Stevie Cook is angry. Really angry. He's spitting feathers at his computer, itching to find some kind of release for his fury. But he can’t because he's poor, 29 and trying to survive.
I sat down to my breakfast of toast (which incidentally is also my lunch and dinner most days of the week) and read two fantastically bleak articles, one by Nick Cohen and the other by Will Hutton which articulate perfectly how I feel.
It seems that young people are at a crossroads. If you can’t join the rich by owning a property or sliming your way up the corporate ladder, you should start looking for the local workhouse and perfecting your taste for home brewed gin now.
Like many young people in London, I can feel the sink hole opening up beneath me. I currently live in Southwark, desperately trying to cling on to the London dream. I’ve lived in the same house for two years now, but this year my rent is going up by £200. Why? Because everything else has gone up. Except of course my wages.
People seem to be reporting the ‘cost of living crisis’ is nearly over. Well forgive me if I don’t sound a fanfare just yet. Graphs are all well and good, but they don’t count for much when you’re scraping around in your bag for the last of your miserable weekly budget to buy a pint of milk. Contrary to what the Tories seem to think, I’m as worse of now as I was when I was unemployed. And boy, was that hard.
I don’t doubt a few of you have been wondering how someone nearing 30 could refer to themselves as a ‘young person’. Well the Tories helpfully defined what young was when the changed the benefits system. Apparently anyone under-35 is young enough to go a live in a shared room or move back with your parents. That is, if you can find a shared room that is actually cheap enough or your parents haven’t been forced to downsize just to live.
While I was on the dole, I looked and looked for a room in a shared house that I could afford on my benefits. As someone under-35 in Southwark I’m allowed £396.59. Excuse me while I spit out my toast laughing. £396.59? Maybe
Ian Duncan Smith should come and help me find a room as he clearly knows about a stash of affordable housing somewhere in Southwark. When I was looking I couldn’t find a room for anything less than £500, even in Peckham or Camberwell, areas of London that used to be thought of as ‘poor’. I can’t be the only one furious about these things?
With youth unemployment at an all time high, rents rising arbitrarily and a general lack of prospects I’m at a loss as to where all the angry voices are? There have been protests and outrage over the bedroom tax, and it doesn’t seem to be losing momentum. Why aren’t under-35s doing the same?
It seems ironic that in an age when we use social media more than any other age group our voices seems so lost. Why are we not screaming from the rooftops, organising protest after protest to get across that we are not ok?!
As far as politicians are concerned, young people can be ignored until three months before election when they’ll make empty promises (Nick Clegg I’m looking at you) in order to secure votes from our largely untapped ranks. No wonder political apathy among us is rife. Policies are passed without a care as to how they affect young people, which is why 16-24 year-olds have been hit harder than any other age group by the recent cuts. And I can tell you, being 29 doesn’t make the outlook any sunnier.
Perhaps I’m naive to think that anyone in parliament would care? I doubt they can remember what it was like to be young and full of dreams only to have them cut down by a ruthless, kleptocratic government targeting the poor and the deprived before the tax dodgers. That said, I’m not sure any of them were ever young. In an age where politicians look like they’ve just stepped off of the production line, quickly peeling off their protective plastic before PMQs, it’s hard to see how they could relate to anyone, let alone the country’s youth.
But I cling to the belief that things could be different if we shouted, if we made ourselves heard. Soon they would sit up and take notice, if not through a burning desire to care, at least the desire to tap our votes. But how can we do this?
If I Tweet my MP, I’ll get a response from their press person - a thought funnel pretending to be them. If I write them a letter, I’ll get a stock response. If I went to see my MP, I’d have to take a day off work and sit there ranting, knowing my voice will never be heard by those in the cabinet.
But what if a hundred people went together to see their MP? What if 10,000 bombarded their MP with tweets? What if 100,000 send the PM a letter expressing their discontent? What if a million people took a selfie of themselves holding up the words ‘You don’t speak for me’? What if everyone came together to make their voices heard before it’s too late?
And crucially – what if everyone voted? In Rochester, just 50% of the constituency came out to vote – and look what happened? Is that the way we want the country to go?
In just over five months, we’ll be facing another general election. We can’t be apathetic anymore. If they’re not working for you now – sack them. Make a change. Make your voice heard. Show them you should be considered as a real and powerful force. Show them you can vote and you will. It’s time to stand up and be counted.