When New Zealand's Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick delivered her now infamous ‘OK, boomer’ retort after being interrupted in parliament, she reopened a fault line in today’s politics: the generational divide. As a millennial, I’m acutely aware of the structural disadvantages faced by pretty much anyone born after 1980.
Almost every pillar which has propped up the relatively stable lives of baby boomers has since crumbled. Take education: I went to university in 2004, at a time when undergraduate fees had been capped at £3,000 under Labour. These were then tripled by the Coalition government, who also scrapped maintenance grants and sold off the student loan book.
Once you’re out of education, most people look for a place to live. Here millennials encounter further hurdles: the proportion of families headed by 24-34-year-olds who own their own home has plummeted by over 50 per cent in huge swathes of the country over the last 35 years, leaving us at the mercy of an increasingly pernicious private rented sector. Now, over a third of our salaries are spent on rent.
But this isn’t the fault of baby boomers. It’s the fault of financial boomers and fossil fuel boomers. Decades of privatisation, pollution and profiteering has broken the social contract with young people in the UK, frontloading our lives with debt, making it impossible to imagine a future worth fighting for and leaving us little option but to point the finger at mum and dad.
My generation was told to work hard to earn money to buy a house to secure our futures. But instead we are scared of the future–not least because climate crisis is threatening to deprive us of one. We know we have until 2030 to reverse climate change, and yet our government is sabotaging the road to renewables while opening new fossil fuel frontiers like fracking.
Only the Green Party will do the right thing for young people. We won’t just make education free: we’ll wipe all student debt. We’ll build 100,000 new homes a year, available at social rent, and introduce a universal rent cap. We’ll end zero-hours contracts and create millions of decent, green jobs. We'll provide everyone with a universal basic income. We'll commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, to ensure there’s a society in which future generations can enjoy retirement.
After decades of destructive neoliberalism, it is easy to feel angry about the situation we find ourselves in. But when we rail at baby boomers, we must remember that the privileges they enjoyed only became privileges when they were denied to subsequent generations. Free education, affordable housing, a stable environment: these aren’t luxuries, but basic tenets of a decent society.
We can win back these rights. Rather than expressing our generational frustrations in ‘OK boomer’ memes, we must reignite the belief that life can be better–not just for millenials, but for all future generations. The Green Party is ready to rewrite the social contract for young people, and end intergenerational injustice for good.
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