OUCA President William Rees-Mogg
It was tempting, on sitting down to write this article, to trot out a standardised collection of clichés. “Theresa May will provide strong and stable leadership”, “don’t risk a coalition of chaos”, etc. However, in the interests of the Cherwell readership, and of the unfortunate editor set to beat this prose into something readable, I will aim to avoid any such distressing buzzwords.
The case I’d like to lay out for voting Conservative is more subtle. It takes two forms. On the one hand, the concerns of students are obviously of greater relevance in a seat predominantly inhabited by students. On the other hand, there is the issue that this election, besides being an opportunity to select our local MP, is also an opportunity to set the direction of this country for the next five years (and arguably, given the divergence of all of the latest crop of party manifestos from the established political orthodoxy, the next 30).
One issue of particular importance to students is mental health. A YouGov Survey carried out in 2016 claims that over a quarter (27 per cent) of students suffer from a mental health issue. At Oxford, the figures are in all likelihood worse. This is why I’m delighted that our manifesto contains a promise to “break the stigma of mental illness” by introducing a new Mental Health Act (a full 35 years since it was last updated). This means that the system whereby treatment comes only grudgingly, either because of out of date guidelines or lack of resources, can finally be put right. Waiting lists can be brought down, and by training one million ordinary people in basic mental health awareness, we can ensure that people cease to suffer in silence, instead getting the help they need at the earliest possible juncture.
Another problem of great concern to students here in Oxford is the large size of the homeless population. Much is made of the cuts to homelessness provision in the city on the part of the County Council (although it is little mentioned that both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of these cuts). This problem has been compounded by the City Council refusing to increase spending to compensate for this, despite possessing assets such as 900 acres of farmland which could be sold either for reinvestment for higher returns (and therefore greater resources to spend on the homeless) or to support directly the expansion of homelessness services. The Conservative Party will treat the cause, not the symptoms of homelessness by engaging in a house building programme on a scale reminiscent of the Harold Macmillan years, working to end homelessness by 2027 simply by providing more homes. Not only will this help some of the neediest people in our society, it will also in the long run save the government as much as £370 million a year. This will ensure that the homeless population does not become dependent on the funding whims of the city or county council, but can finally be given some dignity and security.
On a national level, the Conservative party will continue the good work it has done in the last six years. The deficit will continue to fall, but not at such a rate as to harm the economy even in the short term. A low rate of corporation tax will continue to attract businesses to set up in the UK, creating jobs and benefitting the economy.
Contrary to claims of a ‘hard Brexit’ we will seek to create a ‘deep and special relationship’ with the EU which benefits both us and our family across the channel. Increased expenditure on the military and intelligence services will help to keep us as safe as possible, despite the looming spectre of foreign hacking and terrorism. Most important of all, the creation of a shared prosperity fund will help to balance out the different regions and nations of the UK, ensuring that we remain one United Kingdom, despite the poisonous narrative of the Scottish National Party which seeks to tear us apart.
The tyranny of the word count prevents me from going into more detail on other matters, nor do I think it is necessary to sink to the level of attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his unfortunate links with nationalist and Islamist terrorists, or Dianne Abbott for her inability to grasp basic figures. Even if this has been a hallmark of election coverage for less reputable papers than Cherwell.
A vote for the Conservative Party is not a negative vote against Labour, it is a positive choice to support policies which are practical, and which will go a long way towards fixing problems which matter, directly or indirectly, to students.
OULC Co-chairs, Hannah Taylor & Tom Zagoria
Trinity term, exam season, and it’s very easy to get caught up in the student bubble. But let’s not pretend we can’t see out of it. Every day when we walk through Oxford we witness the effects of a government that has neglected, for the last seven years, addressing the problems of rising poverty and inequality, instead looking to the interests of a privileged few. Here, in one of the wealthiest places in the country, the effect of draconian centrally imposed cuts to public services and the highest house prices in the country has seen a dramatic rise in homelessness in the last few years.
Oxford is not unusual, as across the country there has been a catastrophic rise in the number of people reliant on food banks and a doubling in the number of rough sleepers since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took power in 2010. This is merely the tip of the iceberg—the most visible suffering caused by a government that has been intent on the ideological choice of austerity, regardless of the costs to our society.
Rising inequality and a country being run in the interests of the wealthiest will affect all of us. After we graduate (with thousands of pounds of debt), we will enter a workforce whose real wages have fallen by over ten per cent since the financial crisis, joint bottom of the OECD with Greece (by comparison, Germany’s has risen by 14 per cent and France’s by eleven per cent). One in six are in insecure work conditions. We will have to rely on public services which have been drastically cut across the country, and an NHS which no one can seriously deny is systematically underfunded: we spend significantly less per head on healthcare than Germany or France, or about half that spent in the United States. We will have to find a place to live in a country where housing affordability is on the decline. And, finally, we will have to live in a society where the rates of hate crime have increased by 41 per cent in the months after Brexit, and a world in which temperature rises and loss of natural resources will increase instability and migration, not to mention the threat caused by the dominance of nuclear-armed strongmen like Trump and Putin.
