The real reasons for young people’s political apathy

After the Cleggster interview (went very well, thank you! He was on good form and publication – this being a monthly glossy – will be mid-March) I tried looking at the youth/politics problem from the other end, so to speak, and wondering if the reason for disengagement lay with those carefree cats in their twenties rather than the grey men in suits (“reason” not being the same thing as “blame”, of course).

On the one hand I think it is true, as Sockpuppet pointed out, that there is a paradox in how politicians collectively behave towards Generation Y. Half the time is spent running after them begging to be allowed to engage with them, to answer their questions, to know what they want, and the other half is spent passing legislation that stops them having any fun and concocting vicious smear campaigns against them in concert with tabloid newspaper editors. To this extent, it is not a surprise that the collective response of Gen Y to politics is, at best, ambivalent.

But is there also something more structural going on here? The bread and butter of politics for fifty years has really been public services. Oh, you can dress it up with messaging that purports to be about some more abstract value, like efficiency, or taking care of the little people, or indeed fairness. You can see it through any number of economic prisms including the antithetical notion of privatised services or the present will-we-won’t-we cuts issue. But the services are still at the heart of it. They are what the government do, either themselves or through intermediaries. They are what any government does in any country that is broadly organised as a social democracy.

And Gen Y don’t use services very much. I’ll qualify that – the youngest third (depending on which measurement you use) of Gen Y are still at school and university, some exceptionally unlucky Gen Y-ers have to use care and health services all the time; some twenty-somethings have children, although they are getting older, and rarer; all twenty-somethings will at least remember school and some university; they might well have grandparents who use services. But on the whole, with the odd exception such as busting an ankle at five-a-side or needing your stomach pumped, people in their twenties just don’t have to engage with services in the same intensive and universal way people in their thirties and forties do. Or people in their fifties and sixties. When they’re not actually at school (as reluctant consumers), schools and hospitals are at best matters of abstract importance to most people under 30 (and of course, when they do use hospital services to get their stomach pumped, they’re smeared as evil wasters). And they may be actively hostile towards the police service, sometimes, sadly, with good reason.

This is why, when you ask young people to fill in surveys to indicate what political issues they care about, you get impressive and high-falutin answers, such as the environment, equality and, the ultimate meta-issue, youth engagement. I’m not for one moment questioning the honesty of these responses. But in making these high-minded, abstract choices, they are actually revealing how very little there is in the government’s core business which affects them directly. It’s a nice truism to say that we’re all affected by everything the government does; but I’ll tell you, from this side of thirty the future of schooling in this country looks considerably less like a theoretical tut-tut issue and more like a source of imminent hair-tearing terror.

So what’s the answer? I think it might be that there is no answer. If people don’t need the government’s services, they don’t need them and it’s as simple as that; they’ll soon start voting when they do need them. Meanwhile, the politically engaged young will tend to be from a cultural class that promotes political engagement, and the views they develop will centre on that class’s great mainstay issues, like the environment and equality.

On the other hand, there might be an answer. I think about what life throughout my twenties was like for me and I come up with three core themes.

1) Money. Like everyone else I was at the start of my career with no savings working quite hard for not much money, and it was a bit hard. Not an awful lot, but a bit.

2) Renting. I was a private tenant. I didn’t have any truly horrendous experiences, just all the usual disadvantages that goes with the experience of tenantry in this country.

3) Drinking. Going to the pub is (in spite of the government’s best efforts) still a lot cheaper than going to the cinema, so it’s mostly what I and my friends did.

If you think about political responses to these three strands of experience over the last decade or so, you will find they were respectively to slightly ignore, to totally ignore and to castigate.

First, most of the concern for people on low incomes is directed at people with children or at older unskilled people. Try doing a Working/Child Tax Credit calculation if you don’t believe me. Working tax credits, as I recall, cut off altogether around the £13k pa mark. Any more than that, and if you don’t have children you can lump it. And if you’re under 25, you’re not eligible for them at all. There has never been, to my knowledge, any particular help for people in full-time employment under 25 on very low wages except Housing Benefit (which, of course, consists of the state paying the mortgage of buy-to-let landlords and thus supports high house prices and high rents, so ultimately the extent to which it “benefits” the recipient is arguable). Of course, I do see why. A young person – particularly a young graduate – on a low salary still has their whole life in front of them to fuck up. It’s those who have already fucked up that really need help. And of course, a real solution here would revolve around reform of the tax system, which is still mostly a political no-no outside the Lib Dems.

