The final question during this evening’s ITV debate proved to be one of the most intriguing, with the leaders asked to outline how they intend to support young people.
The difficulties faced by young people – notably those of tuition fees and housing problems – were debated for some time by the seven leaders. Here’s how each of them tackled the issue:
The Plaid Cymru leader insisted that her party would back greater investments in education, but worried that current plans would instead lead to more cuts and would make it more difficult to continue with tuition fee grants. Speaking of a desire to realise full employment, Wood also pledged to end austerity and to return free tuition in Wales.
Miliband once more reiterated his wish to cut tuition fees to £6,000, as well as plans to abolish zero-hour contracts, to give young people ‘regular hours on regular contracts’, providing security for working families. Miliband also spoke of reforms to private renting, with an end to letting agents charging tenants, three-year tenancies to again increase security and to stabilise rents.
Bennett argued that education is a public right that should be paid for through progressive taxation with no tuition fees. She also stated that changes should be made to housing, and a minimum wage of £10 an hour should be introduce to improve young people’s prospects.
She also spoke of a need for cooperation between schools and for them not to simply be exam factories, arguing that life skills including first aid, cooking, sex and relationships and financial management should all be taught.
Cameron said that despite the work that the government had done to raise employment levels, he hoped to create more jobs for young people and to build more affordable housing. He also insisted that there were plenty of reasons for young people to remain optimistic, highlighting nurses fighting ebola and the armed forces as workers to be proud of.
The issue of tuition fees quickly reared its head, and in his opening remarks Clegg was swift to admit that he broke his promise when his party joined forces with the Conservatives, then using the platform to outline where his party had succeeded during the previous term – with university applications at record levels as well as attendees from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Lib Dem leader also announced his proposal for a rent-to-own scheme – where paying in rent would allow a person to build up a share of ownership of a house – and acknowledged that politicians had to take responsibility of their failings, particularly on the deficit, for the benefit of future generations.
The SNP leader was clear in outlining the party’s belief that education should be free and based on the ability to learn, not to pay, and that she would fight to retain that right in Scotland. Attacking both Clegg for giving in to the Conservatives and Miliband for Labour’s broken promises on initially introducing tuition fees, Sturgeon also insisted that her party was committed to protecting affordable housing.
The UKIP leader said the rich youth were enjoying themselves, but that they were growing increasingly wealthy at the expense of the majority of young people. He argued that abolishing grammar schools had been a bad thing, and the universalisation of university places had created a generation of academics with debt who would have been better off finding work.
Farage argued that new houses for migrants were having to be build and that that should be stemmed, as well as arguing for a ‘brownfield revolution’ with relaxation on planning laws and more funding for decontamination.