Ed Miliband will today (Fri) warn that young people are in danger of losing their voice and must make themselves heard in this year’s General Election.
He will launch a drive to register a missing million voters who have disappeared from the Electoral Register because of government reforms in the last 12 months, particularly in towns and cities with high numbers of students and young people.
In a speech at Sheffield Hallam University Students’ Union he will declare this is the year when young voters are able not only to hold leaders to account for broken promises – like those on tuition fees – but also begin to shape a better future for their generation.
The sharp decline in numbers of young people registered to vote only amplifies a long-term problem which has seen turnout among young people fall dramatically in recent elections. Labour is asking people aged 16 to 35 to tell us their priorities for their generation before the Party publishes a Young Britain manifesto.
Mr Miliband will say universities, government, local authorities and political parties need to address the concerns of their generation by showing we can listen and offer better policies with action on low pay, affordable housing, jobs, skills, and climate change.
His speech comes as Labour publishes new figures showing almost one million people have gone missing from voting rolls in the last year, hundreds of thousands of them young people, as a consequence of the government’s decision to override safeguards and ignore warnings from electoral watchdogs about the hasty introduction of individual registration.
One of the key components of the government’s reforms is that universities and colleges can no longer block register students living in Halls of Residences to vote. And areas that have seen the number of registered voters fall by five figures include such university cities and towns as Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton, Leicester, Nottingham, Brighton, and Hull. In London, the figure is almost 100,000.
Labour is challenging the government, the Electoral Commission, universities and local authorities to address this democratic scandal with urgent action by the end of this month so that people can get back on the register.
In Sheffield, both universities have helped register students which is why the decline in voter numbers is smaller than many other cities. Labour’s front bench spokespeople will be contacting local government leaders and vice-chancellors over the next two weeks to urge action plans ahead of the voter registration deadline of 20 April. In the last week 18 Labour staff members have begun work in university towns and cities as student vote activators ahead of the General Election.
Mr Miliband will say:
“This election is a hugely important moment for young people. It is a choice that will have implications now and for years to come. It is about who this country is run for: working people, young people, or just a very few people at the top?
“In this election campaign we will be publishing a Young Britain manifesto and you have the chance to help shape it by telling us what your priorities are for this campaign and for the next government.
“There is nothing more pressing at this election than the future of young people. The future of the country depends on young people and the outcome of this election will determine what kind of future young people have. Your job, your education, your home, your future depend on who wins this election.
“This government has betrayed young people. I am determined that we can fulfil the Promise of Britain so that the next generation does better than the last.
“But even before we get to this election, we now know there is a clear and present danger that young people will not even have the right to use their voice.
“In the last year almost one million people have fallen off the Electoral Register, hundreds of thousands of them young people. This is a direct consequence of the government’s decision to ignore warnings that rushing through new individual registration reforms would damage democracy. It has.
“Having broken their promises on tuition fees to young people, having failed to build the economy that will work for them, having short-changed their future, this is David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s final insult to young people. They are sitting by and watching hundreds of thousands of young people in our country lose their sacred democratic rights.
“We will not allow this scandal to happen and no right-thinking person should either. Labour will now lead a national mission to stop young people being denied a voice at in this election. And today I urge universities, local councils, and young people themselves to play their part. Let’s work together to register young people to vote and make sure they don’t lose their voice.
“We will shape a manifesto that gives the best future for young people. We will ensure that young people do not lose their voice. I urge young people to make sure their voice is heard.”