smugly talked about his “sweet victory”, Nigel Farage had called Ukip the party for “young working women” (which is strange, as he called for women of ‘childbearing age’ not to be employed) and the Conservatives had won a majority in the House of Commons with 331 seats. Everything seemed like a mess and still exhausted from the night before, I went to bed.

This was the first general election I paid full attention to. Five years ago I was 11 and living in Nigeria and British politics felt, and was, thousands of miles away. A lot has changed since 2010 and a lot will change by 2020. By 2020, I want to have graduated from university, hopefully have a job and might start looking at getting my feet up the property ladder. However, things look a bit bleak. The average student will now graduate with £44,000 of debt and youth unemployment stands at 63.2 per cent. Under the Tories, 3.3 million young people are living with their parents into their thirties as rents and deposits continue to increase. Analysis from the House of Commons Library shows that if things continue the way they are, the average deposit for a house will be £72,000.

I am not saying that a Labour government is the best thing for Britain; I really don’t know. Nevertheless, I am certain that a full-blown Tory government is not what Britain needs, and it is certainly not what young people need.

Labour promised to ban zero hour contracts and the party also promised to ‘tackle the growth of unpaid internships because thousands of highly paid young people who cannot afford to work for free are locked out of too many of our professions’. 16-17 year olds would be given the vote –a huge constitutional step forward, although I still think political education is important. And they would unlock a Future Homes Fund to invest in increasing housing supply and legislate to make three year tenancies the norm. Oh, and they were planning to reduce tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000. Reading through these policies, it felt like one party was actually making policies that could influence the lives of the most vulnerable young people in Britain. Reading through the Conservative policies and it felt like somebody had pointed out there was nothing for young people so at 2am in the morning, with some slightly tipsy people round the table, stuff was written down and the manifesto was sent to the printer. There wasn’t enough to show that David Cameron cared.

My biggest fear now is the poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer. I worry that so many young people will be homeless and in debt. I worry many will be unable to find jobs. I worry that mental health issues will continue to be ignored. I worry that young women will be ‘othered’ and silence and I worry that we will continue to pretend like Britain is a country where people of colour don’t exist. I am extremely privileged and I know that. I have a place to call home. I will not go hungry. Not everybody is as lucky as I am, and luck shouldn’t come into accessing the basic things in life regardless of personal circumstance. This is why I believe in a party that does not discriminate and puts the most vulnerable in society first. This is why I want a party that prioritizes young people, the future of our country.

Instead, I’m worried that things are going to get a lot worse.

 

June Eric-Udorie is a 17-year-old writer whose writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan and the New Statesman among others.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.