Second. I realise that this cannot represent reality, but I do not personally recall a single instance, either in the last two years of active political interest or the previous 28 of apathy, of a politician mentioning the “r” word. Private tenants simply do not exist in political discourse. They are so invisible that, whenever anyone uses the word “tenants”, it is taken as read that they mean social housing tenants (eg, the name of a new government quango for social housing tenants, which I momentarily and foolishly got excited about: it is called the National Tenant Voice). Private tenants in this country get a worse deal with legal protection and with typical contractual terms than tenants in other European countries. I don’t know a great deal about the issues and I’m sure there aren’t instant and obvious answers. I’m just struck by the way no discussion is ever aired at all.

Mention first time buyers to politicians on the other hand, and they’ll jump like scalded cats. It’s ridiculous. No party has been able to come up with a real solution for all first time buyers “struggling to get on the property ladder” for a very good and simple reason: prices are too high and Generation X is sitting on all the money. We all know this. And no government is ever going to actively cause prices to fall even if they could. Given the Sisyphean impossibility of solving this problem by buying everybody a house (which has been the approach taken by Labour), I am genuinely puzzled as to why politicians don’t go for the lower-hanging fruit: consider the young’s actual lives as tenants instead of their aspirational lives as homeowners. Stop calling them first time buyers because they ain’t buying anything, and start calling them what they are.

Third. Well, we know what I think of youth demonisation and the shoddy, hypocritical and insulting way alcohol consumption is treated in public discourse. This country has made great strides, in the last ten years, of associating young people, and especially young people drinking, with criminality, so that now it is considered normal for law enforcement to confiscate alcohol from young people in public places. Needless to say, this association has the makings of a self-fulfilling prophecy. (On this note, I learn to my great distress that Lee Griffin, who did a lot of excellent collation and investigation work on the government’s record, has lost a lot of it.)

So the reason for “young people’s disengagement” with politics might just be that politicians can’t or won’t produce solutions for the problems Gen Y most commonly faces, and actively denigrates some of their most important social experiences (whether their importance is unfortunate or not, this is what happens).

But you’ll never learn this from people in their teens and twenties, because the ones that don’t care will just say that. Concrete demands that politicians do something about the shittier bits of their lives will usually not be attempted because they know that will make them look selfish, and they already fight against a daily tide of influences telling them they are too selfish. The ones that have been brought up to care will default to caring about abstract issues that, in that heart of hearts invisible even to themselves, they know they “should” be seen to care about. So on the whole they’ll carry on getting more disengaged, and vote less, so politicians will prioritise the services still more because the people who use the services are the ones voting. And so it will carry on until the core premise of government changes, if it ever does.


  1. As one of Generation V or W, depending on basis of definition we were less lucky than Generation X, but luckier than the ones before. The difficulty with the recent young adult generation is that they have been submitted to the full force of modern media and marketing. They define themselves by their market segment and within narrow limits because that is what they are told to do. We were not encumbered by much of this and able to go more of our own way. Next up are the Web generation and they may be a different lot altogether.

    1. I wonder about this too. I’m trying to be aware of my own likely biases here, but it’s always been my impression that both my generation and the next one down (say 1975-1995 in all) are, on the whole, extraordinarily supine in the matter of swallowing bullshit (probably because our GCSEs were so rubbish, to be honest). Obviously there are large numbers of exceptions, and maybe I’m wrong on the trend. But I’d love to believe there was a little army of cynical subversives on the way (1995 onwards) to balance them out.

  2. you’re right that it’s a chicken and egg problem getting anybody in society to engage, but I think the problem is in the common understanding of what we mean when we say democracy.

    For me democracy doesn’t come down to voting, rather it comes down to participation. Voting for MPs is only one means of reflecting this, but society is structured to reflect it because we only have the houses of commons and lords as the nationally representative bodies.

    The youth parliament is a start in growing our democracy, but it has no real statutory role and little legitimacy. I’d reconstitute it as a formalised ‘house of ages’ where members are taken in proportion to the demographic make-up of the voting population according to age, with the responsibility for consultation on age-related issues such as those you mention, as well as pensions, health and education concerns etc.

