Today I read some fantastic news. I saw that Laura Murray, one of the younger members of Kentish Town Labour Party has been given a job as an adviser to Jeremy Corbyn. Laura is 27 and a woman. Cue sexist comments from right wing news outlets and abuse from online trolls. The usual drivel. It is what happens when women fail to conform to the stereotype of being sexy and thick. Or being someone’s mum. It is what happens when women have power and something to say.
I know that Laura will not be put off. I have faith in her and her generation, the much maligned ‘Millennials’ – sneered at by older people for being self obsessed social media addicts. I think they will do what we failed to do and enact real change in this country. By we, I mean my generation, the so-called Generation X. We started off so well – we were ‘caring’ and ‘alternative’ unlike the soulless yuppies of the 1980s. We went to raves and to India. We didn’t wear big shoulder pads and had nice floppy, shiny hair. We weren’t racist or sexist or homophobic.
But, boy did we sell out – and I totally include myself. We were as obsessed with money and things as the yuppies – superficially different things and maybe we had slightly better taste in music. We listened to Shed Seven and Menswear rather than Phil Collins. Riiiiight… We all cheered when all our Britpop bands hung out with Tony at number 10. Politics was cool again! Woo hoo!
My generation was so, so lucky. We lived like kings on very little money because renting (and even buying) property cost fuck all. Social housing still existed and buying a flat was affordable. Wages weren’t that great and we didn’t have the fun gadgets we have now but life was a hell of a lot easier. And as we slid into our 30s, we had the internet to play with too. And cheap imports from China. OK, our industry had gone, but that didn’t matter if you could buy a massive TV or trolley loads of crap clothes from Primark. We lived the consumer dream. And we hated anything that questioned it – which is why we liked our politics to be bland and unchallenging. Which is why we felt comfortable with New Labour.
But my younger friends don’t have it quite so easy. We had a bit of student debt – we moaned but it was pennies compared to what you have to deal with now. And work experience lasted a couple of weeks – none of these endless internships that only go to rich kids. But the thing that really stiffs my younger friends – especially in London – is rent. Rent is high. I know this – I am a landlord. Again, this is all down to timing. No way on earth was it ever an ambition. But when you have the opportunity, as I did -a combination of good luck and good timing – would you say no? Especially during a time when only weird people dared question the supremacy of market forces and banks were queuing up to lend you cash. Maybe a more morally upright person would have resisted the temptation of the filthy lucre. I wonder….
My young friends don’t have the choices I had. This is wrong. Very, very wrong. And we are in many ways to blame. My generation – the two Eds, James Purnell, Yvette and Andy, all the New Labour stars – were so desperate to control everything that they silenced anyone who dared to question the orthodoxy that market forces were great and it was enough to build the odd Children’s Centre. I loved the Children’s Centres -they were great – but they aimed to ameliorate rather than remove the root causes of inequality. A lot of them are gone now, but the problems they were set up to address – namely child poverty and deprivation – are rampant. Did we even know what a foodbank was in the 90s? I think not.
But there is a flip side to the fact that my younger friends have not been so cushioned. It has made them stronger. And it has made them fearless in their politics. I like that. I like the boldness and the energy. I work with young people and this is what I love the most about them. They have fire. Laura has fire and so do younger MPs like Angela Rayner.
Which is why I laugh when people say Labour has failed. The brand of Labour (and it was a ‘brand’) I voted for has gone. It had its time and represented a genuine reaction to the Thatcher years. We are in a different world now, where the politics of my generation no longer make sense. I find it very exciting.