Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Live Now, Pay Later

Back to work this week and since Holyrood is in recess and Stewart is down at Westminster, today's been spent working at home. Made my first visit to the gym in about a month at lunchtime and while it felt OK at the time, I'm suffering a bit now. My own fault for being a lazy swine, I suppose.

On the way back, I noticed that someone has grafittid over the whitewashed wall down at the amusement park with 'Wall. Huh! What is it good for?'. It would be amusing, but since that was exactly what had been there for at least a couple of years before the wall was repainted, I'm afraid it's 0/10 for originality from the Portobello judge this time.

Which leads quite nicely on to the subject of 'the youth of today' who most unusually, are not being demonised en masse in today's papers. Instead, there's a great deal of symapthetic coverage for the plight of 'Thatcher's Children', highlighted in a report by the Policy Exchange thinktank.

The report highlights that the advantages of cheap housing, secure pensions and rising living standards enjoyed by their parents are not reaching the coming generation. Instead, many are finding it difficult to find well paid jobs, pay off student debt, start families, build up capital and begin saving for their own retirement.

While some of these trends were set in train by Thatcher herself, let's not forget that it was Blair and New Labour, not the Tories, who scrapped the student grant entirely. It was also Blair who ensured that the burden of public service investment skipped a generation through his unconditional embrace of PFI projects, and it was Gordon Brown who drove a stake through the heart of final salary pensions with his changes on corporation tax and accounting rules.

So what to do? One of the problems is that younger people tend not to vote, so an older generation instead gets to perpetuate its own self-interested agenda. Political parties, which have to chase the votes that are available, respond to this and eventually younger voters find themselves further alienated and marginalised from the political process.

I'd like to think my lot are different and certainly, with our plans for student debt and pensions, we have something to offer younger voters apart from the traditional atavistic abuse from an older generation about their supposed shortcomings. However, if there is such a thing as society, the above trends mean that the social contract between the generations must now be closer to breaking point than its ever been before.

Our parents look after us when we're young and we look after them when they're old. That's supposed to be the deal. But in society as a whole, policy decisions taken over the last 3 decades mean that one age group is getting to hoard the benefits of the hard work of their parents, while holding back a younger generation from playing its full part.

It's wrong, and we twenty and thirty-somethings need to get involved in the political process if we're going to change things. Even if we take only one lesson from the Thatcherite credo, it should be to recognise that if we don't stand up for ourselves, sure as hell no-one else is going to do it for us.

1 comment:

Gordon said...

Welcome to Scottish Blogs - and say hi to Stewart for me, he used to be my boss!