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.