    I mean, young people discussing pensions… now there’s a radical idea!

    This would give it a relevancy where it would be possible to see real changes affected and provide a means for people to care because they could see how they make a difference in our own lives.

    Of course this would decentralise policy-making further out of the hands of Whitehall bureaucrats so it would be stubbornly resisted in many quarters, but opening up the decision-making process to public scrutiny and involve more people in the issues which affect us is the only real way to increase levels of engagement.

    So yes, the problem of youth engagement is serious but it is symptomatic of across-the-board apathy which needs wide-ranging reforms to give it any semblance of coherence.

    What other parliamentary houses could you come up with to enable a properly participatory democracy?

    A house of ambassadors to deal with foreign policy? A synod of all religions (including humanists and atheists etc) to deal with community and ‘family’ issues? a congress of trades unionists and industry honchos to debate economic issues? a council of medical experts to discuss health and drugs issues? a bar council of legal experts to iron out inconsistencies in regulations?

    The list goes on… they exist in various forms but it’s a complete hodge-podge of tradition and anachronisms. Ordinary citizens like myself never really get to fully understand the roles of the offices of state and the way they fit together so get easily confused (Lord Privy Seal – what exactly does he do?).

    Ultimately this leads to the focus returning to the centre and makes people feel excluded. So the way to build engagement is to explain the formal relationships (ie who reports to whom) which go into making the system work – not just by a vague and abstract form of ‘constitutional renewal’, but by explicit simplification of the tiers of committees and other bodies too.

    1. He balances the Lord Privy Ball on his bottom, of course!

      “I mean, young people discussing pensions… now there’s a radical idea!”

      I actually really wish this would happen. Even if just in whatever feeble organs of democracy we have now. It would be a version (albeit inferior) of the blind tax system thing whereby you have to imagine you don’t know what you’re going to be when you’re born and then design a tax system.

      I suspect to some extent both politicians and youth leaders are culpable for fostering this idea that young people can only care about certain things. I was on the Youth Parliament forum the other day having a look at the Clegg interview, and noticed an attempt (by someone running the site I think) to rule someone’s question out of order because it didn’t focus on “youth issues”. This is silly, and the YP people knew to squash it. But a less politically involved young person (i.e. most of them) might well go along with that, which I think is a great shame.

  3. Hi Alix,

    I don’t have anything to contribute, I just wanted to say that I think this is an extremely astute post, and I think you’ve hit on something quite important. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Hwhy thank you!

      Interestingly, I think this stuff is only becoming clear to me because I’ve just gone over the cusp and left this group. (1979 is in the buffer years between X and Y so I will probably spend a lot of my life irritable, slightly confused and not quite fitting in with any prevailing wisdom. Humph.)

  4. Private tenants in this country get a worse deal with legal protection and with typical contractual terms than tenants in other European countries. I don’t know a great deal about the issues and I’m sure there aren’t instant and obvious answers. I’m just struck by the way no discussion is ever aired at all.

    I’m old enough to remember when rent protection meant there was hardly any private accomodation available to rent. I’ve been castigating Mrs Thatcvher’s government recently, but the one thing she did right was to remove rent protection.

    Hey – I thought I was the one who was supposed to be anti free market and you the other way round?

    So the reason for “young people’s disengagement” with politics might just be that politicians can’t or won’t produce solutions for the problems Gen Y most commonly faces

    Tried it, been there, got the abuse. What young people really want and would remarkably transform their lives and give them hugely greater freedom is cheaper housing. What would give that would be a big transfer of taxation from income to land, coupled with needs-related allowance on housing tax, plus also a big increase in inheritance tax with the proceeds used to set young people up for independent life. But you try arguing that in public and see where it gets you? Youngsters enthusiastically joining your campaign? No. The local paper running your comments under the headline “Throw old people out of their homes”. Yes. Little old ladies writing to you and phoning you up saying “I’ve voted for your party all my life but NEVER AGAIN”. Yes. The Tories calling you a “Marxist” when you stand for council elections? Yes. The SDP tut-tutting and saying “we’d be better off without these Young Liberals types messing things up” (shows my age). Yes.

