The current popularity of Jeremy Corbyn amongst Labour party members raises some intriguing issues. I am observing the debates with a detached interest. For my generation of centre-left liberals, Corbyn strikes me as the blatantly unelectable candidate. However, I get a strange sense that times are changing. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Jeremy would seriously struggle to garner wide scale support in the country right now, but in ten or fifteen years time, we could be looking at an entirely new political landscape.
My sense is telling me, that the current government are radicalizing young Britons in a way that hasn’t happened since the 50s and 60s, the only other era in modern memory when opportunities were so cruelly limited for the upcoming generations.
Everyone is conservative (with a small ‘c’) when they are comfortable and have something to lose and opportunities to look forward to. Young people now have nothing but huge debt and a shrinking jobs market and soaring house prices to anticipate in the future.
As soon as this generation, punished the most by austerity, reaches the age at which they can vote, it will change everything. A ‘leftie’ leader like Corbyn may appear to reflect their needs far better than the smooth, soundbite delivering career politicians my age group are more comfortable with.
I don’t believe we can be complacent or dismissive of this type of shift. Look at what’s happened in my homeland of Scotland, not so very long ago the heartland of Labour, now entirely dominated by the SNP.
Cameron and Osborne are obviously not setting out to radicalize the youth of Britain. But this consequence will be the result of alienating young people and brutally curtailing their life chances and opportunities.
In the 80s and 90s, I received a first class state education and higher education without accruing any siginificant debt. If I hadn’t gone on to take my teacher training qualification as a mature student then I wouldn’t have needed a student loan at all. It’s hard to be angry and radical when you’ve been treated so well by society. I’m comfortable and privileged, despite not coming from a wealthy background. That is the experience that every citizen of a progressive society should have.
It provides benefits for the government too. We work hard and want to give something back. And we are, for the most part, agreeable and pliable.
I genuinely don’t know how the next generation will view their society. It will be different, for sure. They’re bound to be more angry and more politicized than I ever was. To them, a candidate like Corbyn may be the more natural choice. It will be fascinating to see how it pans out. For authors like myself, the challenge will be to understand and capture this shift in attitudes and reflect it accurately in our work.
My daughter is at that age when she reads constantly. Her books are scattered around the house and she will peruse them anywhere, from halfway up the stairs to sitting on the toilet. And we would not dream of stopping her. It’s what we’ve been encouraging her to do since she first learnt her letters.
But a new dilemma has reared its head. The books now come with us when we go out. If the conversation veers into boring grown up territory, at a restaurant or at somebody’s house, the paperback pops up and the nose gets promptly buried within its pages. So, is this okay? I distinctly recall being told, in no uncertain terms, when I was a child, that reading at the table was bad manners. But these were the days before smartphones and ipads. Now, a book seems like the least offensive article that your offspring could suddenly produce during a social gathering.
So we let her, adopting the rationale that she’s sitting there with us, not in another room in front of a technical device of some description. Does this really mean that it is now accepted practice to read at a table in a restaurant?
If children are handed out free crayons and a sheet of colouring in along with the menus, then I’m saying yes. Gone are the days when we remained silent and bored while the adults happily conversed.
Or is this simply a case of self justification in the face of patently having failed where my parents succeeded?
I sense it is more than that. The art of reading a paper bound novel really isn’t going to last forever. I feel strangely certain of that. So, if my daughter or son wishes to read a book then I’m sure as heck not going to stop them. Wherever they might choose to do it.