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The Introduction of the National Living Wage.

In 2015, George Osborne announced in his budget that the UK were going to make sure that, by 2020, we would be on £9 an hour, well deserving of the title “the National Living Wage”.

However, despite the fact that inflation by 2020 would arguably make £9 an hour less impressive (seeing that the Living wage rose by 40p in November), there is also a catch. At the moment, the only changes are going to be for people aged 25 and over.

The justification of this by the government is that it will allow young people to “secure work and gain experience” as well as to “maximise the opportunities” available to them.

Now, this seems fine and well, apart from the fact that this is pretty much going to screw over young people AND people over 25.

Just think about it. At this moment in time, the national minimum wage is £6.70 an hour. This applies (currently) to anyone over the age of 21, with the minimum wage for 18-20 year old workers being £5.30 an hour, and a staggeringly low £3.87 for people under 18. This means that, BEFORE the changes, people over 21 are earning £2.83 an hour more than under 18s (and £1.40 more for people aged 18-20) for just being older. Say what you want about ‘gaining experience’, they are doing exactly the same work as someone who is 21+, and it’s not that fair.

From April 2016, the situation is going to be even more clouded. This is due to the government’s 2020 “living wage” plan making its first progress, boosting the wage from £6.70 an hour to £7.20 an hour for people aged 25 and over. This means that, especially people who are working in shops and other customer service industries (as well as other employment that works on a minimum wage payment), the wage gap between 17 year olds and 25 year olds is going to be an incredible £3.33 an hour. Simply for being older, 25 year olds are going to be paid almost DOUBLE the wage of someone under 18.

You might, however, argue that 16-18 year olds “don’t need the money as much as 25 year olds”, because they spend it on unimportant things like university funding, or even a car or driving lessons. Whatever arguments you say about teenage spending, there are adults that spend their wage on pretty much similar things, whether it be video games, alcohol, or trying to avoid getting £50,000+ in debt to study at university. It doesn’t mean that their work is less valuable, or that they put in less effort.

Look at 18-20 year olds, if you want another side of the argument (I’ll be getting on to my current age bracket, 21-24, soon). They are getting paid £1.90 less despite being legally classed as an adult. At that age, finding work isn’t about getting some extra pocket money, it’s either finding work to complement further education or as a full time job, and, therefore, trying to save up to move out and become independent (seeing that they legally have to pay council tax anyway).

This becomes even muddier when it comes to the 21-24 year old workers. This is pretty much consisting of graduates and the independent adults from the 18-20 section, with some mature students thrown into the mix. This group has all the responsibilities as people 25+. If you have a person working in a shop that’s full time (I’ve classed this as 40 hours, but some companies differ) and 24, and another person that’s full time and 25, there shouldn’t be a £20 per week difference in their wage. The only reason they are being paid £20 more a week is because of their age. When you are doing something like retail, having 1 year more experience or being 1 year older doesn’t make a fucking difference. Being 24 as opposed to 25 doesn’t make your bills, your council tax, or your mortgage repayments (okay, with this government, this example is stretching it a bit far) any cheaper. It’s exactly the same financial responsibility as an 18 year old would have, so why do people 25 and older get placed on a minimum-wage significantly higher than people that have the same responsibilities financially? £2o may not seem like much per week, but it adds up to an extra £1,020 a year just for being a year older, which is just simply ridiculous. If you were working 40 hours a week at 18 years old, someone aged 25 and over would be earning £3,952 more a year from April. The exact same job, the exact same responsibilities, but your age (and the concept of experience, we mustn’t forget about that) means you earn nearly four grand less a year, because fuck you, 18-20 year olds – lots of love, George Osborne.