  5. “What would give that would be a big transfer of taxation from income to land, coupled with needs-related allowance on housing tax, plus also a big increase in inheritance tax with the proceeds used to set young people up for independent life.”

    Having read that I can’t work out why you and Jock ever argue either😀

    I am increasingly curious about this. If a fair number of people, over several decades (or a hundred years, going back to the original land tax), have come into contact with this particular ideas family and thought it made sense, why has it never taken root anywhere in any corner of the mainstream?

    Ok, I guess you could say we’re a corner of the mainstream insofar as we’re members of a major party. But why has this wealth transfer stuff so comprehensively failed to make an impact on wider political discourse, specifically in the media? It’s never, ever discussed, even as a niche issue. Over that period of time, by the law of averages you’d expect there to be some journalists who didn’t think “Argh, a new idea” and run away screaming, and some wealthy editors who were prepared to overlook the consequences for their own wealth. You’d think someone from the commentariat would have shown a serious interest by now.

    This is either a sinister conspiracy (doubtful) or it’s simply to do with media narrative, and the fact that such radical change is literally beyond the collective imagination of the commentariat (even if not beyond individuals). We all moan about narrative in the context of giving the Lib Dems a fair crack, of course, but maybe the damage goes far deeper than that.

    1. Consider when the teeniest weeniest smidgeon of the idea was put forward by our Vince … If that’s what they say when its 0.5% on £million+ houses, what will they say when it’s the sort of serious land tax that will do the job that needs to be done?

      One reason why it never takes root might be indicated when you look at the pages of your newspapers and magazines and see how much revenue they make from estate agent ads.

      There’s the whole “housing ladder” thing, which makes us feel good about having the life screwed out of us to pay the mortage when we’re young so that we have houses too big for us when we’re old. So those who’ve scraped together enough just to get on it are reluctant to admit they’ve been conned and eager instead to say how wise they are and how bad it would be to end all this.

      Then there’s just the fact that no-one in the commentariat gives a shit about the poor these days anyway. Look who makes up the commentariat – it’s almost hereditary. Mainly rich people’s kids. They’re not going to knock the unearned wealth they’ll get from inheriting mummy’s and daddy’s houses and its accummulated community created land value, are they? Not even those of them who think they’re lefties. It goes down better to strike trendy left-liberal poses on lesss central things.

      Then there’s the stupid, stupid left. These are the people who ought to be stirring up the opposition to the establishment power and wealth. Are they? No. There’s more rich people’s kids going on about the environment. Not that the environment isn’t a key issue. But there’s far too many Zac Goldsmith types involved (ok Goldsmith is the extreme but you know what I mean). Apart from that, it’s the guys who act as if they’re still paid by Moscow gold, so being “left” for them is striking poses on the anti-US foreign policy of the say arather than stirring up real anger amongst real poor people and suggesting radical changes that would improve their lives.

      I shut up about it myself for the years I was a councillor, knowing if my views leaked out to the opposition, it would not go down well in a ward that’s all nearly all council housing, 50% sold off under right-to-buy.

      Real kids and twenties types have been lulled into quietness for years by pop culture. Make them think that being radical is consuming a different brand from their parents. Esnure they live in a world where thinking is regarded as a bad thing. Stuff them with drugs and the like, always good to dull the senses. Make absolutely sure they regard politics as nothing to do with them. Take away their vote not by legislation but by convincing them it’s worthless.

  6. namechecked and everything. I’ll start blushing….

    I think you’re bang on about young people being prepared to engage on “impressive and high-falutin answers, such as the environment [and] equality” and that that’s in part because their real needs aren’t addressed. But I’ll just throw another idea into the ring; I suspect it may also be because for a lot of young people – even up to those of us in our very late 20s who should know better – politics is at least partly about identity, which means two things come into play:

    1. Tribalism. As a tribal Tory, I occasionally play a little game, called “I would vote Labour if…”. I recommend it to anyone who’s politically affiliated one way or the other. The conceit is that ‘your’ party retains all the same people and policies, but the other alters certain of theirs. You may find – if you’re honest with yourself – it would take more than you think, or is strictly necessary or reasonable (especially in this age of let’s-all-be-centrist-and-not-frighten-the-horses). It might just be me but I suspect younger people identify with parties on a ideological level to a far greater extent than on a practical one. Which leads to…

