Youth and age on the political spectrum


Early on in life, as I started to take an interest in politics, I was struck by that fact that so many young people seemed to be extremely left-wing (I was a Cambridge at a bad time), whereas only the old and fuddy-duddy seemed to recognise the obvious benefits of Jeffersonian Principles and classical liberal economics.  I was worried.  Clearly as the young people grew up, and the fuddy-duddies died out, the whole world would be Marxist.

I realised the flaw in the argument when I came across the dictum “If you’re not a socialist at Twenty, you have no heart.  If you’re still a socialist at Forty, you have no brain” (widely attributed to Churchill – but then most good quotes are).  The fact is that people’s views change as they get older.  And I suspect that’s not so much because they get comfortable and risk-averse.  Rather it’s because they start to understand the world better, and with family and children they have a greater stake in it, and a longer-term view.

The failed assumption is that attitudes remain the same as we age.  They don’t.  Yet here we have the Indy falling into the same trap:  “Take heart, Europhiles!” they cry.  40% of young people want to stay in Europe!  They value the promise of free movement!  Just wait till those old Sceptics die off, and we can all be good Europeans together!

I suspect they may find that real life doesn’t work out like that.  And exactly what does the EU’s free movement promise mean to young people?  Yes, you can go and study at the Sorbonne or in Strasbourg.  But you can also go and study in San Francisco or Singapore or Sydney.  Like it or not, we live in a global economy, and we don’t need to limit our ambitions to a Europe in long-term relative decline.  There were nearly 9000 British students in the USA in 2009/10 and the number is set to increase with higher student fees in the UK.

At least two of my former (British) staffers now have jobs in the USA, one as a think-tanker, the other as Corporate Affairs Director of a major US defence contractor.  There are opportunities beyond the borders of Europe – and frequently in English speaking countries, which for a non-linguist like me is a big plus.

I took my first holiday in France (with my parents) in 1952, and I didn’t notice the lack of free movement.  Thousands of English retirees were living in Spain before we joined the “Common Market” in 1973.

As it happens, I spent a dozen years of my career, on and off, in East and South East Asia – Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia.  And I didn’t notice a lack of free movement there either.  So OK — maybe outside the EU a new UK graduate would have slightly more difficulty getting a job in Romania, but not many British graduates are seeking jobs in Romania.

Young people should be concerned about their career prospects and job opportunities.  When the UK leaves the EU, we can expect lower taxes, lower energy prices, more flexible labour markets, more inward investment. More jobs and more growth.  Young people with their heads screwed on will see the benefits.

Perhaps it would be too cynical to recall also that come the referendum, young people are very much less likely to vote.

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13 Responses to Youth and age on the political spectrum

  1. Linda Hudson says:

    So true, but as my father always said ” you cannot put an old head on young shoulders, and that is sometimes a pity!

  2. Graham says:

    I wonder if this is connected in some way to the apparent Labour poll lead over the Tories. Any rational person with a passing interest in the country’s economy can see that Ed Balls talks well… his surname.
    Labour haven’t a clue. They have grudgingly acknowledged some failings in their management of immigration and bank regulation (better they make an all-out confession that really they couldn’t run a whelk stall, never mind a country) and it’s plain to see we are in a much healthier place now than five years ago. But a tribal Labour vote makes many worried that voting UKIP will split the centre right vote and let in Labour. It’s likely the tribal vote is based on older people with a smattering of the you being naturally left-leaning because they haven’t yet seen the world as it is rather than what they get from lefty lecturers and teachers.

  3. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Having lived in Germany and Holland for 7 years and traveled around the Southern States a lot I did not notice any restrictions either. Just the numb nut border guards and cops occasionally. The middle east was and still is the reverse but I do understand some of that.

    I was never encouraged to vote at any time and now have to put my ex Tory Boy sons arms up their backs to vote. They say its all the same (by party) and just gets worse. I think they are mainly right on that. I ask them to help make a difference and that bored look appears very often. There are of course plenty that vote as dad did – that would be Labour I believe.

    Off topic…did I hear the BBC reporting (this am) on our farmers exporting dried milk outside the EU. A lot of it. Would that be just one example of not desperately needing EU trade quite so much and are there many other examples? Just blinded by the pro EU BS all the time and hard to see reality.

  4. We have polling research showing that a significant proportion of UKIP voters are citizens who had not voted in the last ten years. Like your sons, they see the old parties as all the same, but regard UKIP as new and different. And the’re spot on. Not right, not left, just common sense.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Roger, that human property termed….common sense. What I see via the media various informs of a low level of same, which may account for the low turn outs and voting direction(s).

  5. silverminer says:

    A quote from the Independent report:-

    “The poll by ICM Research, which will be published this week, found that 41 per cent of adults aged between 18 and 24 were either firmly in favour of EU membership or leaning towards support, against 32 per cent who took the opposite view – a pro-EU gap (after rounding) of eight points. By contrast, the survey found an anti-EU majority of 25 points among the over-65s, with 60 per cent strongly against continued membership or leaning towards that stance, and only 35 per cent taking the opposite position.”

    Two things strike me. First of all, 27% of the younger group haven’t expressed a view compared to only 5 % of the older group, meaning there are lot of young minds yet to be convinced either way. Secondly, the gap of pro over anti EU among the young is actually very small compared to the amount of undecideds, so nothing is really settled. The view among the older generation appears very settled against and, as Roger says, these people will vote. I thought this was all very encouraging, but, of course, the headline spins it the other way…

  6. David H. Walker says:

    About 80 years ago there initiated an aggressive movement to unify Europe, as well as much of the rest of the Old World. Sometimes tyranny doesn’t wear a conspicuous costume and strut around, throwing arms in the air and exhorting hubris from the masses: sometimes it appears as a very meek voice begging for compassion, or with great confidence spreading fear of the unknown.

    As you say, Roger, by the time we reach the age of 40, most of us begin to appreciate the rhythms of life, we can tell the difference between the words of the wise, the charlatan and the fool. What’s disturbing is the number of 40-year-olds who don’t. Even when you lay it out in front of them (five steps to crisis construction), they justify the causes that beseech government force, and lay themselves down at the altar of socialism, belligerently proud of surrendering their own initiative, sovereignty, and wealth to the avaricious and ambitious.

  7. Me_Again says:

    Glad you wrote that Roger, steadies the troops. I confess such headlines are always a worry, but delving into the questions asked usually sorts things again and highlights the spin.

  8. Chris says:

    I wonder how many of these young people will be enamelled with open borders with the EU, when they try to look for work during the summer break from university? Whereas before, you weren’t competing with immigrants to work in the local pub, restaurant, coffee shop etc.

    Companies such as Pret a Porter actively seek foreign workers instead of native applicants.

    • Jane Davies says:

      Here in Canada companies have to prove they cannot recruit Canadian citizens before they are allowed to employ foreign workers…but then we have self rule!

      • Me_Again says:

        We’re an occupied country masquerading as a democratic country.

        Have the very best Christmas and new year!

      • Jane Davies says:

        Best wishes to you too…….and we look forward to when Britain becomes Great again when the EU is just a blip in history, and we can be proud to be British once more.

      • David says:

        I believe its the same in Thailand,yet I dont hear any eu beuroprats calling them nasty, racist, it seems the we Brits are the only one,s nasty enough to warrant that (wrong) title.
        Self rule, excellent.

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