Southend doesn’t usually get big name politicians visiting. For one thing, it holds two safe Conservative parliamentary seats (Nominally safe… -Ed). But it is, without any doubt, a town crying out for radical innovation and change. Just look at the growing rejection of the Conservatives at a local level.
I was delighted that Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills, on Thursday concluded his #shapeyourfuture road trip along the A13 in Southend.
In Liam’s own words, the road trip was about listening to young people.
“Last week Ed Miliband launched Labour’s #shapeyourfuture consultation. We want to hear what from young people about their hopes and aspirations and what they want from a Government that represents them.
“I am helping get #shapeyourfuture on the road, listening to young people and encouraging them to speak up, register to vote and make their voice heard.“
In Southend Liam visited South Essex college, and toured the new Forum library building, a shared venture between the council, the college and the University of Essex. It’s one of the jewels in the crown of the new town, and Liam hit on the need for places like Southend to give young people a reason to stay, to see a future beyond “getting out”.
Liam also visited the local YMCA, who have been doing some excellent work with some of the most disadvantaged young people in Southend. In particular they spoke about the successes of the Future Jobs Fund, before the coalition cancelled it, and several of their own staff were initially hired on the scheme.
One of Labour’s ambitions, should we win the general election in May, is to restore the Future Jobs Fund — which, it has been proved, was hugely successful in combating youth unemployment — and link it to training and development.
This may not be the most glamorous of subjects, but young people have had a raw deal under this government, and they deserve much, much better. Liam’s visit should make clear that Labour is not only committed to ending this neglect, but committed to listening to young people on best to help them.
Labour will be publishing a manifesto of policies for young people next month, and I look eagerly forward to seeing what it contains, ideas gleaned from consultations such as Liam’s with those on the front lines in Southend.