    2. Importance. Young people want to care about the important issues, because they want to think that they themselves are important, and that’s what important people do. The problem is that they’ve confused ‘important’ with ‘big’ or ‘exciting’. Most people would say that equality was pretty important. But stick them in an environment where there’s perfect diversity, equality and tolerance but the drains are fucked and it’ll be a short learning curve discovering that whilst equality may be important, working drains are essential. You can have all the rights, mutual respect and tolerance you like but when there’s raw sewage backing up the U-bend it becomes largely academic (except that everyone has an equal opportunity to get shitty shoes). But drainage really isn’t that sexy, which is why no-one ever campaigns on a platform of drains.* And – and let us not underestimate this – very few people can be persuaded to sleep with you with a fascinating and erudite peroration on drains, and those that can probably aren’t your target market. This is, I always assumed, why student politics centred on referendums on condemning Israel’s actions in Palestine (“Rav Seren, you must cease fire immediately – Clare JCR have boycotted Fyffes!”) rather than fixing the bloody loos or opening the bar an hour earlier. But actually, these things do go back to the heart of government, in terms of funding, administration, and lots of other really boring things that nonetheless are quite important really.

    *unintended surrealist image. You know what I mean.

    1. Nobody campaigns on a platform of drains???

      I think I covered this locally here.

      There is a difference between making big public pronouncements on a subject to gain a electoral profile in the press and actually talking to the right people on the right committee in a way that makes a difference. Positive change is a chain reaction which requires massive coordination of forces in the right combination, so it is often about roleplayers as much as leaders.

      I think what your comment reflects is how most the way people initially come at politics is the opposite of the way they understand it once they’ve been dealing with the issues for a long time.

      There are big dividing lines such as Israel/Palestine or whatever, but choosing sides is a false option because it is completely relativistic. In the real world nobody’s pain should be weighed against that of another because this prevents anybody from addressing the causes in the first place and may actually create new tensions by deepening divisions.

      But then engagement requires that people take sides because nobody can comment without having a perspective, so the political challenge then becomes one of stimulating plurality and allowing intellectual spaces to proliferate.

      Malaria is worse than the Holocaust, discuss.

      1. Indeed, Liberal Democrats campaign locally on drains and related matters *all the time*.

        (Digression: when we moved in here, there was some graffiti on our garage, and we were all set to take pictures of each other looking serious and disapproving in front of it a la Focus leaflet, but the council ruined everything by efficiently coming and cleaning it off without asking. Chiz.)

        We have such a name for it that it’s probably, in symbolic terms, the reason why no-one in the media really wants to sleep with us. Notice, on the same subject, that journalists universally use the “jumping into bed with” language to indicate possible hung parliament outcomes. It’s actually as if, at some level, they can only conceive of Lib Dems as the geeky kid at the party trying to get off with someone cooler.

        Which, insofar as the geekiness bit goes, is probably quite true. We have more than our fair share of geeks, and more geek policies and interests than the other two. (If I really examine my beliefs, I have to admit I consider anyone standing for public office who doesn’t take a pride in being a geek on *some* subject to be a total waste of space). But the rest of it, like most mainstream perceptions of what geeky people want, is almost entirely false, and only someone who wasn’t a geek could possibly attribute motive like that.

        1. ooo, I dunno – metaphor usually stems from experience and we all know journos like doing as little as possible for a story.

          I refuse any claim to geekiness because it’s become sanitised by ad agencies as a whole fashionable subculture to be exploited for marketing purposes. It’s the old story of stimulating base drives so you can attach a pricetag to it.

          And if a marketing department has identified a new demographic segment then there must actually be people who respond exactly to the psychological triggers they’ve defined in the exact way they predict.

          Just like ‘young people’.

          Did I just say conformity alert? no? well pardon me for surreptitiously slipping it in.

        1. It’s actually as if, at some level, they can only conceive of Lib Dems as the geeky kid at the party trying to get off with someone cooler.

          well, yes. Or beards-and-sandals. But Tories are either fat port-soaked racists who list their interests as ‘flogging servants’ or spotty greasy-haired grammar-school oiks with wet lips and briefcases. And Labour are beerswilling scrofulous shop stewards on the make or Harriet Harman. You can’t win.

