We are a deeply divided country. Not so much these days because of social class, but surprisingly now down to generational attitudes. Consider these startling facts. At the general election in June: 66% of 18 -19 year olds voted Labour (19% Conservative) 62% of 20-24 year olds Lab (22% Con) 63% of 25-29 year olds Lab (23% Con)
At the same time a hefty 69% of 70 pluses voted Conservative and only 19% Labour
Age is the new key indicator of voting intention in British politics, more starkly than ever before.
This started perhaps with the Brexit referendum in 2016. Most young people wanted to remain whereas the majority of the older generation wanted to leave. As usual, the numbers of the more mature who voted were greater than the young and so the country voted narrowly to leave. Young people, many of whom failed to vote, felt cheated and the stirrings of a new political phenomenon began. It is still not uncommon to hear tales of families where inter-generational rifts occurred during the referendum which have still not been healed.
This is partly why younger voters turned out in their droves on 8th June, confounding many pollsters.
It is not just about Brexit. It seems clear that unless something remarkable happens people aged 40 and below will not experience the same levels of prosperity as their parents – coping with student loans, accessing the housing ladder, seeing house prices (and therefore notional wealth) rise, entitlement to final salary pensions and retiring at a reasonable age. This will be the first time in many decades that children do not outdo their parents financially and no wonder it brings with it deep angst and a desire to find a better way. No wonder that jam today looks better than austerity, especially if there has been no adult-life experience of the consequences of a government over-spending.
Is this new inter-generational divide a one-off or does it signal a more sustained political movement? It is clearly a very good thing that as many people as possible exercise their democratic right to vote in an election. Can younger voters be brought out again at the next election and the one after that?Perhaps with the assistance of social media and modern technology the answer is a resounding yes. In which case British politics is likely to be even more turbulent over the next few years. Strap yourselves in, it could get exciting.