Monday, December 29, 2014

How Will Young People Vote In UK General Election 2015?

There is a quite fascinating end of 2014 poll in The Guardian. Fascinating, because its results aren’t what they at first appear to be.

At face value, the poll appears to be saying that young people in the UK, who will be first-time voters in the General Election next May, that is, young voters between the ages of 17 and 22, will be more likely to vote Labour than Conservative, by a factor of about two to one.

Right, you might say. Hardly surprising, you might say. Young whippersnappers don’t know their tit from their elbow. Can’t remember who caused the economic mess. They’re all fussed by the Great Recession, and more particularly by the harsh medicine meted out by the LibCon Coalition Government. They’re disillusioned, pessimistic and angry, and are punishing the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

That’s what I assumed – well, less the whippersnapper part. Until I read the details in the pretty graphic attached to the article.

You see, the young people interviewed aren’t disillusioned at all. Yes, they think the economy is still an important issue. But they’re quite optimistic about their outlook. Huh.

Then I have a look at their position on a couple of carefully chosen subjects, and blow me, they support the monarchy and pretty much believe that the deficit should be reduced by cutting spending. Whoa. These are no disillusioned, radical socialists. What gives?

Hmm. I remember coming of age in the UK in the early Seventies. I was in my early teens when Labour screwed up the economy in the late Sixties. I was still in school, in my later teens, when the Tories continued to screw it up in the early Seventies. And I was in my very young twenties, when first looking for work in the middle Seventies, when Labour were making a pretty good fist of screwing up the economy all over again. Essentially, we had a decade of my formative years, when I came to know the expression ‘long-term unemployed.’

I was pretty much convinced the Great Recession and its aftermath were going to be a grim re-run of that decade, and would end up radicalizing a whole generation of young people in the UK. It looks like I might have been totally wrong. Why?

The answer may well be that the suffering was nowhere near as bad or as long as we thought it was going to be. By the time most of the current age-range 17-22 were first looking for work, all the news was that the UK economy was picking up. Whether they were actually finding jobs or not, they knew it wouldn’t be long before they did.

In other words, in purely cynical, political terms, it may well be that the LibCon government was too successful, too soon. Now that young people believe the worst is behind them, they are confident and can-do. They’ve moved on. They don’t care who caused the Great Recession, because it’s history. They don’t blame the Tories for the medicine. They may even be grateful. But it’s irrelevant. That’s so five minutes ago. Now it’s all about get a job, and ooh, let’s be humane with our politics.

This may partly explain why their politics are not more radical. It was all over too quick for them to suffer enough to radicalize. It may also partially explain why the Tories are now backpedaling furiously on the economic good news. Hang on lads. Don’t go off and be all liberal/Labour on us quite so quickly – not out of the woods yet!

There is something essentially touchy-feely about the politics here. It’s still not nice to support the Tories. It’s still cool to be Labour. Even Green (not so much LibDem, who are a tad tarnished). And it’s ok, too. Because the worst is over. In other words, they’re not supporting Labour out of anger, but out of confident largesse. Everything is going good now. So time for some noblesse oblige. But there is a possible sting in the tail.

There is no loyalty evident in this poll. It says to me that this is a here today, gone tomorrow generation. Happy to be doing something else. In the time it takes to change a channel or download a new app.

If they stick to their guns, vote the way they say they might, Labour wins, and it then screws up the economy, this lot will abandon Labour in a heartbeat. All is flavor. All is scent. Farage doesn’t smell good. Labour do. But if the bubble of this young, fluid generation is burst, they could well switch in numbers to the Tories in 2020, begging them to come back and make things right again.

And therein may lie a further rub. This is a fickle bunch. Raised on TV reality shows and video games. Where you do what you need to do to get what you want. It may not be cool to say you’re voting Tory. Doesn’t mean you don’t know which side of your bread is buttered. Doesn’t mean you’re going to do what you say. Or rather. Not do what you say you’re not going to do. A little 1992 with your tea, dear … ??