Theresa May’s recent announcement to freeze tuition fees at £9250 is nothing more than a desperate attempt to gain the votes of young people.
The Tories are notorious for making pledges to attempt to appeal to a majority of voters, and the snap election result has undeniably left the party in a state of panic. After the surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party in June’s election, particularly among students, the Tories are naturally extremely concerned. Unless May captures a greater share of the youth vote, the Conservative party are doomed not only for the next election, but in subsequent ones.
May is panicking. Amidst pressure from within her party and the public for her to step down, she is desperately trying to put together her own agenda and appear ‘strong and stable’, when in reality her political reputation has been irretrievably damaged by the snap election.
Her embarrassing speech at the Conservative party conference in which she was handed a P45 form undoubtedly presents May as desperately clutching onto her position as leader. Her announcement does not suggest that she is listening to young people. Rather, it simply highlights the fact that she is struggling to hold her party together.
Her pledge to freeze tuition fees is a prime example of her attempts to grab the headlines in order to manufacture the false image that she is listening to young people. In fact, her policy will cost very little and make a marginal difference to students.
Young people want immediate action, hence the wave of support for Corbyn in the last election. His popularity boomed and we saw a surge in voter registration amongst young people after his pledge to scrap tuition fees completely. During the election campaign, the Labour leader reached out to students by proposing reforms to tackle the debt that, thanks to the ex Tory-led coalition, they will leave university with.
May’s freezing of tuition fees will never be met with the same enthusiastic response that students demonstrated after the release of the Labour manifesto. It is more likely that young people will read her proposal as a failure to listen to their concerns, as she is unwilling to match Corbyn’s policies concerning students.
Corbyn’s pledges led to a re-engagement in the democratic process and energised many young people, who felt that the Labour party in government would make a tangible change to their lives. A similar achievement is impossible for May after the Conservative record of increasing debt for students.
The Tories are unable to erase their legacy of increasing tuition fees and scrapping maintenance grants, thus damaging their already bad reputation with students. May is mistaken if she thinks her desperate announcement to freeze tuition fees is going to have anywhere near the same effect as Corbyn’s plans.
Labour will always be the leading party for students. If anything, May’s proposal to only freeze tuition fees makes her look even more pathetic alongside Corbyn’s radical pledge to abolish them all together.
Voters will recognise May’s announcement as a panic induced decision in the midst of the crisis she faces as leader.
Illustration: Amber Young