Parliamentary Sketch 16.8.11

Posted on: 22nd September 2011

Parliamentary Sketch (as published in the press…)

I Say, I Say, I Say…

What’s Going on ‘Ere Then?

Not a good week to be young – especially if you are misunderstood.

As the desperate scramble for the last remaining lower price university places begins, politicians are falling over themselves to find ever more effective methods of disciplining, dragooning or water- cannoning young people out of their slouching ‘wha’eva, innit’ culture into either detention or uniformed national service!

The way-the-wind-blows, fashion-conscious politician will be aware that hugging hoodies is not just ‘so last year’, but also very pre-election! There’s now an unseemly scramble for the most eye-catching kneejerk policy response to the riots. It seems to take us back to the good old days when young people were there to be spoken about or spoken at but certainly not listened to.

Exam results will be concentrating minds. With limited and reducing job prospects, the Government’s promise to “work with young people…” to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) with a “better system of supporting college students” appears to have come to very little.

I voted against the Government’s policy to increase tuition fees. But MPs have not been given a proper opportunity to vote on the proposed replacement of EMA. (Though we had an Opposition Debate in January when I refused to support the Government opposition to ‘re-think its decision on EMA’).

Whilst Ministers and senior police officers argue over who controls the police – police or politicians? – young people looking to the future deserve something more than the tough-love, kneejerk papering-over-the-cracks response to our so-called ‘broken Britain’.

The Government failed to come up with a meaningful and effective alternative to EMA this summer. So it ought to keep the EMA and find ways of reforming it. If my fellow politicians are serious about National Service (and I certainly see merits in it), they should recognise that it doesn’t come cheap. Investing in real opportunities for young people costs serious money. Giving young people a proper opportunity to give back to society costs more than money saved by sticking up tuition fees or abolishing EMA. Having been to Afghanistan, I can assure you that the last thing our soldiers want is a group of reluctant and ill trained conscripts putting everyone elses lives at risk.

Our young people deserve a better future than the one we’re mapping out for them now. Eye-catching kneejerk reactions fulfil the post-riot opportunity the media has created for politicians but meaningful and effective answers will take more work…and eye watering dollops of money.

Andrew George MP

16th August 2011