Labour Leaderhsip Hopeful Owen Smith Says He Will End Tuition Fees

The Labour leadership contest has become a race to secure the youth vote

Labour Leaderhsip Hopeful Owen Smith Says He Will End Tuition Fees

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

The contest to be the Labour Party’s new frontman is well and truly under way. The contenders being Jeremy Corbyn, defending his title and challenger Owen Smith, in it to win it.

As the two men have it out in an attempt to bring Labour back from what, let’s face it, could well be the brink they are vying for the youth vote. It was, in part, because young people backed him that Corbyn rose to the top last year. Following his victory, he said:

‘The media and many of us, simply didn’t understand the views of young people in our country. They were turned off by the way politics was being conducted. We have to and must change that. The fightback gathers speed and gathers pace…’

If Smith wants to win he must, amongst other things, try to capture the hearts and minds of millennial membership, many of whom say they joined the party solely so that they could vote for Corbyn. Over the weekend he made it clear that this is exactly his intention.

The Labour leadership hopeful has set out plans to scrap university tuition fees in what is a clear and concerted effort to win the youth vote.

Mr Smith called for the current funding system of tuition fees funded by government-backed student loans to be abolished and replaced with a 1-2% graduate tax. At a time when the first cohort of students to pay the higher fees of £9,000 a year are reporting a lack of graduate jobs and having to move home to live with their parents upon graduating Smith’s proposal will undoubtedly strike a chord.

He proposed that graduates would pay an extra 1% to 2% rate on all taxable income above £15,000 for a specific period, with the possibility of those earning more paying a higher rate. Arguably Smith’s proposal is little more than window dressing; the current system is really a tax in all but name as it’s already linked to earnings above a certain threshold. However, Smith’s proposal lowers the amount graduates have to earn before repaying anything as well as the percentage of income that they would be required to repay. In light of controversy surrounding changes to the repayment threshold this could, potentially, be a more egalitarian solution.

Announcing his plans on Saturday at Nottingham university Smith condemned the previous government for ‘betraying a generation’ on the grounds of saddling a cohort of young people who already faced increasing housing costs with student debts. He argues that his proposal is more progressive and sustainable than the current system, indeed there are questions being asked about the viability of student loans.

Smith said,

‘Young people have been let down time and time again by this government. Our failure to give the next generation the best start in life possible is the great scandal of our time.’

‘The promise that each generation stood a chance of doing better than the generation before has been shattered. Young people today are more likely to be unemployed, less likely to have an apprenticeship, more indebted and less likely to own their own home. They have been given a rotten deal and we must turn this around.’

The Labour leader candidate also promised to build 50,000 ‘first homes’ a yearwhich would be specifically earmarked for under-30s first time buyer and laid out schemes for guaranteed apprenticeships and paid traineeships for those not going to university.

The results of the Labour leadership contest will be announced on September 24th.

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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