The Conservative Leadership contest is now down to the two final candidates: Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. We are set to find out the new party leader, and our new Prime Minister, in roughly a month. The main conversation has been that Jeremy Hunt believes that leaving the European Union with no deal is “political suicide”, but is still willing to leave without one on 31 October, similar to Boris Johnson who is happy to leave the EU without a deal. But forget about Brexit for now, and let’s look at the nuances. RAZZ have done the heavy lifting for you and have researched each candidate thoroughly in terms of their promises to young people and how their track record stands in relation, so please get ready for a shit tonne of hyperlinks. Time to compare each candidate to the other so that we can prepare for our future. (Spoiler: we’re fucked).
It is vital that the candidates in this leadership contest appeal to young people. Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey and currently Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, seem to agree on a lot of issues that directly affect young people. Jeremy Hunt promises “a cut in the interest rate paid on tuition fees” among his pledges to young people but has not got the best history on supporting students financially. Since 2010, Jeremy Hunt has voted consistently to raise the UK’s undergraduate tuition fee cap. Even if he does cut the interest rate (something that does entice young people studying even if we would prefer lower fees, or – heaven forbid – none), there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t just raise the fees. In 2016, Jeremy Hunt voted not to take the opportunity to oppose further increases in university tuition fees, so we might have a smaller interest rate, but a bigger price to pay for our education. Additionally, in the Queen’s Speech of June 2017, he also voted against restoring Education Maintenance Allowance, consistent with his vote in favour of scrapping the education maintenance allowance (EMA) in England back in 2011. Doesn’t really show someone wanting to help students.
Now let’s look to Johnson. Things seem more hopeful at first in regard to university fees, as in 2004 (before Jeremy Hunt was elected to Parliament), Boris Johnson voted against allowing university tuition fees to increase. However, this was in solidarity with the Conservative line in opposition to the Labour government at the time. We can’t compare directly to Hunt the crucial votes of 2010 and 2012 as from 2008-15, Boris Johnson was not an MP and so did not take part in the coalition government’s decision to raise fees. However, in 2016-17, Boris Johnson voted not to take the opportunity to oppose further increases in university tuition fees, not to scrap them, and not to restore the Education Maintenance Allowance, just like Jeremy Hunt. Seems like neither of the candidates have student interests truly in mind.
We might have more hope elsewhere though. A prevalent issue for most young people today is the environment – something that both politicians drew attention to in their campaign launches with Hunt pledging “[p]ollution free cities in 10 years” and Johnson promising “to improve our environment”. And both candidates have supported greater regulation on fracking so maybe we can believe them. What a relief when we have such little time to save our planet, that at least whoever is in No. 10 is guaranteed to protect the environment.
Hah. As if.
Jeremy Hunt has continually voted against measures to prevent climate change. So has Boris Johnson. They don’t really care about the environment, it’s just a buzzword policy to rake in votes. We have little hope that the government will do effective work in saving our planet.
Here are some fun extras about the candidates too: both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have been on record for wanting to privatise the NHS. So that’s our healthcare in even more jeopardy. Furthermore, up until 2016, Jeremy Hunt had been absent for every major vote on laws to promote equality and human rights. In minor votes, he has consistently voted against promotion of equality and human rights such as not voting to carry out an assessment of the impact of Government policies on women; mitigate any disproportionate burden on women; or publishing a gender equality strategy. This pattern has continued since 2016, with Jeremy Hunt voting against largely retaining the EU “Charter of Fundamental Rights” as part of UK law and voting in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998. When we leave the European Union, who will be there to protect our human rights?
Not Boris. For his leadership campaign, Johnson pledged to “lift everyone in our country”, but has also consistently voted against promotion of equality and human rights. It’s on brand though, considering that some of his biggest scandals haven’t been about the numerous lovechilds or whether he took cocaine when he was 19, but saying that government money spent on historical investigations of child abuse is “spaffed up a wall”; further endangering the life of the imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with careless comments; calling veiled Muslim women “letterboxes” and “bank robber[s]”; and using racial slurs in reference to members of the Commonwealth. I doubt that he will keep a tight lip if he’s Prime Minister. How can marginalised young people in this country trust him to support them? Jeremy Hunt has had his share of expressing some unsavoury things too, including vocalising his support in limiting abortions from 24 weeks to 12, and stating that he “150 per cent agreed” with Trump’s attack on Sadiq Khan. So they’re both knobheads really.
I’ve tried to keep a light-hearted tone to this because I believe humour has a place in politics, but it’s a privileged defence mechanism. These are not “fun extras” as I said, these are dangerous entities and joking too much about them mitigates the imminent threat they pose. Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have opinions and policies with a body count, and while I can laugh at something like this, it’s only a desperate distraction from the state of politics at the moment. As a young person, I am in despair. These men do not care about what affects young people and what we are passionate about, only about covering our eyes before they slit our throats. We are fucked with either of these men in power, and I can only hope that young people can rise up to challenge them and change the future of politics for the better. That is my only hope.
–Charlotte ‘Fozz’ Forrester