Wrong again Jeremy: Paxman proves that there's no fool like an old fool

The former 'Newsnight' presenter wheeled out one of the hoariest cliches in politics this week
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The Independent Online

In one of his first public-speaking gigs since leaving Newsnight, Jeremy Paxman has outed himself as a "one-nation Tory" and signalled his retirement from the rigours of public debate. He did so by wheeling out one of the hoariest cliches in politics: Young people = foolish lefty idealists; old people = sensible right-wing realists.

"Look, Newsnight is made by 13-year-olds," he told an audience at the Chalke Valley History Festival. Shocking stuff, but there's no need to report a child labour offence just yet. We can safely assume this was hyperbole, because if Newsnight employed any 13-year-olds they'd have made sure the presenter addressed Dizzee Rascal correctly. And also informed him that beards are, like, well 2012.

In fact, Lord Paxo has no patience for trivial young persons, but he does have some thoughts for them to take down in their copybooks: "It's perfectly normal when you're young that you want to change the world," he continued at Chalke Valley. "The older you get, the more you realise what a fool's errand much of that is." You may recognise in this the oft-repeated saying: "If you're not a liberal when you're 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 40, you have no brain." These words are usually misattributed to Winston Churchill – though his political trajectory contradicts them. Churchill was a Conservative at 25, a Liberal at 40 and a Conservative once more by 50. He may have been a political maverick in many respects, but not in this one.

Research shows the current generation of 18 to 30-year-olds are more right-wing than their parents. According to a survey conducted over 17 years by Demos and Ipsos Mori, fewer than 20 per cent of people born between 1980 and 2000 agree that "the government should spend more money on welfare benefits for the poor, even if it leads to higher taxes". This compared to 40 per cent of those born before 1946. Youth culture may still clothe itself in the fashions of previous generations and sing along to their protest songs, but the revolutionary politics that went with these symbols are all but forgotten. This creates a hollow space into which other, more sinister ideologies might slither. The latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine includes an article titled "Heil Hipster: The Young Neo-Nazis Trying to Put a Stylish Face on Hate".

If young people don't start out left-leaning, then the notion that right-wing thinking is only the hard-won wisdom of age, also begins to look suspect. Whatever your politics, it would be nice to believe, wouldn't it, that we start life with passion and end it with wisdom. Alas, youth is no proof of having a heart and age is no guarantee of keeping your head. Which makes the sight of Paxo 'n' BoJo admiring a Banksy on a tandem fixie, like two insufferably twee twentysomethings, all the more horribly apt.

The land hoarder next door

We've had the tax avoiders, now meet the "land hoarders". Tesco is the latest household brand to become an enemy of the taxpayer. Last week it was revealed that the supermarket chain is sitting on 4.6 million square metres of land (1,100 acres) – neither developing nor selling it – while it waits for the market to change in its favour.

This is particularly bad form when the housing shortfall in the south of England is forecast to rise to 160,000 homes in coming years. It puts us in mind of Ed Miliband's call for property developers to "use it or lose it". It's past time for the introduction of some such tax on undeveloped land, but that alone won't solve the problem. What about the 845,000 existing homes standing empty while the numbers of homeless rise? As long as property is viewed as an investment for those who can afford it, rather than a home for those who need it, there will never be enough to go round.

In the meantime, organisations such as Homes From Empty Homes are encouraging the public to report empty property to the local council. It's only a start, but as Tesco will tell you, every little helps.

Danes' genetic invasion

First came the Viking hordes, then came the Borgen bores and now the UK is under the sway of yet another wave of Danish invaders. More than a third of the sperm donations used in the UK are from Danish donors. Do British mothers want their babies to have the chiselled bone structure of Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) or the calm conflict resolution skills of Søren Malling from The Killing? In fact, Scandimania's latest incarnation is less to do with genetics and more to do with practicality.

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Danish beef: The popularity of sperm from Denmark is not driven so much by the genes that created Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, but its superior infertility clinics (Rex)

In the UK there is little effort at donor recruitment, while in Denmark facilities like Cryos – the biggest of its kind in the world – are dedicated to making men feel like virile Viking warriors come to the aid of Anglo-Saxon maids. But it's not Denmark's superior men that British women are lusting after, it's their superior infertility clinics.

The Pippa Middleton mystery

Remember Jimmy Corkhill? He was the notorious smack-head insurance-scammer in Brookside who faked a teaching qualification to become the most beloved staff member at the local secondary school? Teachers remember Jimmy Corkhill. And now, finally, I understand why the cheeky chappy's antics left them so affronted.

Pippa Middleton has no relevant experience, nor does she display much interest in our profession, yet her journalism career is going from strength to strength. Rumour has it, the Today show is preparing to offer a coveted correspondent job to the royal in-law. That's the US TV show Today not the British radio programme, although it can't be long now till P-Middy is grilling the PM on Radio 4. At least Jimmy Corkhill was, as he often boasted, a "graduate of the University of Life". Has Miss Middleton attended even that venerable institution?

It worked for me, Luis

I know how Luis Suarez feels, for I too was once a biter. At the time, my nursery teacher responded with simple but firm reprimands, such as "No, Ellen, biting is wrong" and – long story short – I'm now able to compete in any high-level sporting tournament almost without incident. Could Fifa not try the same?

e.jones@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@MsEllenEJones

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