          To add to the malaria / holocaust debate: “Henry Ford was more evil than Stalin: Discuss.”

  7. Yes, did you see this?

    I am going, at some distant point in the future, to look t the in-depth research behind that from Experian. I have been beating myself up again over notreading enoug, & I get the suspicion I might have peaked at 23 (imagine that!) & no longer be able to absorb shite as I once did.

    But I wil make amends by reading that, one o these deays, & books as well.

    I have managed to get my head around the new MOSAIC so Ihaven’t otally lost it.

    You can enter your own postcode, see?

    Since you ask, I got “Low-Key Starters”, my parents (separated) both got “Clocking Off” (the successor to “Affluent & the house I grew up in got “New Parents In Need” (cheery, eh?)

    1. I got “convivial homeowners”: apparently we choose to live in “diverse urban areas rather than the suburbs” – which, considering I’m about to take the dog for a walk along the river, avoiding the horseshit (literal) on the streets of this neighbourhood so suburban it sometimes thinks it’s rural, rather tends to confirm my doubts about the whole ‘mosaic’ project.

      1. Oh, and as for “diverse” – I think we bring about the most “diversity” to our street, since neither of us is or was a teacher…

      2. Well, it’s not meant to be praising you or slagging you off personally, just to give an overview of, say, where they should build a new ALDI or send emails advertising far-flung holidays. I think it proves its worth by the amount of mone businesses are willing to pay them. But yes, more for fucking around than judging your worth & that of others🙂

        1. Well, my point wasn’t anything that it said about me personally (which I didn’t take it as), but that it’s seriously misdescribed the area, which is what it’s supposed to be for. This is an overwhelmingly white, largely well-off suburb, not a “diverse urban area”. I’m not attaching any values to either of those descriptions, just noting that they don’t match! But perhaps it’s usually more reliable.

    2. Hm.

      Started as (child of) A03 – Business Class
      Then O63 – Urban cool
      Then 062 – Crash pad professionals
      (And in both these two, the reality was I was dirt poor).

      And now (when in reality my household is more comfortable and prosperous than I’ve ever experienced post-18) I’m N57 back-to-back basics, having apparently lost my credit rating, qualifications and car access along the way.

      I don’t think this thing can cope with relocation😀

      1. Funny, I had your location down as “Backyard Regeneration” based on your ACORN. I’m quite impressed with the use of that thing as a marketing device, really, & I’m pleased with how well I’ve remembered it all.

        The area I grew up in (ST 6) has one of the top 5 concentrations in the country of both older, better off working-class people (like my parents now) & desperately poor fuckers in council houses (what they were in the beginning). Funny what a homogenous place it is, & I suppose some uniformly wealthy areas are the same.

        Imagine a job working with that sort of stuff? It wouldn’t be work at all.

        Though it probably still would, on Monday morning.

    3. I got ‘crash pad professional’ and a picture of a man in a ill-fitting suit with an Orange Shop tie and a woman who’s teeth were unnaturally white smiling the smile you do when you meet someone who came to your housewarming as a plus one and vomitted down the back of your sofa.

      Until last November, however, I was a ‘anti-materialist on benefits renting a cheap bedsit.’ That comes with a picture of fat people.

      1. Well, at least you’ve maintained your Liberal Opinions throughout.

        All I’ll say is that the title & the front page doesn’t always do justice to what’s inside. You have to look at the hole thing. I’d certainly use that as one of my devices for deciding what an area I might move to is like.

        Gone are the days when people end up somewhere shite because it looked nice at a glance. In these high-tech times, you can get a better idea what you’re going for.

        Although if you’re anything like me you’ll end up somewhere utterly shit anyway due to financial constraints.

        1. *whole

          In fairness, I did spell the word right, i’s just that my keyboard refuses to enter certain letters, on a wholly random basis.

        2. Nah, you were bang on the first time. Where Whitton’s concerned ‘looking at the hole thing’ is pretty accurate.

  8. “the successor to Affluent Blue Collar”, in the old 2006 system.

    Sorry, something went wrong with my keyboard- problems with which also explain the random typos which I’m by now too enraged to go back & correct. I can sill spell🙂

    This Motorway Man, I think, fleshes out all sorts of things when you read it. Especially in terms of his “values”, eh?

