by the UEA Young Greens

In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.

On June the 8th the country will head to the polls for Mrs May’s snap election. This election has been called because, in a remarkable display of hubris, May and her Tory cohort expect to win a huge majority so she can continue to pursue her campaign of cuts whilst also pushing for a Hard Brexit. If they’re right, the future looks rather grim.

This election will shape the future of UK environmental policy and the future of Higher Education. Both of these have come under constant attack from the Tories over the last seven years, with David Cameron proudly claiming in 2015 he would ‘cut the green crap‘ in order relieve his mates in the city of the burden of tax. We’ve seen university tuition fees triple in 2010 under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition. Many students predicted at the time that their promises of no further increases would prove hollow, and lo and behold the Tories have recently pushed through their Higher Education Bill, which is designed to drive up the level of profit that universities make off their students by allowing fees to be raised above £9000. These two areas will only face yet more attacks should the Tories win the majority that they expect.

But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Amongst all the doom and gloom, people have been taking positive action, and looking for better alternatives to politics-as-usual. The Green Party is working towards the very real prospect of doubling or even tripling our number of MPs, with Caroline Lucas likely to hold onto her seat in Brighton Pavilion, Molly Scott Cato running a major campaign in Bristol West, and Vix Lowthion being the best placed progressive to replace the Tories on the Isle of Wight. If the Green Party makes gains this election (or if, by some miracle, we form a government with Labour), we have a much greater chance of defending HE and the environment, and rebuilding them according to a positive vision for a fairer society.

On Monday the Green Party manifesto, released in small chunks throughout the election period, was brought together under the ‘Green Guarantee‘. Within it you’ll find the Greens’ dedicated youth manifesto. This simple document addresses some of the biggest issues facing students today. It says that the Green Party supports free education, of course. It also commits to end Prevent, the current government’s xenophobic strategy used to force lecturers and teachers into spying on any students who are suspected of being ‘radicalised’. Perhaps most radically, it promises the eradication of all student debt for current and previous students. These policies offer a ray of hope through the cloud of sadness that is the Tories’ offer to young people, and they go further than Labour’s already progressive policies, showing that the Green Party is truly committed to an education sector that works for teachers and learners, not managers and ministers.

For many this election feels like the last bastion of hope… But there is hope

On the environment, the Green Guarantee has a major focus on making homes more environmentally friendly, helping keep costs down for residents as well as helping combat climate change. A Green-influenced government would move us closer to our European and Scandinavian neighbours with a Plastic Returns Deposit, which would give a small sum back for every bottle returned to a Plastic Bank. But the most key pledge here is the guarantee to retain or strengthen all existing environmental protection laws. These are under constant threat by the Tories, especially now as Brexit approaches, and when they are watered down we all feel the effects.

As a member of the Young Greens at UEA, it’s fantastic to read that there is genuine hope for the environment and for higher education coming from our party. This election has, at times, sounded like a funeral precession for all that the left and other progressives look to represent. May’s rhetoric sounds more and more right wing – at times, even fascist. But in recent days she has looked weak and wobbly, and Labour have risen to within single digits in the polls with two weeks to go. We can only hope that this gap continues to shrink and that, with a bit of luck, it forces a hung parliament.

For many this election feels like the last bastion of hope for the next five years at least. But there is hope – hope that we can stop the Tories from winning the election, increase the Green presence in our parliament and ensure that this country starts to work for the many, not the few.

Editor’s note: We have contacted the UEA groups of all three major progressive parties offering them a spot in this series.

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