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24 June 2014

Fighting for young people in the Blackwall and Cubitt Town byelection

Ellen Kenyon Peers

As I leaflet the Samuda estate on the Isle of Dogs in London's docklands, the contrast between the dilapidated 1950s ex-council blocks and the beacon of privilege that towers behind in Canary Wharf is extreme. The Blackwall and Cubitt Town byelection has given TUSC the opportunity to develop a campaign that truly challenges London's perception of the 'wealth' of the wharf.

Headlines over the past decade have painted a picture of a rejuvenated docklands area; one that has attracted young professionals, bankers and property developers to a previously industrial part of London's East End. The rapid economic development has only served to plunge those who do not belong to the financial and property sectors into further poverty.

The council has shown little interest in the long-term residents of Blackwall and Cubitt Town, forcing them to rely on food banks whilst bankers are supported through huge financial losses by those same taxpayers who reside in flats that are over-priced and under-maintained. For the residents of the Samuda estate, the irony is a difficult pill to swallow.

However, with a byelection on the horizon, residents will have a new voice in their ward in the shape of two TUSC candidates: John Peers, and myself, Ellen Kenyon Peers [not related] and it is clear that this has become a heavily youth-orientated campaign.

The election agent is 18 year old Kris Statham, a student of Queen Mary, University of London, in Mile End, who commented:

"The TUSC campaign is highlighting what it's like to be a young person trying to afford living in London. Even with a grant from university, me and my partner Jordan can't afford to pay for food, rent and travel. When I go canvassing, I meet so many young people in the same position, and they say they haven't ever voted because there's no one to vote for."

Many people who attend university are forced to drop out (Queen Mary has one of the highest drop out rates in London) because they can't afford it and end up sacrificing their education and therefore a higher-earning job that would bring them out of poverty.

Tower Hamlets council has cut its youth budget for teenagers by 65% in the last two years, despite having one of the highest youth populations in London, which will inevitably lead to more young people falling through the net and back into a cycle of poverty.

TUSC has the only truly anti-cuts candidates appearing on the ballot paper next week, and the only ones promising private sector rent caps, more council housing and a decent living wage of 10 an hour: the first steps towards a brighter future for today's young people and the wider community.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 June 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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