I first met Andy in Parliament, during Debbie Abrahams’ “Working for your Community Summer School” in 2014 and it was clear that he understood the challenges and unequal life chances facing those growing up in the north. Having come from a working class background himself, Andy recognised that sadly your postcode still has far too great a bearing on where you end up in life and spoke about the “Westminster bubble” which I felt that day and which has for decades left an unequal divide between different parts of the country.
Andy’s plan as Labour’s candidate for Greater Manchester provides the radical policies needed to grant young people the opportunities to progress. The cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance, which supported me through my time at college, are no longer available for so many others. Combined with the recent changes to University maintenance grants into loans, there is a real sense of despondency amongst young people who continue to get a rough deal from Tory-led governments. Andy’s Labour vision combats this and offers free bus passes for all 16-18 year olds in full time education or training. There is also a refocus on technical education which has for far too long gone neglected. Andy has passionately pledged that he will deliver a quality apprenticeship for every young person aged 14-19 in Greater Manchester who wants one and gets the grades.
Young people will be given the chance to decide what their future looks like and have a seat at the table in Greater Manchester as Andy has said he will create a Combined Youth Authority, drawn from younger councillors and Members of the Youth Parliament. In the face of post-Brexit Britain, this is very relevant. Another issue which has increasingly affected young people or “Generation Rent” as we are also known, is housing and getting on the property ladder; a reality made increasingly impossible by Tory policies. Andy has announced he will set up a Greater Manchester Rent-to-Own scheme to build the new homes we need to encourage home-owners under the age of 35.
I welcome this devolution deal and the opportunities it brings to enact real change with a Labour candidate. However, with an estimated financial deficit of £2bn by 2020/21, Greater Manchester not only needs but deserves a candidate who can steer our city-region to be an exemplary beacon of social justice, in an austerity-led Tory Britain. The Hillsborough verdict shows that Andy persists and champions the rights of people who feel let down by the system. I can think of no-one better to do the same for us here in Greater Manchester.
Sabah Kanwal, Oldham