The Living wage issue doesn’t just affect people under 25, though. Seeing that 1 in 20 (or 5% of the population, roughly 3,250,000 people) are on minimum wage at the moment, and the suggestion of it increasing to 1 in 9 by 2020, people over 25 will more than likely find themselves too valuable for businesses to employ them. Significant amounts of high street companies hire 16-20 year olds already because of their lower wage cost, but increasing 25 y/o+ workers’ wages by 50p an hour (and steadily rising in the future) will just make the cheaper, more affordable teenagers even more worthwhile. Sure, they will earning more, but they will most certainly see doors close in the future because of their extra expense.

The living wage is being heralded as a “masterstroke“, but without other increases to the minimum wage for younger people, it’s quite simply adding another tier to the minimum wage and rebranding it as “living”. All it is doing is making a clear statement that people 25 and over apparently work harder than people under 25, and that they deserve to be paid more because of it. I’m sorry, George Osborne, but as someone that has suffered through the minimum wage tiers and austerity cuts, and not had a rich family to bail me out whenever I needed it, I know when I’m being served shit despite being told that it’s champagne.

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De Montfort University, I am disappointed.

I’m sure most of you are aware of the news hitting social media recently, but in case you haven’t, De Montfort University, my alma mater, has controversially made David Cameron a Companion of the University, the highest award that they could bestow upon the Prime Minister, for his involvement in legalising same-sex marriage. Given the Conservative Party’s very poor history with this generation of voters, among other reasons, you can understand why quite a lot of people were, for lack of a better phrase, ridiculously pissed off.

In all honesty, I’m not enraged or frothing at the mouth from the situation, I’m just disappointed. The behaviour shown by the university does not reflect its support of the LGBTQA+ community, nor the voice of its students, but reflects the Executive Board’s and, most importantly, Vice-Chancellor Dominic Shellard’s delusions of grandeur.

The notion that David Cameron ‘went against’ his party to pass the marriage equality act is a complete farce. The party, as well as Mr Cameron himself, didn’t have any intention of introducing same-sex marriage during the 2010 election, and was actually the Under Secretary for Equalities, Ex-Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, who put forward the discussion for marriage equality and was the first politician to support the Out4Marriage campaign. David Cameron may have voted for and supported same-sex marriage after it started to become a political movement, but his record of voting has been anything but supportive to the LGBTQA+ community. Including his previous support of Section 28, an act which stopped schools “promoting homosexuality” that was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1988, he also voted in favour of an act which would ban homosexual couples from adopting, and voted in favour of banning lesbian couples from having IVF treatment as recently as 2008. As well as this, there is also the fact that the Tory government has passed questionable things in regards to the LGBTQA+ community, including cutting the funding for LGBT+ charities and Mr Cameron’s appointment of Caroline Dinenage as Equalities Minister, someone who voted AGAINST the marriage equality act.

I think De Montfort University are hiding their main reasoning for giving him this award. It’s not because of their respect for David Cameron’s support of same-sex marriage (which only seemed to appear in 2011 after years of being a supporter of “traditional family values”), but more so the fact that they could go to 10 Downing Street, show off their “liberal” side, and get their names in the papers. Their lack of consultation with the student body (where both the LGBT+ Society’s Chairperson, Tim Deves, and the university’s LGBTQ+ representative, Daniel Murgatroyd, weren’t informed) shows this, as no LGBTQA+ supporting student in their right mind would deem Mr Cameron worthy of this award.

I have stuck up for De Montfort University since I first arrived at their campus; their constant support of equality and LGBTQA+ rights and listening to their students’ concerns were two of the reasons why I loved studying there. This time, however, they have been nothing short of a disappointment, putting their bragging rights and one-upmanship over the ideals of its students, and the very community in which they so heavily support.

A.N – Please read and sign the DMU LGBT+ society’s petition!

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Politics in the UK: The Tories, more resignations than The Thick of It, and the opposition parties rising from the ashes.

Not writing related, but I thought I’d do a little comment piece on the UK general election.