    If these are Thatcher’s children & grandchildren, & Motorway Man undeniably is, it really asks the question of what neoliberalism does to social conservatism. My great-grandad, an unskilled manual labourer, maintained a wife & 11 children on shit wages. But that doesn’t happen now, & the Victorian values my parents knew in a mining community are long dead & buried.

    The right-whingers who bemoan single parents, rootless SELFISH PARASITES who earn money rather than putting their wombs to good use, divorce, welfare dependency etc. etc. never quite manage to get their heads around the fact that the economic model they hail promotes the exact same thing.

    I visit US Republican blogs & you wouldn’t believe what lengths they go to in their efforts to look both ways when they quote various church teachings & other statements of social conservatism, then demand that Thatcherism be geared up even more, & presumably they can pray that the contradiction reconciles itself.

  9. Yeah, lest I wasn’t clear the typos are due to my keyboard malfunctioning in some weird way. It just randomly refuses to enter some letters & it’s too much like hard work to add thm back in @ this time of night.

  10. An insightful post, nothing really to argue with except the statement that “generation X are sitting on all the money”.

    As one of said generation, I can tell you it ain’t so – you’re thinking of the baby boomers who immediately preceded us, the ones whose peculiar obsession with patios and double glazing drove the housing bubble in the first place, who voted for Thatcher and made a killing flogging shares in public utilities to fund their Beaujolais Nouveau habits, then turned around and pulled the ladder up after themselves.

    My lot, the ones who came of age after about ’85 or so, missed the Loadsamoney boat and spent the 1990s doing McJobs unconnected to our devalued degrees, and who now usually live hand-to-mouth with inflated job titles that carry considerably less status, seniority and real earning potential than they did in our parents’ days, are not the problem here.

  11. An interesting suggestion from Terence Blacker in today’s Indy. Could it be, he asks, that one of the problems is that politicians spend too long pandering to the youth vote?

    I think he has a point. Not saying that I support this idea, but what if politicians simply ignored young people? Taking the view that if the youth don’t feel represented, then they can either do something about it – like set up their own political party – or, frankly, fuck ’em. I mean, if one substitutes ‘working class’ for ‘young’, wasn’t that sort of how the Labour Party came about?

    On a side note, there have been reports of entryism from both Labour and the Tories; Jim Fitzpatrick reckons Labour are being taken over by islamists, whilst there is concern that the conservatives are being unduly influenced by evangelical christians. Worrying, in both cases, but there are far more young people around than there are members of either of those groups. So if entryism can work for them, then there’s no reason that a ‘youth agenda’ couldn’t take over.

    Just a thought.

  12. One teensy problemette with your thesis:

    I doubt that 20-30s used State services a great deal 30, 40 or 50 years ago, either – although people did marry and have (more) babies at a younger age.

    Yet political engagement was much higher then AFAIK.

    “Well, we know what I think of youth demonisation and the shoddy, hypocritical and insulting way alcohol consumption is treated in public discourse. This country has made great strides, in the last ten years, of associating young people, and especially young people drinking, with criminality”

    Now be fair. Firstly, regarding crime it was ever thus. The fact is that the majority of crime is committed by young men. I don’t want to come over all Stanley Cohen, but there was plenty of what you would call demonisation going on when the boomers were young – in fact I’d say more, because the youth were standard-bearers for a cultural revolution.

    As for drink, I’d say this is one of those unintended consequences of said cultural revolution. ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’ said Blake, and the boomers forgot that this was a Proverb of Hell. Combine a culture which approves of getting smashed (in antediluvian times it was a disgrace not to be able to ‘hold your beer’) with some 90s Conservative licensing legislation that freed up developers to create ‘drinking zones’, and you have places like Broad Street all over the country.

  13. Thank you for writing this article. However I disagree with your article in principle. I honestly don’t think this generation (Y or whatever you want to call it) is unpolitical. I have extremely political views and mst of our 6th form study periods are spend missing homework because we’re too busy discussing politics. The reason most young people aren’t political is because we’re simply too young to have done much. Yes, many people aren’t interested or educated about politics but many of my friends are becoming more and more political. Just look at the student protests…
    Possibly an interesting article might be whether the young generation is more liberal or conservative and why. Thanks.

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