Owen Smith will make a bold pitch for young voters with a raft of youth-centred policies including the abolition of university tuition fees and a scheme to build starter homes reserved for people aged under 30.
The Labour leadership challenger to Jeremy Corbyn will announce what he calls a better deal for young people at a visit to Nottingham University on Saturday, and condemn the government for “betraying a generation” with increasing tuition fees and soaring housing costs.
The centrepiece of the announcement is a plan to replace higher education tuition fees with what Smith will say would be a more progressive and sustainable graduate tax. Graduates would pay an extra 1% to 2% rate on all taxable income above £15,000 for a specified period, with possibly a higher rate for graduates on the top rate of tax.
Another idea is to reserve 50,000 of a proposed 300,000 new homes to be built each year for first-time buyers under 30. The homes would be funded by the government and provided on long-term tenancies of five to eight years, during which time 20% of the rent would be put towards a deposit for eventual purchase.
The other two schemes involve an apprenticeship guarantee and paid traineeships. The first would guarantee all 18-year-olds with the equivalent of two A-level passes a two-year apprenticeship at the living wage, including at least one day a week of off-the-job learning. Aimed at those without the necessary grades for an apprenticeship, the traineeships would provide on-the-job experience and training.
“Young people have been let down time and time again by this government,” Smith will say, “Our failure to give the next generation the best start in life possible is the great scandal of our time.
“The promise that each generation stood a chance of doing better than the generation before has been shattered. Young people today are more likely to be unemployed, less likely to have an apprenticeship, more indebted and less likely to own their own home. They have been given a rotten deal and we must turn this around.”
Smith is the bookies’ outsider against Corbyn in the vote of Labour members and registered or affiliated supporters, which ends on 21 September, three days before the winner is announced at the start of the party’s annual conference in Liverpool.