Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Corbyn Conundrum - Don't vote for him

I like Jeremy Corbyn. However (how do you like that, Michael Gove?), I have seen a worrying number of people saying that they will vote for him. However, this in itself is not a problem, I will probably vote for him myself, but I've seen many Green Party members saying that they are going to pay their £3 to register as a Labour party supporter, vote for him and then leave. Not only does this go against codes of the both the Green Party and the Labour Party, as they don't let you be a member of two parties at once, but it's also incredibly underhanded. If you want to actually support the Labour party then please do join the party, but don't join just to select the leader that's most like the party you actually support. If you are a Green Party member reading this, remember that it's undemocratic, and that you're taking away the value of the vote from actual Labour party supporters, who may vote for Corbyn, but could equally vote for Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper, and while you and I may disagree with them, their views are equally as important as the Labour members who like Corbyn.

A slightly more worrying trend, is the hashtag #ToriesForCorbyn. This is particularly smug and self-righteous, with a small number of Tory members and supporters paying their £3 to the Labour Party (why you would want to give money to a party you disagree with, I don't know) to vote for Corbyn in the upcoming leadership election under the assumption that he will be completely unelectable as a prime minister and help the Tories. This is basically the political equivalent of corporate sabotage. However, I don't personally think it will work. It's pathetic that some Tory supporters feel the need to try and destroy the opposition, rather than let them do it of their own accord or even better rely on their own merits.

So, why should you vote for Jeremy Corbyn? Well, there has to be a prerequesit that you actually support the Labour Party. You should avote for Jeremy if you believe in proper socialism, an end to austerity, and think that he's a pretty cool bloke. That's it. However, please only vote for Corbyn if you actually support Labour because if he does win, I don't think anyone, including him, want it to be because of some sneaky members of other parties and have it hanging over his head for the tenure of his leadership.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Scrapping the student maintenance grant will divide Britain

My view from the Bus
Newsnight has recently revealed Conservative government plans to scrap the student maintenance grant. At its most generous, this grant is worth nearly £3,500 (nearly the same as the full maintenance loan) and is only given in full to students whose household income is below £25,000 a year and is given to some half a million students each year, at least in part.

At most universities, the approx. £3,500 loan barely covers the cost of accommodation,  or not even that in some cases. If the grant is removed, where does that leave students who cannot rely on their parents? After rent they will have no money left to live on, or to buy course materials such as textbooks.

The government has failed to comment on how this scrapping will be implemented; whether they intend to replace the grant with an addition to the maintenance loan or scrap the additional support completely. The first scenario is understandable, if not strictly agreeable, as it will not create a cash flow problem, but will still unfairly saddle poorer students with larger amounts of debt. The second scenario is completely unacceptable, and will create a cash flow problem and force less-well-off students to get high interest commercial loans or even scare young adults from going to university due to the high levels of risk, purely for having the audacity to want a university education while not having rich parentsI see no scenario in which this won't prevent some less well off students from attending university.

Note: The "get a job" argument does not hold, unless you expect 500,000 jobs to spring from nowhere.

A 2013 paper from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills lists the many benefits of higher education: Social mobility, lower crime rates, increased tax revenue, economic growth, increased employability, engagement in democracy. These are only some of the fairly intuitive benefits of getting a higher education. If the government goes ahead with these plans, the divide between the wealthy and the non-wealthy will only get bigger.

If the changes go ahead, these advantages will fall by the wayside, not just for working and middle class individuals, but for society as a whole. If this gets passed, expect tax revenues to go down because of less people taking higher paying jobs that go with degrees. Expect economic growth to stagnate, as those who might be able to do groundbreaking research, innovation, and business enterprise, may now never get that opportunity. Expect crime to increase. We will run out of doctors and nurses, we need to encourage people to do medical service degrees, not disincentivise; the NHS is under enough strain as it is. I tried my best to make this section less scary, but the sad truth is that I'm not really exaggerating that much.

This cut will widen the divide between the rich and the not-even-that-poor; the government is reserving "The University Experience (TM)" for those only who can cough up the dough (from their parents), leaving everyone else being forced to live at home, severely limiting their choices of university. Students not from money will have to go to a local university or nowhere, even if they have the academic ability (higher or lower) to go to a further afield university.

What the government is doing, whether intentional or not, is dramatically raising the barrier to entry for a higher education and therefore impairing, or blocking, those not born to wealth. I know that without my grant I would not have been able to attend university, and without the continuation of the grant, the government are knowingly locking those not from a wealthy background out of higher education. Britain will no longer be able to say it is a nation that promotes equality. Individuals from low income backgrounds will suffer, society as a whole will suffer, and a nation will be divided by class if George Osborne goes ahead with these plans.