Voter demographics prove the Tories need to sort out their policy—and fast. Here's what they should doby Michael Johnson / November 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
On the face of it, tuition fees may seem a disproportionately hot topic. Yet their place in today’s political debate should not be surprising. Young people, after all, announced themselves loudly at the 2017 General Election: some 58 per cent of the under-25s voted, up from 43 per cent two years earlier. The Labour Party, which opposes fees, took 63 per cent of the under-25 vote, three times the Conservatives’ 21 per cent.
The 42 per cent margin is in stark contrast to the 2010 general election’s 1 per cent. Political allegiance is becoming ageist: the tipping point—i.e. the age at which someone is more likely to vote Conservative than Labour—is now 47 years.
The Conservatives are rapidly cementing their reputation of being the party of the old, receiving 69 per cent of the over-70s vote in 2017, a lead of 50 per cent over Labour’s 19 per cent. This should concern them. There are roughly twice as many over-65s as 18-24 year olds, but over-65s’ turnout is pretty static, at around 78 per cent. Clearly, the young are the political “growth market,” and political parties need to attune their policies accordingly.
Social media, in particular, is catalysing a growing awareness amongst millenials that they are being dealt a rum deal by the baby-boomers. Consequently, acknowledging intergenerational injustice is now a key component to building political capital… and tuition fees are near the top of the list of millenials’ concerns.
There is some acknowledgement of this from the government. The Prime Minister recently announced that the fee cap in England will be frozen at £9,250 (it was scheduled to rise to £9,500 for 2018-19), and that the repayment threshold would rise from £21,000 to £25,000. The former will achieve very little; the latter will save up to £360 per year, for those with annual earnings between the old and the new threshold.
Meanwhile, the Treasury already expects that roughly 30 per cent of this year’s loans will have to be written off (30 years after graduation). A higher threshold would produce bigger write-offs; the IFS reckons on a further 14 per cent. And if the last decade of minimal real-terms earnings growth were to be repeated over the next 30 years, then write-offs could well exceed 60 per cent.