So, another general election has came and went in the UK. When everything looked dead-set on a hung parliament with a slight Conservative majority, the smaller parties made their voices known. The Green Party, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and UKIP all ended up coming forward to provide significant voices through the entire election campaign, with expected victories for SNP and UKIP, and the fall of the Liberal Democrats to a fraction of the seats they had in 2010.

But, as you can see, that isn’t the case, and the Tories got a majority government seemingly out of nowhere, going beyond even the predictions of the exit polls, which is something that nobody expected after such a hit and miss coalition government, and a shaky campaign by Cameron.

As a Liberal Democrat, the election was depressing enough, but sitting around and moping about what has happened is a bit pointless now.

What is more interesting is the aftermath, which resulted in the resignations of three party leaders, the rise in memberships for the Liberal Democrats, and anti-austerity rioting in London that would make Leanne Wood proud.

Admittedly, the resignation of Nick Clegg is the least surprising, seeing his party lose all but 8 seats in parliament after being unable to survive criticism from raising tuition fees and often getting the blame for the Tory policies being passed, instead of policies that they put through themselves.

Miliband and Farage, however, were a bit more odd. Miliband, whilst suffering the worst Labour result since 1987, could have easily stepped up to fight as the opposition after the defeat, understand why he lost, and work on a better Labour manifesto for the 2020 election, as well as trying to win back seats in by-elections. This means that the two biggest English parties in the opposition now have a leadership election which completely distracts everyone from the Tories pushing forward with the scrapping of the Human Rights Act and appointing Michael Gove.

Farage resigned after his party gained one seat and he ended up losing his battle for South Thanet, before immediately stating he might run for the leadership role again in the summer. It’s pretty odd, because UKIP were never expected to get more than 2 seats according to opinion polls all through the election campaign, and it wasn’t even a catastrophic loss, with 12.6% of the vote.

After the hangover of the election, however, has been a lot more interesting for the LibDems. The Liberal Democrats have had over 5,000 people join their party after their crashing defeat at the polls. This all leads me to suggest that the Liberal Democrats may well come back exceptionally strong in the 2020 election. Sorry to say it, but Nick Clegg resigning has probably done the party a significant amount of good. Him staying would have kept the tuition fees situation stuck to the party for even longer than it already will be (because they have kinda pissed off a significant amount of the next generation voters…). However, the surge in membership will not only provide more support for the party, but also will give them more opinions on future policies, the direction of the party, and of course, the choosing of the party’s next leader. Not to mention the fact that these new members provide extra choices for MP candidates in the future…

This gets me onto the Labour Party, and more specifically, their monumentally important leadership election. With famous faces such as Tristam Hunt, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Chuka Umunna being suggested to make leadership bids, the only person to have confirmed their running for leadership is my own MP, Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West. Whilst there is little news on this topic so far, Liz was interviewed on Sunday Politics, where she stated where Labour went wrong, and what should be next for her party. She sounds like she has big ideas for Labour, but with no other candidates coming forward as of yet, there is a lot more to discuss on this.

Of course, there is also the anti-austerity protests that have been happening in London and Cardiff, too. Whilst it is all fine and well sharing your political opinion in the form of protest, some of it got out of hand, resulting in at least 15 arrests and graffiti on a Whitehall war memorial. It’s okay to make your voices heard, but where were these people literally 3 days ago when people were voting? You can’t complain about the outcome of an election if you don’t make direct attempts at spreading alternative options to the party you don’t like. Even if you do complain now, you don’t have to be a dick and be violent, as well as spraying paint on war memorials. Stuff like that directs attention away from the reasons behind the protest itself, as well as giving the opposing arguments even more strength by passing you off as “violent rioters” and being “disrespectful”. Hence the BBC’s article being heavily biased towards the negative aspects of the protest, and away from the monumental shitstorm of cuts that the Tories are going to put in place. Don’t give them a chance to report negative things, because that’s all they will report.

These have been a few comments on what’s been happening recently and my opinions on them. If you wish to comment on anything, feel free to leave comments on the page!

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