The Queen’s Speech Shows Us That If You Vote, You Will Be Heard

Today, in the Queen’s Speech, the long-awaited Tenants’ Fee Bill which will finalise the ban on letting fees for tenants and cap the amount renters must pay in deposits was confirmed while other Conservative manifesto promises, including grammar schools and fox hunting, were not included

The Queen's Speech Shows Us That If You Vote, You Will Be Heard

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

Today, in the Queen’s Speech, the long-awaited Tenants’ Fee Bill which will finalise the ban on letting fees for tenants and cap the amount renters must pay in deposits was confirmed. Of course, it still needs to be voted through but at a time when Brexit dominates our politics, this signifies progress on renters’ rights. It is especially significant because other Conservative manifesto promises, including grammar schools and fox hunting, were not included in the 27 bills and draft bills that make up the speech.

What’s going on? It goes back nearly two weeks ago when, on a cold, drizzly, grey day in June, when a snap election was held. As the polls closed it became clear that something which commentators, pundits and pollsters hadn’t foreseen had happened. Labour had done a lot better than expected and Theresa May, cast as a born again Irony Lady at the start of her campaign, was far from on course for the landslide many had predicted.

What on earth could possibly had happened? Were the results wrong? No. Was it a practical joke? No. Was it because pensioners had turned red as a result of the ‘dementia tax’? Nope. Much to the disgust of the right and the surprise of even the most seasoned hacks, there was another potent force at play: young people.

Initially, this was the conclusion drawn by old men in the early hours as they nattered with David Dimbleby, it seemed plausible but it was far too early to tell. Despite The Sun’s pathetic efforts, it seemed that the indigent, apathetic and narcissistic had got out of bed with. Leaving the likes of Rod Liddle spitting feathers and David Cameron’s former speech writer penning cluelessclickbait for The Times about how ‘we need to stop treating the young as political sages’. We now know, thanks to comparative data from Ipsos Mori, that this was indeed what had happened. The greatest swing to Labour amongst the under 35s was amongst those aged 25-34, with those aged 18-24 close behind. It has also emerged that there was an 18-point swing among younger women, compared to a 3.5 point swing among young men. It was the highest youth turnout in 25 years.

You see, these young people who had upset the apple cart with their ballot box pencils weren’t just any young people. They hadn’t come as The Sun says, ‘iPhone in one hand and £3 coffee in the other’ for nothing []. No, they had turned out because they belong to generations who experience our society very differently to their elders. These young people needed to be heard and simply couldn’t afford not to be.

Why? Because those of them who went to university have been saddled with debt. Because those of them who voted in last year’s EU referendum overwhelmingly voted to remain. Because those of them who can’t call the Bank of Mum and Dad will likely never own their own home outright. Because those of then who rent (the majority) are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous letting agents and opportunistic landlords. And, because those who can’t afford to rent, live as adults in their family homes while wages stagnate and generational inequality widens. These are young people who have no stake in our neoliberal capitalist system. These are young people who were brought up on the aspirational narrative that if you work hard, you’ll make money and enjoy social mobility as you transcend class boundaries only to discover that that story is being cosigned to the history books. These are young people who experience a new class system every single day; one in which the rich get richer, money makes money and landlords rule everything around them.

Ipsos Mori’s data also shows that private renters were more likely to vote for Labour. Indeed, Labour’s vote share from this group increased significantly from 2015. As Steve Akehurst writes in City Metric, ‘the impact of the housing crisis on private renters is one of the key factors that helped polarise results on 8 June.’ Why, put simply, renters care more about housing because they are directly affected by the system in a way that home owners are cushioned from.

The result of this month’s general election, coupled with the unexpectedly high youth turnout sent a loud message to our politicians. One that said young people are here, they’re unhappy and they need change. It’s the same message that was sent when over a quarter of a million signed a Debrief petition called Make Renting Fair to tell our Government, in no uncertain terms, that the weight of public opinion was behind increased renters’ rights.

This is democracy in action if you vote you will be heard. If you sign petitions, campaign, write to your MP, you will, eventually, be heard. The election result was not an endorsement of the Conservative manifesto, and so there is little surprise that key policies from it have been dropped.

For middle class under 35s and those on low incomes, it’s a matter of urgency. Now more than ever it’s time for younger generations to speak up, whether in the ballot box when opportunities arise, on social media, by signing petitions or by writing to their MPs because this can affect change. The Debrief's grassroots campaign Make Renting Fair is a testament to that. With Brexit on the horizon and a badly damaged Prime Minister chairing a minority government that’s the only way to make sure that things change and ensure that future generations never get so badly sidelined again by politicians who think it’s ok because ‘young people don’t vote’.

Today there has been some official progress on renters’ rights, it’s not enough but it’s a start. This election something important happened, power made its way back where it belongs – into the hands of voters. And, for all its pomp, circumstance and ermine, the Queen’s Speech today reflected that.

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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