Brendan O’Neill

Labour, Question Time and the cult of youth

Labour, Question Time and the cult of youth
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When’s the Question Time for over-60s, then? Or maybe even over-75s? After all, elderly people face specific social problems: pension issues, care, loneliness. And yet they aren’t getting their very own QT, unlike under-30s, who are.

Tonight the BBC is hosting a special youth version of its flagship political show and in the process it is sending out a pretty disturbing message: young people’s views matter more than old people’s.

Presented by Emma Barnett and featuring politicians from across the spectrum, tonight’s QT for millennials promises to be an irritating affair. It’s not that I have anything against young people — I was young myself, once. It’s more that self-consciously youthful politics has become a bit woe-is-me. I predict much whining about tuition fees, the housing market and, of course, Brexit. Boomers inflicting their tragic Little Englandism on the young, etc etc.

A worrying cult of youth is emerging. The leftish and liberal wings of the establishment, alongside much of the media, are positively obsessed with the young. Corbyn’s Labour party chases the youth vote like a tragic ageing professor going after nubile students. While the Remainer camp never tires of telling us that young people will have to live with the consequences of Brexit for longer than all those pesky old people who voted for it and therefore we should have a second referendum.

John Curtice caused a stir on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday when he said Labour is ‘no longer a party of the working class… you’re a party of young people’. He’s dead right. Age is now a far better indicator of support for Labour than class is.

Working-class voters have been turning away from Labour for years. And if the current polls are correct, then it looks like this sensible working-class abandonment of Labour will continue. Many inhabitants of Labour’s traditional ‘Red Wall’ constituencies look set to vote Tory on Thursday. But young people, it seems, still want to be part of Corbyn’s crew.

A YouGov poll found that 51 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds are planning to vote Labour this week (this is a bit of a drop from 2017). In contrast, just 17 per cent of over-60s and 10 per cent of over-70s plan to vote Labour. These are astonishing figures. The middle-aged and the elderly are super wary of Labour, while many youths see it as the best, nicest, most caring party.

Not surprisingly, Labour has abandoned class for generationalism. In recent weeks, it has devoted a huge amount of energy to getting the youth vote out, with the help of celebs like Stormzy. It pleads with students to vote. It is going after the ‘Snapchat vote’, whatever that might be. Remainers, too, want the young to vote, because they know that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be pro-EU.

There’s a serious problem with this cult of youth, with this flattery of youthful concerns and opinions. It is incredibly divisive. It has nurtured some really ugly boomer-bashing and granny-hating. Some of the young have come to view older generations as pampered and privileged and possibly a bit racist. The cult of youth has convinced youths that their troubles are all the fault of a greedy, destructive older generation who had it easy.

This, of course, is weapons-grade nonsense. Many in the older generations experienced great deprivation. Some were even born into slums. They had outside toilets, a phenomenon no millennial will be familiar with. They lived through huge economic downturns, the three-day week and mass unemployment. Hardly any of them went to university. The myth that boomers are the lucky generation while millennials are life’s big victims is fact-free rot. Shame on those sections of political class that are propagating this divisive drivel.

I hope someone says this on Question Time tonight. I hope someone pushes back against any millennial moaning that might arise and reminds the young that earlier generations struggled too. I hope someone reminds them that generational politics is nasty, divisive and anti-democratic. Everyone’s voice should be equal, whether you’re a 22-year-old PC lefty or a 78-year-old northerner who wants out of the EU.