Back in May, with reluctance and confusion, I put a half-arsed tick beside the name of Cat Smith of the Labour Party and as I imagine, did so many others. Whilst the MP in question enjoyed electoral victory, the party which she represented did not and whilst I drew no comfort from the consequential Tory majority, it was eventually apparent to me that Labour were not ready to win, and were not ready to lead. Four months down the line, here we stand. The election of Jeremy Corbyn ushers in a new era for the Labour Party, and by extension, British politics as we know it. His victory is the most significant political development since Labour’s defeat, and whilst his campaign has acted as a beacon of a hope in a sea of austerity, his election has created a divide within the party which will fester if it is not remedied with ideological compromise. Now more than ever, we need a Labour Party which recognises, that, regarding students, Westminster had failed. What I, and I believe many others would like to know is whether or not Corbyn’s election gives us cause for optimism.
Unlike the other candidates in the race for party leader, Mr. Corbyn outlined a detailed policy concerning students and higher education. The new Labour leader does offer an attractive combination of personality, conviction and morality but I still remain sceptical if he can translate these attributes into progressive policy for students. Admittedly he does appear to express genuine and legitimate concern for those who have suffered under New Labour and the Conservative’s majority. But, is swerving to the far left the correct direction for students, and indeed the country? Does the failure of one course of action imply that we should attempt its polar opposite?
If Jeremy Corbyn is elected with his party in 2020, he intends to introduce a ten billion pound plan to scrap tuition fees which would involve drastically slowing down the pace of reducing the deficit. It seems bluntly apparent to me that actions such as these, whilst commendable in their intentions, would only emphasise the widening divisions in nation, party, and policy. In fairness, Corbyn is probably the best hope for students and young people across the country, fully aware of the mistakes of the past and now desires the influence to apologise through action. But does Corbyn’s desire for a better system necessarily mean his vision will be implemented? I do believe that, concerning students and their prospects after graduation, Corbyn does not realise the sheer scale of the task that lies ahead.
His policies on higher education have come under heavy scrutiny from academics within university establishments. Tom Yates, Professor of Economics at the University of Birmingham claims that Corbyn is the opposite of a progressive politician by advocating the scrapping of tuition fees. Yates understands why Corbyn has appealed to the student populace but he also believes that students derive a lot of benefits from attending university, including higher wages. He argues that financing students through taxation would be a case of people who don’t attend university funding those who do. I personally believe that this is an unfair statement by the Yates and does not get even close to reaching the core of the issue. The fact of the matter is that Yates, and others like him, had their higher education paid for by Westminster and my generation is forced to pay over £27,000 for the same privilege. Students have no intention to rob the poor so they can attend university, but the true inequality is the fact that we have to pay for what previous generations received for free and Mr. Corbyn seems to be the only credible alternative to reverse the damages inflicted on us by previous and current governments.
This is not me necessarily advocating a vote for Corbyn, but it seems apparent that in the UK, it is through our political decisions at elections where we can make the most legitimate impact. These are not decisions we should be taking lightly and we would be foolish to dismiss Corbyn and his policies on further education. At face value, you may believe that this article may merely articulate a bitter student outlining his disaffection towards Westminster’s treatment of students. In truth, this has been written because I personally believe that if austerity under the current government, the quality of life for students will only worsen and the financial burden will only grow more cumbersome. In 2020, I don’t want to be repeating the actions of 2015 at the ballot box. As I’m sure you do, I want to know that the decision I make will improve my chances; to make three more years of rigorous education and over £27,000 of debt worthwhile.