There is in this election a clear and viable alternative. Since Labour’s manifesto has been released, the massive narrowing in the polls has made it ever more clear that Labour can win. A Labour victory would not mean more of the same. Our manifesto offers hope with radical, costed solutions. In order to make sure everyone can go to uni, Labour will abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants. A Labour government will ensure that no one is left sleeping on the streets, by earmarking housing association homes specifically for homeless people through the Rough Sleepers Initiative. We will ensure that everyone is paid at least a £10 an hour living wage, and we will end insecure and exploitative zero hours contracts for good.
The NHS may not last a further five years at the current rate of underfunding, so Labour will commit to over £30 billion in extra fund- ing over the next Parliament by increasing tax on the top five per cent of earners and on private medical insurance, as well as reverse recent moves toward privatisation. By building at least 100,000 new council homes per year and introducing rent controls we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity for a secure home. As rising national debt shows, austerity is a failed experiment, so Labour will invest in an environmentally and socially sustainable economy through a National Investment Bank.
Be under no illusions about this Tory government. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage recently marveled at how Theresa May was running on “exactly the same ticket” as he had. Against a Tory party that prioritises scapegoating immigrants, fox hunting and a hard Brexit, there is only one possible alternative government.
So on the June 8, vote for a fair and inclusive society. Vote for wealth and power to be in the hands of the many, not the few. Vote for a cheeky nine grand saving off your next year at uni. There’s now a real chance for positive change, so seize it. Vote Labour.
OULD President Lucasta Bath
The Liberal Democrat position on Brexit is often misunderstood or misrepresented by the media. To clarify: we are not seeking to simply stop Brexit in its tracks. Instead we want to oppose a hard Brexit which would see us withdrawing from numerous treaties and agreements with the EU, as well as most crucially the Single Market, a move which economists predict will cause damage to the UK economy in the region of £65 billion. If part of the next government, the Liberal Democrats will also push for a second referendum on whether or not to accept the final, negotiated terms of the Brexit deal. This will allow the public to make a decision with more substantial knowledge of what precisely they are voting for, rather than simply presenting them with the vague and often distorted facts and figures thrown around during the last referendum campaign.
An area in which the Liberal Democrats have a particularly strong record is mental health. In the coalition government, the Lib Dems invested over a billion pounds in young people’s mental health services, and also introduced the first ever waiting time standards. Now, we are proposing an immediate 1p rise on the basic, higher and additional rates of Income Tax to raise £6 billion additional revenue which would be ringfenced to be spent only on NHS and social care services. We want to further reduce waiting times for people of any age experiencing mental health issues, and we additionally want to see mental health being given the same level of funding and priority as physical health. We recognise that the NHS is experiencing severe funding issues, and we want to ensure that these issues are addressed properly without impacting quality or level of care in any way.
A third key issue for us is housing. For years, governments have failed to build enough houses to adequately meet demand across the country. The Liberal Democrats pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year, in order to curb the soaring costs of rent, and make home ownership an achievable goal for everyone. We are particularly aware of the issues faced by students and young people in this area, many of whom feel that they simply will not ever be able to afford a home. We will therefore crack down on unscrupulous landlords and ban letting fees, which disproportionately affect students. We will also stop the sale of council housing, which forces many young people into homelessness, and we will reverse the current cuts to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds.
Another main point of focus for the Liberal Democrats is the unequal distribution of wealth across the nations and regions of the UK. The loss of £8.9 billion of European Structural and Investment Funds is likely to hugely exacerbate this problem. In order to combat this the Lib Dems are planning to invest hugely in capital infrastructure in the North of England and Midlands. We see greater devolution to the regions, especially in fundamental economic areas such as housing, transport and skills education, as key to allowing higher rates of regional growth. We believe in providing special assistance to areas of the country that are disproportionately reliant on fossil fuels, such as the North East of Scotland, in order to allow them to diversify away from those industries, thus ensuring that the UK as a whole will be able to cut its carbon output.
To end on a more Oxford-specific note, the constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon is currently being held by Nicola Blackwood MP, who at the previous 2015 election had a majority of approximately 9000 votes over the Liberal Democrat candidate, Layla Moran. Labour meanwhile trailed in third place with around 19,000 fewer votes than the Conservatives. Clearly the constituency is a two-horse race between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats—a vote for Labour will most likely result in the election of a Conservative MP. Significantly, the Green Party has recognised this and stood down in the constituency, expressly in favour of the Lib Dems.
Blackwood has been a consistently poor MP. Under her aegis, Sure Start centres across the constituency have been closed, she has frequently voted against bills to promote equality and equal rights, and she has failed to engage adequately with students in the area. I would therefore urge students, even those who are not habitual Liberal Democrat voters, to consider voting Layla Moran for the only real opposition to the Conservatives in Oxford West.