Editor's letter: A week to confirm the triumph of our gerontocracy

I have a theory about why those in their twenties get such a rough deal


Morning all. This week’s Budget restored George Osborne’s reputation among Tory MPs, presented Labour and Ukip with big and bigger problems respectively, and redrafted Britain’s social contract. But the really important story concerns the health of our democracy.

Here is the turnout at the 2010 election by age group: 18-24 (44%), 25-34 (55%), 35-44 (66%), 45-54 (69%), 55-64 (73%), 65+ (76%). In other words, the older you are, the more likely you are to vote. Things may be getting worse. To understand why, put yourself in the position of the young graduate looking for a job in one of our cities.

You see that the Liberal Democrats, who you might have backed over Iraq, broke a pledge on tuition fees, and the cost of getting a degree looks, if anything, like it is going to go up. The Future Jobs Fund – which certainly had huge failings – has been dropped, except in Wales. You might think that the Work Programme is, as David Miliband once put it, “all programme and no work”.

On housing, you see a sickening inequality in a market rigged by the asset-owning political class, who keep house-building low and hypocritically inflate another bubble through schemes like Help to Buy. And in the Chancellor’s last chance to shape our future before the next election (it always takes months for big announcements to be felt on the ground), the headlines scream about a savings revolution, and any loose change is directed at those over 50.

I have a theory, by the way, about why those in their twenties get such a rough deal from the Coalition: namely, that they have little representation at the top of Government. The main political parties are led by people in their mid-forties with young children. Hence lots of support for childcare. If the three parties were led by slightly older folk, whose children had just graduated, I suspect graduates would get a better deal.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs would naturally argue that the Coalition has done huge amounts for young people, from school and welfare reform to private sector jobs. Sure; but Britain today is a gerontocracy.

It actually strikes me as just and liberal that people should be trusted with their own money, which is what the reforms to annuities announced by Osborne come down to. But that he should so prioritise pensions tells you all you need to know about who will decide the next election. If young people want to be heard, rather than switch off from Westminster, they need to get organised and get heard. In other words what Britain needs isn’t just a savings revolution, but a democratic one too. Have a great weekend.

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